Newsletter No.270 — Jun 25, 2023

Modular and Portable Multiplayer Miniverses ⊗ The Extraordinary Green Promise of a Tiny Molecule ⊗ Teaching with Sci-Fi Stories

Want to understand the world & imagine better futures?

Also this week → Designing the future using science fiction ⊗ From notetaking to neuralink ⊗ The CoFuturisms Bibliography ⊗ Positive Friction

Modular and portable multiplayer miniverses

This is crypto and gaming adjacent but I invite you to dig in even if your are doubtful or uninterested in these topics, just zoom out a bit and/or squint. In other words, the concepts and how they interrelate are perhaps more interesting than the surface and current details.

To put it dryly, Moving Castles is a proposed media format that combines collective agency and public participation in modular and portable multiplayer miniverses. These miniverses are inhabited by communities that can manage their lore, ecosystems, and economies. They are designed to be modular, portable, interoperable, and persistent. The media type combines elements of game shows, reading groups, and networked knowledge production, all facilitated in a 3D game world by a motion-captured mascot. 🤖

I’d be curious to see a discussion between these authors and the team behind Metalabels, there is some commonality and you could almost say that they are working on variations of the same ideal (group belonging and meaning/content creation), the former coming at it from gaming and fiction imaginaries and metaphors and the latter by way of indie music labels. Going to the first graph above, beyond the misadventures of crypto, both projects are creating valuable prototypes built on concepts that will likely prove vital if ‘we’ have any chance of pulling away from mega-platforms.

What we believe to be most promising about emerging spaces like Trust is their potential to grow into collectively-owned social and cultural institutions built on decentralised infrastructure: democratically governed manifestations of collective interest ranging from political aims to fandoms, contributed to and run by their members. […]

As we collectively figure out how to facilitate and evaluate positive externalities, there needs to be possibility for involvement, participation and exchange with other groups and potential future stakeholders; a public outside the dark forest. […]

We are moving from an era of centralized, bureaucratic value creation firms to an era of decentralized, permissionless value creation networks. As organizational models change, so too will the intangible cultural artifacts created by these new institutional forms. Brands, narratives, memes—we now choose our own headless gods […]

In lieu of a fully customisable metaverse; a collective virtual shared space where communities can interact virtually while controlling the economic and programmatic logics at the core of their interactions, we have bootstrapped our Moving Castles by combining existing participatory elements and reach from Twitch live-streaming with the modular customisability of game engines.

More → Here’s an interview with the authors of the above article, which is perhaps more accessible; Autonomous worlds aim to free online games from corporate control. And the moving castle piece was almost certainly found via Jay Springett, whom you should follow for deeper understanding of these topics.

The extraordinary green promise of a tiny molecule

I’m not sure that’s the title I would have used for Holly Jean Buck’s piece. It does start with a really good primer on how green hydrogen could/will be used to transition away from fossil fuels, where it might be used, where it might be essential, the difference between green, grey, blue, and pink variations, and more. When she does stray away from the specifics of hydrogen is where it actually gets even more important. Buck explains how these globally-needed technocratic projects are disconnected from the lives of people living where these new infrastructures might be built and explores the interactions between markets, policy, activism, and philanthropy come together and how the whole assembly might delay the work that needs to be done.

Buck then outlines how ‘we’ might address the “engagement crisis,” what a nationwide (US but same applies elsewhere) reconnection project might look like, its scale and components, and why it’s needed.

We risk building a whole new energy infrastructure that has the social problems of the current one, where rich companies drain the energy from rural places, leaving them with fouled land and communities and enriching only those who live far away. This is not just a moral concern; it puts the whole clean energy future in doubt. […]

We used to think that climate mitigation was a light thing, a thing of doing less. It turns out that rebuilding our civilization means more: more heat pumps, more building retrofits, more industrial facilities. Those things require a lot of extracting, making and transport. To turn away from this — to not build and rebuild and fix and maintain — is to condemn our children to continued fossil fuel use. […]

Talking to everyone — yes, that is what’s necessary — about the energy transition is going to be such a huge and expensive endeavor that governments will need to fund it. But philanthropy and civil society can generate and fund the campaign to get Congress to appropriate money for it.

More → In a nice bit of serendipity, Readwise resurfaced this article and quote yesterday. In Praise of Public Libraries. “‘Infrastructure’ is not a term conventionally used to describe the underpinnings of social life…[but] if states and societies do not recognize social infrastructure and how it works, they will fail to see a powerful way to promote civic engagement and social interaction, both within communities and across group lines.”

