Deb Chachra drops some materials engineering science at CyborgCamp MIT 2014

Posted by on October 30th, 2014

We’ve been talking to Deb Chachra for some time about her sharing her knowledge and experience in the field of biomedical materials engineering with the Grinding community and are excited to have seen it take shape as this recent talk at Cyborg Camp.

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Rushkoff on Narrative Collapse: we are the storytellers now

Posted by on December 23rd, 2012

Interesting comments here in this article on Douglas Rushkoff’s new book, Present Shock, over on Forbes:

Indeed, one of Toffler’s tenets is that “change is non-linear and can go backwards, forwards and sideways.” Rushkoff takes this notion a step further an describes a present in which “there is no temporal backdrop against which to measure our progress, no narrative through which to make sense of our actions, no future toward which we may strive, and seemingly no time to figure any of this out.

Rushkoff toes the line between apocalypse and ascension. He diagnoses the cultural problems engendered by our disorientation from traditional concepts of time and attempts to propose concrete steps we can take to recover some sense of control and purpose.

Narrative Collapse: Rushkoff identifies both the sensationalism of reality TV and the meta-stories of The Simpsons and Family Guy as examples of how we no longer have the time or patience for linear stories. From entertainment to financial investment, the payoff has to be virtually instantaneous in order to justify our attention. Politically, he shows how these impulses play out both in the Tea Party and the Occupy movement. A news cycle divested of linear time, pushes politicians into present tense reactions with unsustainable results. Rushkoff’s sympathies are clearly more with Occupy who confounded conservatives and the mainstream press by having a large impact without an easily identifiable goal. In remix culture and contemporary activism, he sees the potential for us to seize the narrative frame and use them in new ways to invent innovative story forms and flexible agendas.

To the problem of narrative collapse, Rushkoff suggests that young people have reacted to the loss of storytellers by realizing they have to become the storyteller. The gamer can write his own next level. We can be fragmented by allowing ourselves to operate on the (non-temporal) time scale of computers or we can program our computers to keep us in sync with our own goals and our own lives.

Warren Ellis: A Séance for the Future

Posted by on October 28th, 2012
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Grant Morrison at Morrison Con on transhumanism

Posted by on October 3rd, 2012

From CBR:

With that bleak thought, another audience member asked, in the face of war, economic crashes and global warming, is there any hope for the future?

“Yes,” Morrison replied, and the answer had everything to do with phones.

“Everyone’s got a phone now and the phone is getting smarter and smarter, the phone’s getting smaller and smaller, children have them now, so what you’re seeing is the development of a prosthesis,” Morrison said, explaining phones were evolving alongside humans and slowly merging the two into one. He also cited Stephen Hawking’s brain-computer interface as helping speed transhumanism, seeing both things as the beginning of a way of life that would turn humanity into a literal network identical to technological networks, erasing war and all barriers by interconnecting the human race.

“It’s going to be something new, it’s going to be a networked entity,” Morrison continued. “That’s what happening right now and there’s kind of a race on between the apocalypse and this thing — It’s not aliens that are going to come in, it’s the phone that’s going to come in. The phone is ringing for us right now and is about to connect everything up.

“So don’t worry!” Morrison added as the audience burst into applause.

Ontological Rescue Squad Training Manual #1: Know Thyself

Posted by on September 15th, 2012

Listen to Imhotep

– from S.H.I.E.L.D issue#1

Critical Thinking is Critical.

In this post I will go through several long and educational, instructional LongReads… These will serve as an introduction, a basis to build from.

As I’ve said before, “the first grind is the mind”, and that video at the other end of that link is well worth (re)visiting.

We are in the midst of a Reality War, where the meaning of words such as Theory are weapons.

Where in the US the Romney/Ryan campaign is, rather generously, described at Post-Truth. Where earlier this year the Texas GOP declared war on Critical Thinking. Yes, really. And the shocking thing is… we aren’t shocked by this.

