Lots of replies to last week’s issue (thanks!) but also an abnormally low open rate which makes me think that more than a few of you didn’t get No.72, do have a look in your various automated “M@rketing and sp@m” folders to catchup.

This Week: Getting cities our of cars. Copyright horror. Intelligences. Bogost. Malaise self-care. Civic Futures. Turing.

A year ago: Like-minded vs. like-hearted.


Build the cities of the future, get out of cars

Long read (24 min) at National Geographic with quite a few pictures, although… not necessarily about the projects they talk about in the piece?? Anyway, the China and its Emerald Cities planning especially drew my attention. The other cities and projects are also interesting but perhaps already covered more widely. Basically: new cities being planned at a more human less car-oriented scale; reinventing suburbs by re-using malls as “downtowns” (!!); densification along old roads and train tracks; build housing and street level shops.

[C]ities would stop expanding so voraciously, paving over the nature around them; instead they’d find better ways of letting nature into their cores, where it can touch people. They’d grow in dense clusters and small, walkable blocks around a web of rapid transit. […]

It’s one many urban planners are terrified of: driverless autonomous vehicles, or AVs. Calthorpe himself thinks that, if AVs are left to individuals or the likes of Uber or Lyft, they will metastasize sprawl. He wants to harness the technology to benefit communities. […]

In 2016 the Communist Party Central Committee and the State Council, the highest organs of the state, issued a decree: From now on Chinese cities were to preserve farmland and their own heritage; have smaller, unfenced blocks and narrower, pedestrian-friendly streets; develop around public transit; and so on. In 2017 the guidelines were translated into a manual for Chinese planners called Emerald Cities. […]

Where the Eastside Trail crosses Ponce de Leon Avenue, for example, a giant old Sears, Roebuck warehouse has become the Ponce City Market, a food hall, mall, and office complex. A Ford factory that once made Model T’s is now loft apartments. […]

We didn’t have to go completely nuts about cars, allowing them to become the tail that wagged the urban dog. We didn’t have to rip up all the streetcar lines. We didn’t have to forget that cities are for people—and we don’t need to do it again.

EU Copyright Directive Holds Online Hosts Liable for User Infringement

This week in “policy makers hardly ever take decisions in the public’s interest and just listen to lobbyists.” Horrible, horrible EU directive goes through. Just as voices start rising to restrain or even dismantle large platforms, a decision which will be very hard to implement by smaller players, handicapping them.

“Despite the warnings and concerns of academics, privacy bodies, U.N. representatives and hundreds of thousands of consumers across Europe, the European Parliament has given its go-ahead to a very unbalanced copyright law,” said Monique Goyens, director general of the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC.) “Consumers will have to bear the consequences of this decision. Their concerns had been voiced loud and clearly but MEPs chose to ignore them.”

Life Rewired Reads

James Bridle on AI, Go, humans being passed in certain forms of intelligence and how as we consider intelligences we create, we should also consider those already around us, from octopuses to 80,000 year-old interconnected root systems.

A new Copernican trauma looms, wherein we find ourselves standing upon a ruined planet, not smart enough to save ourselves, and no longer by any stretch of the imagination the smartest ones around. Any appeal to survival will have to be made both to technology and other non-human intelligences, and it will be possible only if we are prepared to accept the toy intelligences we’re building not as yet more indications of our own superiority, but as intimations of our ultimate interdependence, and as calls to humility and care.

The Mueller Investigation Ends, Along With Its Industry

By Ian Bogost, although it’s framed around the investigation, it’s included here for the view on news being more and more anticipation of the future instead of coverage of the present, and media jockeying for position by taking anticipated conclusions for granted.

It’s more than yet another fusion of 24-hour information, meme culture, and internet opportunism. It also speaks to Americans’ strong desire to anticipate the future, and to live in the present as if that future has already arrived, and in the way they’d planned it to besides. […]

These and other stories seem like news about the present, but they are really speculations on information from the future. […]

So much media is premediated now, it’s almost impossible to find something whose payload isn’t partly composed of practice for future events. […]

Like taking out a loan on news to come in the hopes that its benefit will pay out enough to cover its costs, the Mueller disciples traded their own anticipatory media on margin, assuming that their winnings would more than pay off their debts.

Why “Doing Nothing” Is the Best Self-Care for the Internet Era

Not as strong as some of the early shares implied but useful to keep in mind for this view of the culprits of our modern malaise.

In her eyes, there are two primary culprits responsible for our modern malaise: social media and the cult of productivity. The former robs us of attention, foments hysteria and anxiety, and collapses context (“keeping us trapped in a fearful present”). The latter dictates that any surplus time we do have be used “productively,” driven towards some end goal or task. […]

[W]ithdraw your attention from social media and reroute it into more meditative pursuits that allow us to deepen our capacity for focus, connection, and curiosity.

Exploring Civic Futures

Following Amber Cases’ Shiny Tomorrows piece I included last week, reader Bryan Boyer replied, mentioning that it also explains some of his work with Civic Futures quite well (agreed!). As he put it: “No doom, no gloom. Pragmatic but not pessimistic. Optimistic but not euphoric.”

Miscellany