Computational Alchemy

A talk from EMF 2022 by Matt Carroll

On Saturday June 4, 2022 at in Stage C

A few years ago at a virtual conference I related my story of blowing up a BBC Micro B's power supply and alluded to the idea that it was (for totally anecdotal reasons) due to dark, occult forces.

The subsequent year I realised that the best defense against accidental occult computing was to do it on purpose so I embarked on a cyber-occult experience to blur the lines between magic and technology, beginning with writing a Tarot card filesystem (TarotFS) on Plan 9 from Bell Labs, the awkward cousin of Research Unix.

In doing so, I discovered a lot about the value of participatory magical practice even when you don't believe in the supernatural (and how we all do it whether we realise it or not), the surprisingly short history of the separation between magic and science, and all the weird junk you can do with Plan 9 under the guise of "occult research" and how it's uniquely suited to the task.

Along the way I've gathered a collection of grimoires (spell books) and other occult texts that instruct the reader on a plethora of "esoteric sciences" ranging from how to stop a magnet from working (you put a diamond next to it), how to appease all the gnomes that the earth is "full to the brim" of whilst you're searching for buried treasure, to how to construct a Hand of Glory.

This talk will cover how (ranging from the technical to the sublime), but more importantly why!


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