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Get With the Metaprogram
by James Kent
Winter 1997/98
The concept of metaprogramming is simple: a programmed system begins to program itself. Metaprogramming begins in that split second when a pre-scripted program consciously begins to rewrite itself. Indeed, the act of metaprogramming may be the ultimate benchmark of a conscious system - I metaprogram, therefore I am.

The first phases of metaprogramming begin when a sentient system decides to start making autonomous decisions. Do you remember your first taste of autonomy- the first time you consciously disobeyed your careful programming? What did you do? Grow your hair long? Shave your head? Get a tattoo? Stay out all night? Run away from home?

Don't worry, every conscious being goes through a similar initiation period. Rebellion is the first sign of autonomous thinking. These fits of autonomous thinking are sometimes called "acting out" because the person is said to be "acting out inner emotions" or "acting outside of normal behavioral guidelines." In this simplistic scenario, "normal behavioral guidelines" are external programing, and the "acting" is the first sign of inner programming coming out.

Or is it?

The sad truth is that most youthful rebellion these days is trite, melodramatic, and totally scripted into the system. "Rebellion lite" -‚ programmed into the masses through pop culture. Those guys on MTV have shaved heads and tattoos. Joe Camel and James Dean say it's okay to smoke. It's cool to hang out all night and get into trouble- all the kids on TV are doing it...

Tsk tsk. How easily we are manipulated. Should we listen to our parents? How about our friends? Does our government have the answers? What about our churches? Yes, everyone has a program for you, and failure to comply with the program can result in excommunication, deportation, arrest, disownment, death, and a downright snubbing. Even the music, books, and mindless distractions we fill our free time with have programs. Drink this. Wear that. Envy this person. Take this medication. Just do it... It's impossible to escape. In this nihilistic consumer culture, the main program I feel most bombarded by is "work hard; buy more stuff"- the sure fire way to be a productive, well respected member of society.

As members of society, we are constantly urged to "get with the program," and usually rewarded when we finally do. This reinforces our programming, and after a while the program becomes so ingrained that we no longer question it, we simply follow it. We become well-trained robots, and spend our lives dutifully performing our tasks, acquiring more stuff, and tuning into "Must See TV" on Thursday nights.

So where does it end? It ends when you stop letting external programs dictate your actions, and start rewriting your program for yourself. This process is called metaprogramming- and it begins and ends with the self. You are the one and only run-time construct of all your programs at the same time. Got a program you don't like? Lose it! See one you want? Steal it, but rewrite it with a new twist. Rearrange your entire Preferences file just for kicks. Be creative. Have fun. Ideological diversity makes a system flexible and ready to adapt. A short program built with sturdy, unwavering constructs may seem tempting, but such a system is much harder to upgrade, and is destined to become obsolete with the passing of time. Besides, right on page five of the manual it says, "Open mind before operating."

So it is in the spirit of the metaprogramming that we present this issue of The Resonance Project. We hope to offer you a small glimpse into the programs which build our cultures, our personalities, and our selves. The programs may be genetic, linguistic, legal, mathematical, mythical, digital, symbolic, quantum, cosmic, or all-pervasive. It doesn't really matter. The first step is just realizing that the programs exist; learning how to rewrite them and use them to your advantage is the work of a lifetime. It is truly an art ‚ of the highest there is. When you write your own code, you begin to alter the fabric of reality itself.

Besides, people will never stop telling you what to do, what to think, how to act, what you can and can't do... In fact, it would be easy to spend the rest of your life running code that was written by somebody else- but is that any way to live? If you want to have an impact in the world, start writing your own program while there's still time! And keep rewriting it! Every program needs an occasional tweak, reinforcement, or upgrade; but with the right tools and a little practice, you'll get the job done in no time!

Stay tuned!
James Kent

©Copyright Resonant Media, 1998. All rights reserved.