But there is still hope. Take this tale of a man who broke out of the prison of his mind; The Political Awakening of a Republican:

I always imagined that I was full of heart, but it turned out that I was oblivious.  Like so many Republicans, I had assumed that society’s “losers” had somehow earned their desserts.  As I came to recognize that poverty is not earned or chosen or deserved, and that our use of force is far less precise than I had believed, I realized with a shock that I had effectively viewed whole swaths of the country and the world as second-class people.

I might still have stuck it out as a frustrated liberal Republican, knowing that the wealthy business core of the party still pulled a few strings and people like Richard Lugar and Olympia Snowe remained in the Senate — if only because the idea of voting for Democrats by choice made me feel uncomfortable.  (It would have been so… gauche.)  Then came Hurricane Katrina.  In New Orleans, I learned that it wasn’t just the Bush administration that was flawed but my worldview itself.

The enormity of the advantages I had always enjoyed started to truly sink in.  Everyone begins life thinking that his or her normal is the normal.  For the first time, I found myself paying attention to broken eggs rather than making omelets.  Up until then, I hadn’t really seen most Americans as living, breathing, thinking, feeling, hoping, loving, dreaming, hurting people.  My values shifted — from an individualistic celebration of success (that involved dividing the world into the morally deserving and the undeserving) to an interest in people as people.

In order to learn more — and to secure my membership in what Karl Rove sneeringly called the “reality-based community ” — I joined a social science research institute.  There I was slowly disabused of layer after layer of myth and received wisdom, and it hurt.  Perhaps nothing hurt more than to see just how far my patriotic, Republican conception of U.S. martial power — what it’s for, how it’s used — diverged from the reality of our wars.

An old saw has it that no one profits from talking about politics or religion.  I think I finally understand what it means.  We see different realities, different worlds.  If you and I take in different slices of reality, chances are that we aren’t talking about the same things.  I think this explains much of modern American political dialogue.

My old Republican worldview was flawed because it was based upon a small and particularly rosy sliver of reality.  To preserve that worldview, I had to believe that people had morally earned their “just” desserts, and I had to ignore those whining liberals who tried to point out that the world didn’t actually work that way.  I think this shows why Republicans put so much effort into “ creat[ing] our own reality ,” into fostering distrust of liberals, experts, scientists, and academics, and why they won’t let a campaign “ be dictated by fact-checkers ” (as a Romney pollster put it).  It explains why study after study shows — examples herehere, and here– that avid consumers of Republican-oriented media are more poorly informed than people who use other news sources or don’t bother to follow the news at all.

Waking up to a fuller spectrum of reality has proved long and painful.  I had to question all my assumptions, unlearn so much of what I had learned.  I came to understand why we Republicans thought people on the Left always seemed to be screeching angrily (because we refused to open our eyes to the damage we caused or blamed the victims) and why they never seemed to have any solutions to offer (because those weren’t mentioned in the media we read or watched).

My transition has significantly strained my relationships with family, friends, and former colleagues.  It is deeply upsetting to walk on thin ice where there used to be solid, common ground.  I wish they, too, would come to see a fuller spectrum of reality, but I know from experience how hard that can be when your worldview won’t let you.

Another term to throw around at this point is: Reality Tunnel, “a subconscious set of mental “filters” formed from… beliefs and experiences”.

The first step is to understand that this exists. Only then can you attempt to take control of it and progress.

In this Harper’s Magazine piece from 1997, the recently passed Earl Shorris relays his own journey in Understanding, thanks to a meeting with a remarkable female prison inmate:

She didn’t speak of jobs or money. In that, she was like the others I had listened to. No one had spoken of jobs or money. But how could the “moral life of downtown” lead anyone out from the surround of force? How could a museum push poverty away? Who can dress in statues or eat the past? And what of the political life? Had Niecie skipped a step or failed to take a step? The way out of poverty was politics, not the “moral life of downtown.” But to enter the public world, to practice the political life, the poor had first to learn to reflect. That was what Niecie meant by the “moral life of downtown.” She did not make the error of divorcing ethics from politics. Niecie had simply said, in a kind of shorthand, that no one could step out of the panicking circumstance of poverty directly into the public world.

