My life so far… (My first blog – 1996)

In the beginning, about 15 billion years ago in fact, there was nothing. Absolutely nothing.. .. but as you can’t have nothing of something, unless there is some of that something to have nothing of, there was in fact “something”, to which I will focus this treatise, as I spend of my time being a part of it.

Now, one of the special properties of this something, is that there are different types, or states, of the same something. Now this is pretty relevant, because this allows some of this something to be me, some of it to be you, and some of it the computer with which you are reading this Web page. Now this something has different states simply because if it didn’t, then we wouldn’t be here to ponder why it is this way. I take this to be a moot point so don’t argue .. OK? Right,…now…where were we? Oh yes… The different states of the something gave it particular properties. One of those was self organisation. One particular state of the something called Mass,likes to stick together through another state called Gravity. So lots of clumps of something started forming all throughout the something. Some were very very big and gravity worked upon them till they where so dense,there was too much something, so some of it had to escape in the form of another state called Electro Magnetic Radiation. EM-Radiation is a particularly useful state of the something, because it allows something to communicate with the whole of everything and say “I am over here”. In fact, most of the states of something has something to do with communicating what is going on where to everything else. The two most exemplary examples of this are the Higgs Boson and Mobile Phones.

As I was saying some of these large masses started forming large spherical objects. They where spheres because that’s the best way for everything to be in closest communication with everything else. Otherwise if they couldn’t coordinate as a group, they quickly lost track of each other and started drifting off on their own. King Arthur used a two-dimensional model of this (The Round Table) to a great advantage, to keep his knights up to date, and to make sure that everyone knew that if they started communicating with Gwenevere, they were in serious feudal manure. Lancelot’s actions must therefore be attributed to another fundamental state of the universe called Quantum Mechanics. He tried the single slit experiment and Arthur tried to give him a second one. The rest is history.

Some of these spheres where not giving out as much energy as the others, which was a “Good Thing”. If you give mass too much energy it just moves about trying to get in a good position to communicate with something. Not enough energy and they have to start borrowing energy from their themselves, until they simply become part of the nothing, much like the Mexican Banking System.

Somewhere in between wanting to shoot of into the void and wanting to sit there and fade away we have the states of the something that allow for self organisation at the molecular level. At first there where lots of different molecules in a primordial soup. Now if we were to stare at that soup for long enough we would notice that one of three processes were occurring

1) Molecules form unstable configurations, break up into their component parts which become parts of other molecules.

2) Molecules form stable configurations that remain stable for an unreasonably healthy period of time, and they just don't want to play with any of the other molecules anymore.

3) Molecules form stable configurations which, by the nature of their shape and composition cause other copies of themselves to be constructed by direct interactions with their surroundings.

This third process is interesting because if you took a time-lapse photo of this over say, a billion years, you would notice that molecules of this third group tended to stick around and multiply. Only a handful of these molecules needed to be transported somewhere else for a large population of them to be built up very quickly. This made it hard for all the other molecules because, all in all, they just ended up being absorbed. The more of the self replicating molecules there were, the more there was. Also they changed over time. Thanks to Quantum mechanics, the replication process would sometimes throw up something a little different. Sometimes this was good sometimes it was bad. If it was good and gave these particular molecules an advantage then they thrived.

Some of them by their nature attracted other molecules to their surfaces, which protected them from collisions with other molecules, and let them keep a little copy of the outside world inside of them, which at that time was mostly seawater. This was an advantage, so pretty soon you had to have some sort of coating, or you were done for. “They saw they were naked and were ashamed”. So some of the molecules developed a basic shape that would better attract a coating. Then some developed more specialised shapes, until finally they started to make they own coatings. This was a real advantage because it meant you didn’t leave anything up to chance… None of this wandering around checking your surface saying.. “Nup no surfactants today.. shit I hope I don’t bump into an aldehyde….” No way for these hip new ‘with-it’ molecules. They know how to manufacture their own suit of armour out of wandering scraps, like a Nanotech version of McGyver. The final outcome of this evolutionary process were Cells that gave parts of their coats to their offspring, so they never spent a moment naked to the world.

Then things started getting really organised. These new Cells started sticking together and forming little tribes. This was an advantage because if something took a bite out of your tribe.. 1) It may not be you, 2) If it was you there would be some left over to carry on the tribe. So some of these tribes started getting complex. Some formed an outer layer that spend all of its energy fighting off the outside world. Some formed sensory organs to tell the tribe where there as sunlight, others formed little propulsion devices to move the tribe towards or away from the sunlight as they wished but on the whole they formed a mouth and digestion organs so they could take a bite out of other tribes. This process of specialisation is inherently useful and is fractaly rendered through most societies.

