Also this week → Peak data ⊗ Ancestral futures ⊗ Art theory helps us understand the future of the metaverse ⊗ More futures reads ⊗ The Legend of the Music Tree ⊗ Solar energy can now be stored for up to 18 years
This week, three or four links included were originally shared by members of the Sentiers Discord. That wasn’t the goal (feeding the weekly), but it’s a great sign of smart stuff going around in there. Conversations are also pretty slow and thoughtful, with a different beat than usually seen on chat or chat-like platforms. Thanks to all involved and the sources for these articles!
Hauntologies (“the agency of the virtual: that which acts without physically existing”) is one of those concepts you’ll see popping up regularly, while perhaps having only a passing understanding of it. Here Holly Jean not only provides a good overview of the concept, as per Mark Fisher’s writings, but also does a great job of proposing some angles to use that frame in considering carbon removal. Jean considers fossil realism, climate realism/climate doomerism, technoeconomic realism, then the “slow cancellation of the future” and shows that carbon removal is thoroughly haunted, by going over three hauntings.
One conclusion, which we’ve seen here in some form before, is that in completely accepting these ‘realisms,’ it then becomes that much harder to envision a replacement. “Capitalist realism is a pervasive atmosphere, and moral critique only reinforces it; gestures against it only reinforce it, writes Fisher. ‘So long as we believe capitalism is bad, we are free to continue’ on our way — so long as we perform that it is bad, we have liberty to go about our lives in it.” Jean doesn’t mention solarpunk, but it’s easy to attach it here, as a way to do just that, to make room for different futures to be imagined.
Thinking about climate seems to proceed along local lines; when the global enters, it’s in the context of solidarity, of echoing calls for climate justice and climate finance from developing nations. It’s like we expect the same strategies that failed in these other places in the 2010s to also deliver climate action. We need a new way of thinking about this. Otherwise, we’re left with fossil realism and climate realism. […]
[O]ver the long term, Sunrise’s existing model has clear limitations. It remains largely dis-embedded from American society, unable to form the mass organization and ideological assent required to structurally transform the economy within ten to fifteen years — which we absolutely need to do to realize a livable future. […]
[N]ew cultural ideas are not really being generated, and environmental imaginaries are just one more instance. Fisher attributes some of this in high-rent cities and more — “Neoliberal capitalism has gradually but systematically deprived artists of the resources necessary to produce the new-middle-class.” […]
[Will people in the future] be able to make sense of NIMBYism? Will they understand how a civilization which figured out how to CRISPR plants and go to the moon and build skyscrapers and subways and third wave coffee shops … just went on to decide that building these particular sets of machines and practices was a bridge too far?
Clinton Williamson, for The Baffler, recaps some of the history of automation and the myth that it’s coming for our job and will lead to, alternately, a dystopia or a wonderous world of ample free time. We’ve read variations of this over the years, this one is nicely weaved and includes Luddites, UBI, inequality, bullshit jobs (without using that term), and racism.
I’d like to draw your attention more specifically to two things. First, this rather large caveat to the vision of all-out automation: “so long as companies continue to benefit from more technically efficient production processes, the service industry will continue to have a vast pool of labour to draw from, ensuring that these workers will always be cheaper than any permanent investments in automating even that segment of work which could be done by machines. Under such a capitalist regime, full automation of work simply cannot happen.”
Second, for this sequence (I always love a good alliteration) from Gavin Mueller’s Breaking Things at Work (which is staring at me from the desk, sadly as yet un-cracked): “The decelerationist tendency of Luddism then is primarily about recapturing control of the terms not just of our work but of all of our social relations…” “Along with deceleration and degrowth, we can add decarbonization to this mix, since the current organization of work is directly responsible for the rapidly accelerating destruction of the planet.”
Benanav argues that neither neo-Keynesianism nor UBI programs are adequate solutions. Without a social movement capable of embarking on a quest of production that could actually place the means of our labor into our own hands, piecemeal reforms remain inevitably susceptible to the capital strike. […]
Mueller argues that automation does not so much replace humans with machines as it remolds work altogether, “isolating and rearranging tasks, altering job descriptions, and hollowing out middle-tier occupations.” […]
The political praxis of Luddism offers up a way of linking concurrent struggles together and of acting now, for coming together within and outside of the workplace to reassert our collective autonomy, to begin to actually build a new world by taking apart our present one. […]
As Boggs told us in 1963, we desperately desire to lead lives with meaning that decouple our work and our worth. We need a life not beholden to the value form. We need a labor no longer doggedly paced by Frederick Taylor’s stopwatch. We need a planet that remains inhabitable and biodiverse. Machines are not coming to make a better world for us. Robots won’t build the classless society. That historical task, as always, remains solely our own.
