This week → Oh, 2022! ⊗ Change of seasons ⊗ Tropical futurism envisions the climate of our fate ⊗ The planet-killing asteroid is always political ⊗ Filtered for deep time and stories from space
A year ago → A favourite in issue No.156 was Camera Obscura: Beyond the lens of user-centered design by Alexis Lloyd.
Come for Charlie Stross’ rule of thumb for predicting the near-future, leave (perhaps) because of the hypothetical MERS/COVID19-Omicron hybrid horror and misc virus talk, come back for 2031’s predictable and unpredictables bits, the “WTFery.”
Aside from my drôle(ish) first paragraph, definitely a good read, his rule of thumb (latest iteration 1st quote below) is a useful super quick mental model of how much unpredictability we might… predict, and he also packs in quite a few things to think about in terms of viruses, mRNA, the climate, and klept politics.
One takeaway: even things that were easy to predict to happen at some point remain entirely as potent and unpredictable since we can’t pinpoint exactly when they will happen. For example, lots of people knew a global pandemic was bound to happen at some point, but very few in 2018 would have predicted one within two years.
We're now up to about 20% of 10-year-hence developments being utterly unpredictable, leaving us with 55-60% in the "here today" and 20-25% in the "not here yet, but clearly on the horizon" baskets. […]
The klept built their wealth on iron and coal, then oil: they invested in real estate, inflated asset bubble after asset bubble, drove real estate prices and job security out of reach of anyone aged under 50, and now they'd like to lock in their status by freezing social mobility. […]
We may be entering a pre-revolutionary situation, or the ramp-up to a dictatorial clampdown (the latter is clearly in an advanced stage in both China and Russia). By 2031 it's likely to be resolved in one direction or another; I can only hope, with a minimum of bloodshed.
I’ve already written about Graeber and Wengrow’s book The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity, here Steven Johnson is giving some of his post-read impressions and teases out a reflection on seasons. Throughout history—his example being the Ohlone’s wetland settlements in today’s California—various societies alternated lifestyles with the seasons without going ‘all in’ towards full-time agriculture. Johnson wonders if some work, perhaps through some enlightened policies, might find inspiration in seasonality, instead of being “stamped out and standardized by the 9-to-5 monoculture of the Industrial Age.” As one example, he’s already living two entirely different seasons when writing (solo) and editing/promoting his books.
In short, humans got a taste of agriculture during this period, but they didn’t enslave themselves to it. And nothing in that way of living inevitably compelled the creation of a state. The key point—in both Against The Grain and Dawn of Everything—is that this interim mode lasted for four thousand years, maybe more—longer than the time that separates modern capitalism from some of the pharaohs. […]
These seasonal variations are maybe the most striking example of a macro point that Dawn keeps returning to: that if there is any “innate” or “inevitable” property to human social arrangements, it lies in our creative flexibility, our appetite for experimenting with different modes of living. […]
You can measure social progress by how much people are paid for their labor, but you can also measure it in how much freedom they have to experiment with other kinds of work, how much “seasonal” variation they are afforded.
Another piece from WIRED’s series The Future of Futures, this one by Alex Quicho. Long-time readers will already know that I’m a
sucker for fan of new futurisms. Here the author goes over all the most recent genres and how most of them, even though they center new populations and regions, often still stick too close to the status quo, for example when “Sinofuturism and Gulf Futurism, simply ask, how would we see the future if the core concepts of ‘progress’ arose from somewhere that wasn’t the West?”
Having set the stage with Mark Fisher’s “slow cancellation of the future,” and Lee Edelman’s No Future, Quicho ends with tropical futures that “are in step with wider calls to decolonize technology, governance, and society at large; and to innovate with, rather than against, nature.” Sounds good.
To Fisher, the future was already lost, not only to the fragmentation and acceleration we now accept as part of life shaped by the internet, but to “a general condition: in which life continues, but time has somehow stopped.” […]
So-called realism has trapped us in an interminable present, where even the most daring innovations fail to envision a better and more equitable world—and in fact depend on the failure of our imagination for their successes. […]
As we contend with the prevailing uncertainties of climate chaos and narrative collapse, and reach new heights of capitalism-cynicism, we’ll see increased interest in futures beyond the affliction of normative futurisms; futures which break rather than perpetuate the status quo. […]
Finally, a tropical future could be a “regenerative future”—a trending term, to say the least, but one worth considering in earnest in order to move from an extractive society to one that humanely participates in the complex system called Earth.
