Posted by on December 30th, 2011 in Interviews
  • What is your opinion on merging spiritualism and deity worship with science and technology in the future? It seems to already be happening to a small extent, so what are the implications?  –Anonm1k3y: I consider myself a neo-Pythagorean. It’s a path through the future, but not for all.

    Kevin: I think it’s unavoidable simply because of the nature of technological development.  A large portion of spirituality involves dealing with the invisible landscape – heavens, hells, the spirits of places, personal histories – the intangible connections between things.  The general thrust of developing technologies seems to be invested in the same things — making data rich genius loci, creating an internet of things, making the implicit connections between things and people explicit.   In much the same sense that I consider most spirituality on par with a Graphical User Interface for consciousness, I think that we definitely will see new combinations of deity worship, spirituality, religion and the data-rich environment.    (A good example of a new spin on this is the sort of exotropic emergent godhead that Kevin Kelly calls the Technium and details in his book What Technology Wants.  There’s also the oft-cited rapture-style eschatology of the technological Singularity.)

  • Now that it has made me sign in, let’s see if this goes through… Humans are notoriously short-sighted and focused on their lives here and now. How would you ‘elevator pitch’ such a person to open their eyes to the necessity of understanding the future? –JaymGatesHumans are notoriously focused on the present. Why should the average person care about futurism, not as a fun SF theory, but as a science/belief/way to shape the world? –Anon

    m1k3y: When the sea of change becomes a tsunami, when infrastructure collapse piles on instituational collapse, piles on social change… people will be treadying water, looking for a narrative to explain just how they came to be almost drowning. SF theory then becomes srs bsnss. Especially when the alternative is nationalistic resurgence or exceptionalist denialism.

    Would it be that surprising if strange, new (techno) religions flower when more happens in the first month of 2012 than all of 2011. Just trying explaining this year to your 2010-pastSelf.

    The present will be a tiny blip of time. Now may last 10minutes.

    The result of a 100years of SF’nal thinking will help give shape to the chaos, and that will make all the difference. Its memes will turn victims into survivors. (It was always a rescue operation.)

    Kevin: I’m of the opinion that 99.9% of “futurism” has nothing to do with the future at all, and is simply about understanding the present or the recent past.   The idea that it is focused on the future seems to simply be some slight-of-mind to soften the ontological blow that comes with the dual facts that yes, people are focused on the here and now and that they very rarely understand it.  That’s certainly the case with futurism as it manifests in the corporate world.  Douglas Rushkoff has made an excellent career of explaining the world as it was 10 minutes ago to corporations and business audiences under the guise of the “next big thing”. And that’s not a dig, either, there’s a serious need for that sort of social prestidigitation.

    Science Fiction and its forward-looking kin is a vehicle that allows artists to essentially rapid prototype and testbed futures — and if successful begin to manifest them. The space race was driven by rocket jockeys who were also often SciFi geeks — be they writers or fans. William Gibson’s vision of cyberspace informs and shapes the conversation about information technology to this day. At its best, Sci Fi is a vehicle that allows the artist to pluck things from the future so as to terraform the present.

    My elevator pitch would strangely be a sports metaphor:  ”If you don’t keep your eye on the ball, you’ll never hit anything.” And that’s really what it boils down to.  Without understanding today enough to have an idea of how to deal with the future. And I think that’s key, right there;  the ability to develop strategies for dealing with future events is vastly more valuable than the ability to predict future events.  Without understanding that, you’re just swinging blindly. Life without context is just a big mess of sound and fury and noise.  And that is no way for anyone to live their life, much less for a culture to try and navigate through the world.

  • Where do you think the latest round of political protest in America and the UK (to narrow it down a bit) is heading? –DavidForbesm1k3y: The states will still exist, but UK faces further instabiliy and likely overreactions from polices. Nights of riots will return, for longer. Obama will look even worse by then, and will probably be forced out by Hildawg for re-election. For the populations, things will get ever more political, but in wildier directions. We’ll see more insane versions of Tea Party and other nationalistic manifestatians. Tactical, flash occupies, increasingly surreal, and permanent encampments as they ally with friendly pre-existing institutions (say, liberal churchs for instance).

    Equal parts new instabilities in old areas, and fresh, unanticipated cohesions at the edge of the new and the old.

