Rethinking an iconic idea ⊗ Philosophy and architecture after the apocalypse ⊗ Shift from prediction to foresight

No.310 — A different web and a splinternet ⊗ Art-based approaches to the future ⊗ Dead relatives give politicians AI endorsements in India

Rethinking an iconic idea ⊗ Philosophy and architecture after the apocalypse ⊗ Shift from prediction to foresight
The Grand Palais in Paris was home to the arts portion of the 1924 Olympics.

Rethinking an iconic idea

David Mattin takes us through the history of the singularity in its various forms, from Von Neumann, to IJ Wood, Vernor Vinge, and Ray Kurzweil. I’m not a fan of the latter or most of the ideologue-entrepreneurs around him, but Mattin brings an intriguing, and perhaps more valid, much longer-term, and believable angle. Well worth the read.

There are likely some historical caveats, ‘yes buts,’ diverging stats, and he makes no mention of extraction and the encircling of the commons during the industrial revolutions, but I think the general arc is correct. Still an interesting view point and rethinking, and an excellent match with the piece below, about apocalypse thinking, and especially the reframing of colonisation into an old and ongoing apocalypse for indigenous peoples from early conquest and continuing along this sequence of industrial revolutions.

Also interesting to think of Gibson’s Jackpot concept, which, for all intents and purposes, we are in the early stages off. Just as Mattin proposes that we are already living through the singularity (one might say through the process of ‘singularisation’), we are also living through it’s corruption phase (corruption as in rust corroding/corrupting steel) which can be called collapse, apocalypse, polycrisis, metacrisis, or The Jackpot. And, maybe, just maybe, The Jackpot can instead be The Transition. Which of these we are heading deeper into remains to be seen.

I want to put forward a revised vision of the Singularity. That vision is underpinned by the idea that the Singularity isn’t an event that will, as many proponents suggest, fall out of the sky in 2045 or at some later date. Rather, it’s a world-historical process that we are already living through. […]

[A more pressing risk than Altman’s AGI floats into view.] That is, high and generalised intelligence that we can control and that remains under the control of a narrow techno-elite that uses it to impose increasing economic and cultural hegemony over the rest of us. […]

And that’s what’s happening to us now. We are entering the warp speed phase of the techno-social process that started some 250 years ago. Not only will we be living on an exponential curve, we’re going to feel it. The products of warp speed change will reshape everyday live, dominate our culture, and strain our politics to and probably beyond breaking point. That’s why the coming decades will truly be an Exponential Age.

Buildings born ruins: philosophy and architecture after the apocalypse

At Failed Architecture, Nuria Ribas Costa moderates a conversation between Daniel Barber and Lisa Doeland. Their discussion explores apocalyptic thinking in relation to climate change and architecture, suggesting we view the climate crisis as an ongoing apocalypse rather than a future event, urging for a shift in perspective to inspire action and adaptation in the face of environmental challenges. The authors emphasize the need to confront the uncomfortable truths of progress, waste, and inequality to pave the way for transformative solutions and a sustainable future.

As I mentioned above, the two featured articles read well together. Instead of ‘and then the [singularity / apocalypse] happens,’ both recognise long term processes taking shape over decades, their complexity, entanglement, and how solutions or at least influence on world systems must also be multi-pronged and long term.

What I argue is that we should abandon the idea of the apocalypse or the end of the world as something yet to happen, avoidable; and instead, think of it as something unequal, slow maybe, already taking place. […]

The Wasteoscene is an era dominated by wasted relationships, by the wasting of people, animals, ecosystems; relationships through which we, too, become disposable, where some beings become more important than others. […]

These buildings are not ruins yet, in the same way a Mediaeval castle was not built as a ruin, but the socioeconomic conditions that supported them, we see now, are in the process of collapsing. […]

We rely on the existence of an “away,” where all this heat, waste, everything, goes to and stays in. But it never disappears – it comes back.

§ Why we must shift from prediction to foresight. Roger Spitz explains how foresight, using various methodologies, like scenario development, helps us plan for the future by exploring multiple potential futures systematically to inform decision-making in the face of unpredictable changes. If you already know that, there are still some useful graphics and tables to look through.

