MARIANO TOMATIS

WONDER INJECTOR

Italian writer and magician
working for a better Rule #34:
«If it exists, there is magic of it.
If not, let’s make it!»

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 2014 (36)

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WHAT IS SCI FOO?

Science Foo Camp (or “Sci Foo”) is an invitation-only gathering organized by Digital Science, O'Reilly Media, and Google, with support from Nature. The 9th edition of Sci Foo takes place on 8-10 August 2014 at the Googleplex in Mountain View, CA. Lord Martin Rees has defined it as “a sort of mini Woodstock of the Mind”. Participants include researchers, writers, educators, artists, policy makers, investors, and other thought leaders, all doing groundbreaking work in diverse areas of science and technology.

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Google and its loyal army

Artificial paradises from Hasan-i Sabbah to Silicon Valley

Posted on monday 11 august 2014• Written by Mariano Tomatis

My God, Mae thought. It’s heaven. The opening words of Dave Eggers’ dystopian novel The Circle (set in a fictional West Coast social media corporation) may be used also to describe the impression I had during the three days spent at Googleplex.

But.

Take an Italian man, 6000 miles from home. Take the amount of time of three days. Take the idea of being in heaven. No, I’m not referring to me but to Marco Polo (1254-1324).

Returning from an expedition to the East, the merchant traveller told Rustichello from Pisa of the experience designed by the charismatic leader Hasan-i Sabbah for his followers. He created a beautiful garden, hidden between two mountains, decorated with flowers and fruits, sumptuous houses and pavilions covered with precious stones. Through this artificial paradise, thanks to a sophisticated plumbing system, flew streams of honey, wine, milk and crystal clear water.

The garden was populated by gorgeous girls, who welcomed the visitors with refined foods, sensual dances and mind altering drugs. The place was the earthly replica of the afterlife described by Muhammad: such an accurate illusion that

the Saracens of those parts believed that it was Paradise! (1)

Sabbah took advantage of it to recruit his army of loyal fighters. After being drugged, the young candidates would wake up in the garden. Here they touched first-handed what the Koran promised as the afterlife, finding it difficult to distinguish the experience from true heaven. The otherworldly experience suddenly stopped after three days, when Sabbah put them to sleep with a dose of opium, causing them to awaken outside of heaven. Dazed and confused, the boys would have done anything to regain that “paradise lost”. And as the sacred texts promised it to those who would have fought to the death, Sabbah was guaranteed a loyal and motivated army.

During Science Foo Camp at Googleplex, streams of beer, wine, sodas and crystal clear water flew from automatic distributors, laptops could be borrowed for free, chips and snacks were always available, fresh food delivered at any time and all the available rooms were filled with mind altering ideas.

Now that the Camp is over, we feel a bit dazed and confused. A loyal and motivated army in the holy name of The Circle?

_________________

(1) Rustichello da Pisa, The Travels of Marco Polo, Book 1, Chapter 23, 1298.

You could be interested also in:

Working for a better Rule #34

Alexander and his magic tricks in the 2nd century

The man who (didn’t) walk across the river Seine

Magic and hypnosis: keeping trickery out of the door