  • If 2012 gives us a general contraction of economic growth, the potential collapse of the Euro and a general all-around shortage of available cash, what sort of things can we be doing to minimize negative impacts? How do I buy jetpack without cash? –amkelly0m1k3y: detach, or at least insulate, yourself from the mainstream status-quo such as it existed before the beginning of the GFC.

    time rich, money poor; you mightn’t have a (full-time) job, but you will have time to pool resources with fellow travellers, scrap together equipment. start a neighbour market garden on vacant or adandoned land. swap equipment, get maximum benefit from the resources of the group using (something like) and above all else – LEARN/STUDY/PLAY.

    the further you live into the future, the more valuable you’ll be as a guide to those that follow you. (don’t buy a jetback, build a peer2peer jetpack factory)

    Kevin: Don’t concentrate on buying a jetpack, concentrate on establishing resilient sustainable communities that have the ability to construct jetpacks en masse.  Hosnestly, I think resilent sustainable communities are the key to progress in the face of  global financial collapse and the increasingly maddened anti-ethical actions of collective Large Actors (aka megacorps).  I’m not saying that you have to go off the grid into rural France a la the “Tarnac Nine“.  I mean, that’s an option, sure. But community building, even in the sprawling urban environments is key.

    The tricky part is — well, one of many tricky parts — that self-sufficiency usually looks like Crime in the eyes of the State. (And it looks like competition in the eyes of the Corporation.) Look at some of the Occupy enclaves — where it seems like their major infraction was having the gall to show that different types of urban communities were possible in front of the public.

  • What new tech are you most excited about in 2012? What trend! –Anonm1k3y: Hardware and software being used, adapted, created by the independant citizens of the Ocuppy movement. Such as this new SNS Definitely the emergant Drone Culture; kinect hacked quadcoptors vs predators. And DIY BioGen, something interesting should surely come from there.

    Surprise trend.. even more apocalyptic cults and new strange techno-religions flowering.

    Kevin: Drones, 3D printers that print 3d printers, the next BitCoin. If I were to be so presumptuous to declare 2012 “The Year Of…” something, I’d have to say it’s “The Year of the Superempowered meeting Outlaw Economies.”  2011 has arguably been the year of the Superempowered, starting with Wikileaks really exploding in the end tail of 2010 and steamrolling through the penetration of Anonymous into the mass culture, Arab Spring, Occupy, etc.  I think this is when groups like those and other hyperempowered individuals will really latch onto — or construct — new economies that operate parallel to state economies.  Sure, these shadow economies already exist, just ask militant hyperempowered groups like Al-Qaeda or anyone in the drug trade. But even though its future is murky, I think BitCoin was a huge sea change. While it became notorious for five minutes as the way to buy drugs online and then faded into obscurity as soon as the currency started bleeding value, BitCoin showed that a digital parallel economy could be established with an ese that probably spooked the hell out of some Nation States.

    Just like in the days when MySpace was king and it was obvious that someone was going to manage to actually do social networking right. (And hate them or love to hate them, Facebook seems to have gotten the magic formula at least mostly right.)  It’s just a matter of time before any of the groups attempting to build on BitCoin’s success manage to find a solution that sticks. And then, you’ve got hyperempowered individuals and groups who have the tools to move resources around on an unprecedented global scale.  This will put bombs in the wrong hands, and it’ll put food and resources in the right hands at an unprecedented rate.

    And to give that context, the “global black market” — or as economist Robert Neuwirth calls it, “System D”  — is already estimated at $10 trillion dollars.  Imagine being able to move even a tiny percentage of that in the form of a borderless, stateless, non-currency. If Neuwirth’s projections are right, System D already possibly represents the second largest economic system in existence. Now I’m far from a Capitalist, but the ability to render a consistent, value-retaining, non-physical, stateless currency into the hands of stateless non-hierarchical, rhizomatic organizations and collectives — a.k.a. Time Magazine’s Person of the Year, “The Protester” — seems like the very definition of a disruptive technology.

    The elevator pitch being “What if Anonymous had access to millions of dollars that were untraceable and never had to touch a bank?”

    Also:  Cheap and reliable drones.  I’m guessing there’s a 50/50 chance that “Drones” will be Time’s next Person of the Year.

  • Mecha-Sterling vs GodzEllis. Who will emerge victorious? –AnonKevin: I think it’s like the tagline for the Alien vs. Predator film:  ”Whoever wins, we lose.” Or something like that. I love when Ellis writes about technology. He tends to explore things with a journalist’s eye and a romantic’s heart.  Sterling has a knack for generating likely science fictional scenarios and learning lessons from then as if they were dispatches from the near future. My favourite Ellis book is Frankenstein’s Womb and my favourite Sterling book is Shaping Things. (The latter of which is pretty much mandatory reading.)

    m1k3y: In the final seconds, when all seems lost, they will unwittingly perform a ninth level, interlocking power move summoning the transcendant object from beyond spacetime: BARBELITH.

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