Although she did not say so, I was sure that when she spoke of the “moral life of downtown” she meant something that had happened to her. With no job and no money, a prisoner, she had undergone a radical transformation. She had followed the same path that led to the invention of politics in ancient Greece. She had learned to reflect. In further conversation it became clear that when she spoke of “the moral life of downtown” she meant the humanities, the study of human constructs and concerns, which has been the source of reflection for the secular world since the Greeks first stepped back from nature to experience wonder at what they beheld. If the political life was the way out of poverty, the humanities provided an entrance to reflection and the political life. The poor did not need anyone to release them; an escape route existed. But to open this avenue to reflection and politics a major distinction between the preparation for the life of the rich and the life of the poor had to be eliminated.

“You’ve been cheated,” I said. “Rich people learn the humanities; you didn’t. The humanities are a foundation for getting along in the world, for thinking, for learning to reflect on the world instead of just reacting to whatever force is turned against you. I think the humanities are one of the ways to become political, and I don’t mean political in the sense of voting in an election but in the broad sense.” I told them Thucydides’ definition of politics.

“Rich people know politics in that sense. They know how to negotiate instead of using force. They know how to use politics to get along, to get power. It doesn’t mean that rich people are good and poor people are bad. It simply means that rich people know a more effective method for living in this society.

“Do all rich people, or people who are in the middle, know the humanities? Not a chance. But some do. And it helps. It helps to live better and enjoy life more. Will the humanities make you rich? Yes. Absolutely. But not in terms of money. In terms of life.

“Rich people learn the humanities in private schools and expensive universities. And that’s one of the ways in which they learn the political life. I think that is the real difference between the haves and have-nots in this country. If you want real power, legitimate power, the kind that comes from the people and belongs to the people, you must understand politics. The humanities will help.

“My T-cell count is down. But that’s neither here nor there. Tell me about the course, Earl. What are you going to teach?”

“Moral philosophy.”

“And what does that include?”

She had turned the visit into an interrogation. I didn’t mind. At the end of the conversation I would be going out into “the free world”; if she wanted our meeting to be an interrogation, I was not about to argue. I said, “We’ll begin with Plato: the Apology, a little of the Crito, a few pages of the Phaedo so that they’ll know what happened to Socrates. Then we’ll read Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. I also want them to read Thucydides, particularly Pericles’ Funeral Oration in order to make the connection between ethics and politics, to lead them in the direction I hope the course will take them. Then we’ll end with Antigone, but read as moral and political philosophy as well as drama.”

“There’s something missing,” she said, leaning back in her chair, taking on an air of superiority.

The drive had been long, the day was hot, the air in the room was dead and damp. “Oh, yeah,” I said, “and what’s that?”

Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. How can you teach philosophy to poor people without the Allegory of the Cave? The ghetto is the cave. Education is the light. Poor people can understand that.

The question then becomes: what do we do with our new knowledge? Our post-awakened existence?!

Forget safety. Live where you fear to live. Destroy your reputation. Be notorious. ~ Rumi

This epic, three hour interview with Chris Hedges wherein he recounts his own personal evolution, a progression towards the twin asymptotes of self-knowledge and worldly-understanding, was revelatory for me as both a path to follow and a better life to lead:

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Liberalism is Domesticated Protest.