Now we come to the seasons tides and night and day. Tides and daylight were an environmental link with time. Prey and predator would move with the tide. It also meant the universe was a predictable place, Not just at the short deterministic molecular levels but to 1 day, 30 days and 365.25 days. Now 1 goes into 30 easily. But 30 does not go into 365.25 too well. So using one level to predict where the other was required some complex calculations. Over time cells specialised to deal with this because thinking it was winter when it was really summer was not such a cool state to be in. Also it enabled them to react to other organisms with big pointy teeth that started spring up around them. Predicting behaviour and learning who was good or bad food was essential so brains evolved not because we know they are a good idea but because they are essential to coordinate and plan survival schemes in an almost predictable world.

Now that they had brains, something else happened. Communication between individuals of the same species was needed, because sex it seemed was the best way to make sure that you maximised the chance of randomness in your genetic patterns. The more random you were, the faster you could mutate and adapt in a changing world. Also it means that as far as a genetic instruction for survival went, you were getting a second opinion. So sex was pretty important and was made the fundamental drive next to getting food. Which shows that not much has changed in the last billion years.

To have sex you needed to tell your partner whether or not you were ready or willing. Would they just be wasting their time? Communication was essential. Sex also plays a major part in building lasting social bonds which is why we and primates spend most of our spare time getting it on with each other as often as possible and the talking about it to all our mates. The older animals “who knew” could call out warnings when Mr Tiger came looking for lunch and the infants who had no experience with these matters has a choice of believing or being eaten. Thus the group consciousness/memory developed.

So some creatures developed communication skills and started telling their families and friends where the food was, which animals were nasty and who was screwing whom. Courtship displays, Beating of chests, The whole Las Vegas show.

One of these species developed great communications skills, large brains with the capacity of abstracting information from thin threaded of interrelatedness and a love of killing everything else that stood in its way.

Which brings us to humanity and me.

On my mother’s side, my great Grandparents I am told, were disgraced aristocrats who were sent to Australia where such outlandish behaviour was acceptable.

On my father’s side my Grandfather was the Shipwright who built the Queen Mary, but not by himself, he had some help. His wife, my Grandmother is rumoured to have been a Sydney gangster of some notoriety with connections in gambling. To me however she is just a sweet little old lady who has a healthy interest in guns.

On my mother’s side my grandparents were butchers. With a surname like Jones… what else?

With that kind of a genetic background I could have been the bloodiest pirate to rule the seven seas. “Mc Parlane the Butcher of Montecarlo”. Alas this was not to be.

I was born James Thomas Mc Parlane on December 28th 1968 to Elizabeth May Jones (a barmaid) and Alan James Mc Parlane (an accountant) at Paddington Hospital in Bondi Sydney Australia.

Both my parents came from devout Catholic families. My Father was the eldest of eleven. My mother in the middle of a litter of fourteen. Surprisingly enough, I was their only child, which through their discretion makes me cynical of the joys of large families.

My father worked for Concrete Constructions in Sydney but then for some reason that escapes me became a pig farmer in Baconsfield. This required a sudden shift in location. Western Australia. The Other Side. The flight over was full of soldiers returning from Vietnam. I must have been toddling delight to them after a year of war. I had just learned to walk and I was fascinated by their uniforms. They liked me. They gave me beer. Lots of it. It was the first but not the last time I have ever worshipped the one-eyed god in the small spinning room.

My mother worked at the piggery in the front little office. Another family lived across the road and they had four boys who spent their time torturing me. David, Stephen, Tigger and Ines. See I still remember their names. Tigger was my age and when he was without the backup of his brothers we actually had some good times. Through my interactions with them, I learned to never to trust anyone older than me and that blood is thicker than money, but not always.

I discovered television at an early age and could read and write before I was at Kindergarten anyway. My favourite show on television was Professor Julius Sumner Miller’s lectures in Physics. I liked the experiments and tried to replicate them at home much to the annoyance of my parents who decided that it was time for me to start kindergarten before I became the next Dr Oppenheimer.

I went to kindergarten for only one year compared to the normal two because I was simply too smart for my own good I spent a lot of time catching childhood diseases and reading.