Teaching with sci-fi stories: empathic imagination and meta-reflection

Nice piece by Yiling Zhou, a PhD candidate at Saint Louis University, on how she engages her students in reflection and discussion of metaphysical topics using science fiction, namely Arrival and Story of Your Life (the short story the movie is based on). It can be read for philosophers or teachers, but it’s also very pertinent for people working in foresight and futures using similar tools and who are also trying to coax clients into unordinary thinking.

Imagining empathically involves projecting oneself in an imagined situation and emotionally experiencing the significance of the idea or question—the result is thinking for oneself from a truly unique perspective. […]

The intuition is due to the belief that accidents are preventable while serious diseases are inevitable. However, will this difference of agency or control remain if everything is pre-determined? If determinism is true, should we change the way we talk about luck and the probability of events? Reflection like this expands students’ understanding of determinism, and what differences it implies on their common beliefs in daily life. […]

Stories, especially science fiction stories, expand our imagination and leave space for us to explore uncertain or unknown ideas in paradoxical and ambiguous ways. It’s like a funhouse mirror, showing us a view of ourselves from perspectives that, though not exactly real, can certainly improve self-visualization and self-understanding.

Designing the future using science fiction “Science-fiction prototypes are imagined laboratories based on (scientific) fact, that challenge creators and readers to critically reflect on the impact of science and emerging technologies and on the social and emotional responses of the world - including themselves.”

From notetaking to neuralink Imperfect but good read on the evolution of notetaking, how we make sense of things, and some potential uses of AI. “The explosion of information available to each of us is demonstrating the cracks in our current processes for accepting, synthesizing, and acting on information. But AI is inaugurating a new information paradigm that the technology is best suited to assist with creating new content from existing information.”

Futures, foresights, forecasts & fabulations → Woah! The CoFuturisms Bibliography. “A growing bibliographic database of critical studies and analyses of futures and futurisms.”Positive Friction “encourages an alternative design practice in order to restore human agency within online spaces.”Metamodern futures: Prescriptions for metamodern foresight, a promising paper by Alex Fergnani and Brent Cooper. ⊗ Three basic steps to creating climate positive futures.

Algorithms, Automation, Augmentation → That was obvious from the first seconds. Marvel’s Secret Invasion’s opening credits were made using artificial intelligence. Great idea, those visuals fit the theme perfectly. ⊗ The Guardian’s approach to generative AI. ⊗ Thread with some incredible images produced with the just-released Midjourney 5.2. ⊗ The people paid to train AI are outsourcing their work… to AI. “It’s a practice that could introduce further errors into already error-prone models.”


  • 👾 👀 Always here for a new Ben Brown joint. Fiction Quest “started out as an experiment where I was chatting with an AI-powered goat character. It was way too much fun and I started posting about it on the socials and people were interested, so I decided to push it further and see if I could connect the goat and other characters into an environment like the ol’ interactive fiction games of yore.”
  • 🍄 🎥 🤩 Free online panel with Corey Pressman, Jeff VanderMeer, Kaitlin Smith, and Merlin Sheldrake! The Future is Fungi: The Rise and Rhizomes of Mushroom Culture.
  • 🤩 🤯 🎥 🕷 The Spider-Verse Lego Scene Was Created By a 14-Year-Old Animator. “After 14-year-old Preston Mutanga's Lego version of the trailer for Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse went viral, the team hired him to animate a short Lego sequence for the actual film.”
  • 🖥 📚 😍 Do want!! TASCHEN Books: The Computer. “From analog to digital, mainframes to mobile phones – with photos, ads, and concept drawings of inventions that ushered in the digital era, this visual survey of the Information Age reveals how the computer and the internet irreversibly transformed our world.”
  • 😍 🖼 Promising article but so far only here for the great images. Early Computer Art in the 50’s & 60’s. “My original vision for this article was to cover the development of computer art from the 50’s to the 90’s, but it turns out there’s an abundance of things without even getting half way through that era. So in this article we’ll look at how Lovelace’s ideas for creativity with a computer first came to life in the 50’s and 60’s, and I’ll cover later decades in future articles.”
  • 🔥 🎥 🇯🇵 How Rebar Is Produced in a Japanese Factory. “The immense scale of the factory and the intense temperatures involved (along with a musical soundtrack that sounds like Interstellar by way of Philip Glass) makes this video about how rebar is made compelling viewing.”