Now here’s an elderly Situationist with some news about Utopia to temper the notion that Humanism might save us all:

 Utopianism? From now on, that’s the hell of the past.
(((There may be snow on the roof, but there’s still fire in the furnace.))) We
have always been constrained to live in a place that is everywhere but,
in that place, we are nowhere. That’s the reality of our exile. It has
been imposed on us for thousands of years by an economy founded on the
exploitation of man by man. Humanist ideology has made us believe that
we are human while we remain, for the most part, reduced to the state of
beasts whose predatory instincts are satisfied by the will to power and

Our “vale of tears” was considered the best possible
world. Could we have invented a way of living that is more
phantasmagorical and absurd than the all-powerful cruelty of the gods,
the caste of priests and princes ruling enslaved peoples, the obligation
to work that is supposed to guarantee joy and substantiate the Stalinist
paradise, the millenarianist Third Reich, the Maoist Cultural
Revolution, the society of well-being (the Welfare state[4]), the
totalitarianism of money beyond which there is neither individual nor
social safety, [and] finally the idea that survival is everything and
life is nothing? (((Take note, philosophy students: this is how one
asks a “rhetorical question.”)))

Against that utopia, which passes for reality, is
opposed the only reality that matters: what we try to live by assuring
our happiness and that of everyone else. Thenceforth, we no longer are
in a utopia, but at the heart of a mutation, a change of civilization
that takes shape under our eyes and that many people, blinded by the
dominant obscurantism, are incapable of discerning. Because the quest
for profit makes men into predatory, insensitive and stupid brutes.

Eschatological signs and portents may abide, we may succeed in lifting the veil ourselves and see things as they truly are, we may learn that the secret of the universe is All in the Eye of the Beholder…  but one thing is certain: this is not how the world ends!


Elon Musk: The Real Life Tony Stark (infographic)

Posted by on June 13th, 2012

Elon Musk: The Real Life Tony Stark
Created by:

Shaping Things

Posted by on March 8th, 2012

Adam Rothstein just posted a fantastic essay on near-future fabbing over on Rhizome that should be mandatory reading for anyone who is a regular here.

On the other hand, there will be a new set of object hackers, who will be spending all their free time online, discussing the precise interior dimension ratios of the new set of Target glassware (which, they have discovered, is almost exactly equivalent in volume to a very famous American glass company’s 1940 catalog). Their forums will be filled with discussion of the best way to minimize wind resistance on custom bicycle fenders, while still maximizing spray blockage. Drug paraphernalia will be designed for maximum efficiency, with a willing and ready test market. A new hacker vernacular will be filled with implicit understandings of the integrals of surface area and volume, of curves and angles, of phase change curves and stress tolerances. One more set of bright kids will take a hard tangent outward from the common understanding matrix of “mainstream society”. But if you’re nice to them, perhaps they’ll fab you a custom iPhone case for Christmas.

Via Rhizome: The Shape of Shaping Things to Come

We, the Web Kids

Posted by on February 29th, 2012

We grew up with the Internet and on the Internet. This is what makes us different; this is what makes the crucial, although surprising from your point of view, difference: we do not ‘surf’ and the internet to us is not a ‘place’ or ‘virtual space’. The Internet to us is not something external to reality but a part of it: an invisible yet constantly present layer intertwined with the physical environment. We do not use the Internet, we live on the Internet and along it. If we were to tell our bildnungsroman to you, the analog, we could say there was a natural Internet aspect to every single experience that has shaped us. We made friends and enemies online, we prepared cribs for tests online, we planned parties and studying sessions online, we fell in love and broke up online. The Web to us is not a technology which we had to learn and which we managed to get a grip of. The Web is a process, happening continuously and continuously transforming before our eyes; with us and through us. Technologies appear and then dissolve in the peripheries, websites are built, they bloom and then pass away, but the Web continues, because we are the Web; we, communicating with one another in a way that comes naturally to us, more intense and more efficient than ever before in the history of mankind.

Brought up on the Web we think differently. The ability to find information is to us something as basic, as the ability to find a railway station or a post office in an unknown city is to you. When we want to know something – the first symptoms of chickenpox, the reasons behind the sinking of ‘Estonia’, or whether the water bill is not suspiciously high – we take measures with the certainty of a driver in a SatNav-equipped car. We know that we are going to find the information we need in a lot of places, we know how to get to those places, we know how to assess their credibility. We have learned to accept that instead of one answer we find many different ones, and out of these we can abstract the most likely version, disregarding the ones which do not seem credible. We select, we filter, we remember, and we are ready to swap the learned information for a new, better one, when it comes along.