§ A growing number of voices recognise the poor state of the open web. They wax nostalgic about its early days but also propose new ways forward. Molly White reminds us that we can have a different web by growing open spaces instead of the towering walled gardens of social networks. Paris Marx, on the other hand, focuses on the battle for tech supremacy between the US and China and argues that we should embrace a multi polar collaborative splinternet.

Futures, Fictions & Fabulations

Art-based approaches can encourage fresh perspectives on the future
“Art can contribute to futures thinking in various ways, such as inspiring alternative futures through mediums like science fiction in films and literature, encapsulating future scenarios through artistic illustrations, and posing thought-provoking questions that challenge our perceptions and understanding of the future.”

Participatory futures and cultural renewal in Mexico
“Our proposal aims to provide an avenue to critically examine deep cultural achetypes within Mexican culture. Using a participatory futures approach, the proposal puts Mexican citizens at the center of this culture-hacking and futures inquiry, as the innovators of new selves, personas and archetypes.”

Futures Philanthropy: anticipation for the common good
“Looks at how European philanthropy can apply foresight and futures thinking to live up to its potential of being forward-looking, risk-taking, and innovative, all the while encouraging anticipatory capacities within civil society and communities.”

Algorithms, Automations & Augmentations

Dead relatives give politicians AI endorsements in India
“As elections in India get in full swing, the country’s leading politicians and their brand gurus have gone all in on artificial intelligence to resurrect the past and manage the future. Digital rights activists have questioned the ethics of using a deceased politician’s voice or form in elections.”

Eight US newspapers sue OpenAI and Microsoft for copyright infringement
“We’ve spent billions of dollars gathering information and reporting news at our publications, and we can’t allow OpenAI and Microsoft to expand the Big Tech playbook of stealing our work to build their own businesses at our expense.”

Burnout is pushing workers to use AI
“People are using AI at work whether their bosses want them to or not, new data shows. But it’s desperation, not innovation, driving the change.”


  • 🗿 🖼️ (There is no emoji for the olympics??) They Used to Award Olympic medals for art? “For decades, beginning with the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, the Olympics included competitions in painting, sculpture, architecture, music and literature — a “pentathlon of the Muses,” as Pierre de Coubertin, the founder and leader of the modern Olympics, called them.”
  • 📚 🤩 Why is print coming back? When we launched The Alpine Review in 2012, print had already come back and I sometimes even thought we were late to the party. So it’s a bit weird to see this title doing some rounds last week, 12 years later. Regardless, glad to see this wave is ongoing.
  • 🕶️ 🌈 🇺🇸 Did Stanford just prototype the future of AR glasses? “Like other AR eyeglasses, they use waveguides, which are a component that guides light through glasses and into the wearer’s eyes. But researchers say they’ve developed a unique ‘nanophotonic metasurface waveguide’ that can ‘eliminate the need for bulky collimation optics.’”
  • 👏🏼 🌱 🍃 🇦🇺 🇨🇦 🇳🇱 The cities stripping out concrete for earth and plants. “Proponents say depaving allows water to soak into the ground, which reduces flooding in times of heavy rain – aiding the ‘sponginess’ of cities. Native plants help wildlife cling on in urban spaces, and by planting trees you can increase shade, protecting residents from heatwaves. Injecting city streets with greenery may even improve people's mental health, too.”
  • 🕰️ 🇰🇷 How South Korea’s Tech Hub Embraced the 15-Minute City. “Busan’s mayor is taking a collaborative approach to championing ‘happy proximity,’ turning his city into a living laboratory for urban regeneration.”
  • 🚧 🇨🇭 🤯 Swiss mode is the new god mode I guess? Impressive. How to resurface a road without stopping traffic. “A video posted by Switzerland's Federal Roads Office, FEDRO, shows how they resurface a road without stopping traffic: they put a temporary elevated highway over it and work in the shade.”
  • 🥦 ™️ 🥸 Wait, what?! Produce Company Invokes Trademark On ‘Broccolini’. “…a registered trademark of Fresh Del Monte Produce, distributed by its subsidiary, Mann Packing. And if you’re wondering how it’s possible that the term is out there in grocery stores and restaurants all over the place without the trademark symbol appended next to it, that’s because for 25 years FDMP has declined to enforce the mark.”

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