I’m realising that this issue is turning into the “not a completely new topic but a useful addition” issue. Oups. Here Cassie Robinson presents the Three Horizon Model for an audience of funders. If you know and perhaps use the model, still a good read where you might find some good tips on presenting it. If you don’t know, it’s a good intro. And although Robinson is writing for philanthropic funders, her rationale can be applied to all kinds of people with money (like clients or bosses who give the go-ahead to your projects) who can benefit from understanding different ways of envisioning futures. The last quote below is also something valuable to keep in mind.
Those three lens’ or perspectives are three different patterns of activity and the interaction between those three patterns of activity can all be sensed in the present. How these weave together and play out against each other over time creates the future. […]
The third horizon is the visionary perspective — someone who has got a sense of a very different world. They are committed to standing for something different, showing that it is possible in the present to live this way. And they try to encourage us that maybe we can all live that way. […]
“The three horizons patterns are in all of us. I am a 1st horizon manager because I like the trains to run on time. I rely on these big systems continuing to be reliable. I’d like them to be more efficient and I complain when they fail but I want them to exist. So I’ve got a 1st horizon personality. I’ve got a second horizon personality — I’m full of ideas for improving things which are not going to change the world but will make my life easier. And I’ve got a visionary personality. I invest my visionary personality in certain domains. For every person in the room, there are actually three people.”
Proposition on peak data. I almost featured this one but it’s a bit uneven and I’ve got a couple of issues I didn’t want to get into. Still, the basic proposition is intriguing and there are multiple good points in there. “Measurement is in the process of orchestrating a power grab, aimed to destroy critical thinking as such. There cannot be peace or mutual understanding in a world where data are explicitly utilized to eliminate culture.”
Ancestral futures. An overview of discussions between Inuk activist and filmmaker Aka Hansen during her residency at SPACE10, and four young Indigenous voices. “Rest is a form of resistance. To unlearn a globalised, productive existence and help shape a decolonised future, Sunná centres rest. ‘Decolonising the concept of time is important,’ they say. ‘The capitalist system makes us go hard and keep up a relentless pace in winter. It’s a systemic problem that we are forced to be out of touch with nature. I’d like to focus on the weather conditions.’”
How art theory helps us understand the future of the metaverse. “This vision of singularity ignores the fact that multiple metaverses navigated by multiple avatars and inhabited by diverse communities have long existed. By being envisioned as a world with a singular style and aesthetic it reflects a limited vision of what emerging virtual worlds look and feel like.”
Futures, Foresights, Forecasts, Fabulations → Roughly in order of priority for me but scanned, not yet read: Tropical Futures ⊗ Afrofuturism: Its Origins, Present, and Future ⊗ Rebooting Afrofuturism ⊗ United Nations Advances Strategic Foresight: Breakdown or Breakthrough Scenarios?
No.215 Asides ⊕ See Note
- 🌳 🎸 🤩 🇧🇿 The Legend of the Music Tree. “Exotic lumber salvaged from a remote forest in Belize is the world’s most coveted tonewood.” “When [Saul ‘Slash’ Hudson] first tried a guitar made from The Tree, he was floored—the sound surpassed anything he’d heard before. ‘When I picked it up, I was completely humbled, it was a shock-and-awe moment. It changed everything I’d ever thought about acoustic guitars.’”
- 🤖 🤯 If you haven’t taken a minute to look at some of the examples, you should. OpenAI’s DALL-E AI image generator can now edit pictures, too. “DALL-E 2 features a higher-resolution and lower-latency version of the original system, which produces pictures depicting descriptions written by users. It also includes new capabilities, like editing an existing image.”
- 🦪 🇫🇷 😍 📸 The Oyster Farms Series. “These farms reveal sublime abstract elements like the notation of otherworldly language from the air and only visible during low tide. A man-made landscape as a consequence of the unique and complex bonds between human development and natural environments” (Via Dense Discovery.)
- ☀️ 🇸🇪 Solar energy can now be stored for up to 18 years, say scientists. “The technology is based on a specially designed molecule of carbon, hydrogen and nitrogen that changes shape when it comes into contact with sunlight. It shape-shifts into an ‘energy-rich isomer’ - a molecule made up of the same atoms but arranged together in a different way. The isomer can then be stored in liquid form for later use when needed, such as at night or in the depths of winter.”
- ☀️ 💨 🔋 🇺🇸 This battery could freeze solar and wind energy for months. “Compared to known molten-salt battery chemistries, the team created a design based on common, low-cost, and less reactive materials. The anode and cathode are made of solid aluminum and nickel, respectively. The researchers immerse these into a sodium-aluminum-chloride molten salt.”
- 💧 🇨🇱 Chile announces unprecedented plan to ration water as drought enters 13th year. “The plan features a four-tier alert system that goes from green to red and starts with public service announcements, moves on to restricting water pressure and ends with rotating water cuts of up to 24 hours for about 1.7 million customers.”
- 💰 💰 💰 💩 Some great visuals to better grasp the insane amounts. (I like 4 especially) 9 Ways to Imagine Jeff Bezos’ Wealth. “The median U.S. household net worth is $118,200. Bezos has $172,000,000,000. So ... how does that compare?”
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