To us, the Web is a sort of shared external memory. We do not have to remember unnecessary details: dates, sums, formulas, clauses, street names, detailed definitions. It is enough for us to have an abstract, the essence that is needed to process the information and relate it to others. Should we need the details, we can look them up within seconds. Similarly, we do not have to be experts in everything, because we know where to find people who specialise in what we ourselves do not know, and whom we can trust. People who will share their expertise with us not for profit, but because of our shared belief that information exists in motion, that it wants to be free, that we all benefit from the exchange of information. Every day: studying, working, solving everyday issues, pursuing interests. We know how to compete and we like to do it, but our competition, our desire to be different, is built on knowledge, on the ability to interpret and process information, and not on monopolising it.

We do not feel a religious respect for ‘institutions of democracy’ in their current form, we do not believe in their axiomatic role, as do those who see ‘institutions of democracy’ as a monument for and by themselves. We do not need monuments. We need a system that will live up to our expectations, a system that is transparent and proficient. And we have learned that change is possible: that every uncomfortable system can be replaced and is replaced by a new one, one that is more efficient, better suited to our needs, giving more opportunities.

What we value the most is freedom: freedom of speech, freedom of access to information and to culture. We feel that it is thanks to freedom that the Web is what it is, and that it is our duty to protect that freedom. We owe that to next generations, just as much as we owe to protect the environment.


Read the whole thing! (via Cat Vincent)

Towards a Resilient Industrial Revolution

Posted by on January 26th, 2012

Here’s an updated, and suitably bold, plan from Open Source Ecology, the team behind the The Real Life Civilization-Building Kit:

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Music and Life – Alan Watts

Posted by on January 22nd, 2012

Sing with me and find the key:

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The Coming War on General Purpose Computing – Cory Doctorow’s 28c3 keynote (VIDEO)

Posted by on December 28th, 2011

The copyright war was just the beginning…” Watch as Cory Docotorow extends the copyright struggle into a 100year battle. Stay for the extra QnA (30mins in) where he addresses many of the issues of the day.

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via BoingBoing

See Also:

Bruce Sterling @ Symposium Playful Post Digital Culture

Posted by on November 30th, 2011

Here’s Chairman Bruce just a few days ago at the STRP Festival, once more describing our immediate situation and near-future in terms we can then build on and discuss with:

TED Talk: Maajid Nawaz on “A global culture to fight extremism”

Posted by on July 31st, 2011
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Why do transnational extremist organizations succeed where democratic movements have a harder time taking hold? Maajid Nawaz, a former Islamist extremist, asks for new grassroots stories and global social activism to spread democracy in the face of nationalism and xenophobia.

Tim Flannery on humanity’s future as a super organism

Posted by on May 4th, 2011

From the Guardian, where it appears Flannery is updating the Gaia hypothesis:

Tim Flannery argues that humankind is evolving into a ‘super-organism’ where interdependence has profound consequences for the individual.

Look for an expansion of this in his Long Now seminar.

Jamais Cascio on Evolving our Society to Survive

Posted by on March 30th, 2011

This is a long, dense piece.. it’s Jamais Cascio’s speech to his Institute For The Future colleagues at their recent annual Ten Year Forecast event. It’s written in their native Futurist vernacular, but I’ve largely cut that in choosing the parts I’ve quoted here. I trust you’ll agree from this though that it’s well worth taking the time to digest and absorb it all:

..Now, I said a moment ago that this “unstable instability” is likely to last for at least another decade. I’m sure we could all spend the next hour coming up with reasons why that might be so, but one that I want to focus on for a bit is climate disruption. In many respects, climate disruption is the ultimate unstable instability system.