Due to a freak accident in my birth date and the enthusiasm of my parents to be rid of me for eight hours a day and being put forward one year in my many transfers between schools, I spend most of my school life 1 and a half years younger than my peers. Grades 1 to 2 were spent at Bullsbrook district highschool. A delightful place which was marred on my first day, when I was asked to colour in a picture with crayons. I combined colours to make strange interesting shades that were not available in the normal palette. My teacher screamed at me because she said it was ugly and I burst into tears.. (A recurring feature in my life). I was a sensitive little boy.

My Fathers spine then decided that it didnt want to shift pigs anymore and advised his doctor to order him to take an office job. So we moved to the wheatbelt town of Gnowangerup where both my parents became involved in the local shire council.

Grades 3 to 7 were spent at Gnowangerup district highschool. There was a points system whereby the class was divided up into teams for a quiz time every day. The teams would compete for prizes that where redeemable at the end of the year. Everyone wanted me for their team. I was known as Einstein the AntMan. Einstein because of the Show And Tell lecture I gave on the fission bomb where I demonstrated a chain reaction using a bucket of mousetraps and Ant Man because I spent most of my time in the playground with a notebook systematically tagging ants with liquid paper and studying their movements. I was always amazed with the way in which single ants were brutally stupid but as a collective could overcome major obstacles. Neway. Everyone wanted me for their quiz teams but when it came to sport I was the last one to be picked. My phys-ed teacher announced that I had the coordination of a spastic giraffe. And he was right.

I met my first computer in the Shire office my parents worked at. It was a Boroughs card punch machine. It was off, there was no one around, there was a board of about one hundred buttons. I picked a random one. It burst into life and I ran screaming from room. I was hooked from then on.

Not content with having me out of the house 8 hours a day 5 days a week but probably more because they loved me and wanted to give me the best education money could buy, I was sent to Mazenod Boarding College in Lesmurdie a suburb of Perth, the state capital.

I can say nothing more than it was the most brutal experience of my life but did my education wonders. I spent my time designing a laser to blind the fourth formers during pillow fights. I pioneered the wet towel in a pillow trick but this was outlawed but the pillowfight jury as unfair. I also learned how to break locks with a well aimed flick of a rolled up towel called a Roo tail. My electronics skills blossomed when I found that bugging the hallway of the main boarding room was just a good way to fake omnipotence. The wire for this was laid through the ceiling and roof during a staged game of badminton. I felt like POW trapped in germany and It became my fantasy world for a while. I kept hitting the shuttlecock onto the roof so I had to keep going up to get it, I took this time to lay cable. Its probably still there.

My parents moved to Perth during year 9 so I spent year 10 to 12 at St Marks in Highgate. I spent my time studying and ignoring girls who only began to fascinate me in my late teens and seemed to do nothing but cause problems for my friends. This began a long period of socialisation. I hung out with the geeks. I was a geek and I still am a geek. I acquired a ZX81, and then a Commodore Vic 20, then a C64. At first year university I got an Amiga 1000. One of the first in Australia. I was in love.

In 1986 at University I did Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics and Computer Science. I had discovered computer graphics, music, hacking, sex and would rather spend time researching my own interests of biological computing or hanging out in the Computer Club resurrecting old mainframes than turn up to lectures. Looking back this was the best thing I could have done because it took me directly to where I am today and affirmed my faith in where I though the world was going, and where the true opportunities would arise in the coming decades.

I fell in love with someone who didn’t want me, but would always step in to stop me seeing someone else (another recurring point in my life), joined a band and experimented with parallel computing. For those two years I lived on 30 dollars a week and lived in a Gothic Squat called “Accelerated House”. I wired up a network so everyone had computer access. This was an embryonic version of the The Evil Brotherhood of Mutants, but my only access to the internet was through illegal means.

After I got over this stage. I got a job working for Dr Disk and was transported to Sydney where I set up Doctor Disks electronic publishing arm which eventually morphed into Documenta. In my first few months in Sydney I met up with Anthony Bannister and we formed Nanotech an techno dance/video act.

In 1995 January decided to take the plunge and myself and Adam Pierce set up the Evil Brotherhood Of Mutants and electronic artspace. The concept was to gather as many skilled electronic artists under one roof with a solid internet infrastructure. So far it seems to be working well.

I invested 5 years of my life with Documenta before I decided to take control of my life in February 1996 and make tracks for greener pastures.

So here I am, rogue Computer Scientist an Frankenstien of the 90’s and Web-Gun for hire. Be afraid, Be very afraid.

About James McParlane

CTO Massive Interactive. Ex Computer Whiz Kid - Now Grumpy Old Guru.
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