Can’t say I paid much attention to comments about Don’t Look Up, first to steer clear of spoilage, and later because none of the headlines seemed to make sense; it’s not serious and it’s not scientific, deal with it! I did read this one by Ingrid Burrington however, and it’s an excellent overview of the history of asteroid movies, the blatant messages they carry, and how this climate/J.Law/Leo vehicle differs.
As Sarah Gailey has observed, Armageddon is also a film about masculinity and fatherhood: it’s not nukes and oil extraction that save the planet, it’s essentially Bruce Willis’ dad-ness. […]
Characters in these movies sleep around, fall in love, and find themselves. They don’t choose organizing or community-building, they choose the nuclear family and heteronormative romance. […]
McKay comes closest to doing for asteroid movies what George Romero did with zombie movies: he lays their latent symbolism bare and acknowledges its real underlying existential horror, not to mention the implications of the fucked-up ways most modern asteroid movies face that horror with gee-whiz technological salvation or toxic fuck-you nationalism (sometimes both).
Item 3. in this post by Matt Webb is a short one, but I really liked how within just a few paragraphs he goes from a nerdy noticing—“Superionic ice, Ice XVIII, is black, hot, heavy (4x on regular ice), and conducts electricity like a metal.”—to something I’d like to see in a sci-fi novel.
Across the solar system, at least, more water probably exists as superionic ice – filling the interiors of Uranus and Neptune – than in any other phase, including the liquid form sloshing in oceans on Earth. […]
I imagine computing circuits written into Ice XVIII which are able to rewrite their circuits from the inside, 3-dimensional circuits of Ice XVIII alloyed and filigreed by other exotic forms: directed electricity to melt and then reform the ice. It’s the ideal substrate for AI civilisations: they live running in code at the heart of Jupiter-like gas giants, the cores of these semi-stars vast thinking mountains of hot ice computronium.
No.202 Asides ⊕ See Note
- 🔥 🤩 🇪🇺 Feminist Tech Policy. “To build just and inclusive digital futures it needs a holistic view of digitalization. A Feminist Tech Policy sheds light on power structures, injustices and the environmental aspects of technology. It questions current innovation narratives and examines the value of maintenance, accessibility, openness and care for the digital societies of the future. A feminist approach helps to think and see beyond existing stories and structures.”
- 😮 ⚓️ 🛢 The happiest number I've heard in ages. “But no—a little research makes clear that in fact if you add up all the tonnage, something very close to forty percent of all the shipping on earth is just devoted to getting oil and coal and gas (and now some wood pellets) back and forth across the ocean.”
- 🤩 🇪🇺 🚄 A little website that lets you input any train station in Europe, and it maps all the places you can travel without transfers. (Via The Prepared.)
- 🇨🇳 🌱 👍🏼 Young Chinese Show a Growing Appetite for Plant-Based Diets. “Young Chinese are adopting flexitarian, vegetarian, and vegan diets in record numbers, as activists and celebrities increasingly speak out about the ethical, environmental, and public health problems caused by the country’s rising meat consumption.”
- 🤔 ☢️ Nuclear Power Reactors Could Be Way for Nations to Achieve Climate Goals. “Although efforts to battle climate change have been largely dominated by renewables, the International Energy Agency says achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 will require doubling nuclear power worldwide.”
- 😍 📸 🏢I’d hate these in an actual city but wow! visually. A future city from the past. “The series, “A Future City From The Past” is based on this mystifying vision of a radically aggressive urban dystopia — an uncompromising design in the brutalist dogma. All buildings and structures are homogenic.” (Via Dense Discovery)
- What’s the emoji for sceptical? (🤔 🤐). We are channel 🌌 channel.xyz a decentralized media organization building tools to help creators join forces, token-enable their communities and experience the benefits of Web 3.
- 🇬🇱 🥶 😍 😍 Freeze frames: the epic wilderness of Greenland – in pictures (Via Mark Storm.)
- 🇮🇷 🇪🇬 🌬 The ancient Persian way to keep cool. “From ancient Egypt to the Persian Empire, an ingenious method of catching the breeze kept people cool for millennia. In the search for emissions-free cooling, the "wind catcher" could once again come to our aid.” (Also via The Prepared.)
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