Climate disruption is something that comes up in nearly all of our gatherings these days, and I don’t think I need to reiterate to this audience the challenges to health, prosperity, and peace that it creates.

We’ve spent quite a bit of time over the last few Ten Year Forecasts looking at different ways we might mitigate or stall global warming. Last year, we talked about carbon economies; the year before that, social innovation through “superstructures.” In 2008, geoengineering. This year, I want to take yet another approach. I want to talk about climate adaptation.

I say that with some trepidation. Adaptation is a concept that many climate change specialists have been hesitant to talk about, because it seems to imply that we can or will do nothing to prevent worsening climate disruption, and instead should just get ready for it. But the fact of the matter is that our global efforts at mitigation have been far too slow and too hesitant to have a near-term impact, and we will see more substantial climate disruptions in the years to come no matter how hard we try to reduce carbon emissions. This doesn’t mean we should stop trying to cut carbon; what it does mean is that cutting carbon won’t be enough.

But adaptation won’t be easy. It’s going to require us to make both large and small changes to our economy and society in order to endure climate disruption more readily. That said, simply running down a checklist of possible adaptation methods wouldn’t really illuminate just how big of a deal adaptation would be. We decided instead that it would be more useful to think through a systematic framework for adaptation.

Our first cut was to think about adaptations in terms of whether they simplify systems – reducing dependencies and thereby hopefully reducing system “brittleness” – or make systems more complex, introducing new dependencies but hopefully increasing system capacity.

Simplified systems, on the whole, tend to be fairly local in scale. But reducing dependencies can also reduce influence. Simplification asks us to sacrifice some measure of capability in order to gain a greater degree of robustness. It’s a popular strategy for dealing with climate disruption and energy uncertainty; the environmental mantra of “reduce, reuse, recycle” is a celebration of adaptive simplification.

Adaption through complexity creates or alters interconnected systems to better fit a changing environment. This usually requires operating at a regional or global scale, in order to take advantage of diverse material and intellectual resources. Complex systems may have increased dependencies, and therefore increased vulnerabilities, but they will be able to do things that simpler systems cannot.

So that’s the first pass: when we think about adaptation, are we thinking about changes that make our systems simpler, or more complex?

But here’s the twist: the effectiveness of these adaptive changes and the forms that they take will really depend upon the broader conditions under which they’re applied. We have to understand the context.

Adaptation can take multiple forms, but more importantly, the value of an adaptation depends upon the conditions in which it is tried. Just because an adaptive process worked in the past doesn’t mean that it will be just as effective next time. But there are larger patterns at work, too. If you can see them early enough, you can shape your adaptive strategies in ways that take advantage of conditions, rather than struggle against them.

But here’s the crucial element: it looks very likely that we’re in a period where the large patterns we’ve seen before aren’t working right.

Instead, we’re in an environment that will force swift and sometimes frightening evolution. Businesses, communities, social institutions of all kinds, will find themselves facing a need to simultaneously experiment rapidly and keep hold of a longer-term perspective. You simply can’t expect that the world to which you’ve become adapted will look in any way the same – economically, environmentally, politically – in another decade.

As a result, you simply can’t expect that you will look in any way the same, either.

The asteroid strikes. The era of evolution is upon us. It’s now time to watch the dinosaurs take flight.

We’ve seen the writing on the wall for decades, but the Powers That Be have done little to stop it. Carbon trading won’t save us, no framing of it as a purely economic problem will. The sooner we start radically adapting our societies to face this new reality, the more hope we have. To use the terms in my recent essay, it’s past time for the Rescue Mission to begin.

Bruce Sterling’s SXSW speech – excerpt 4

Posted by on March 26th, 2011

Presenting the final transcription, the longest excerpt from Bruce Sterling’s closing speech at SXSW, which takes us into the third chunk of it’s rough recording.

I hope it moves you, like it moved me.

[After much deserved ripping on the Catholic Church..]

The population sits on the couch and plays video games. Terrified.

The US.. come back from Europe, hanging out in the US.. first thing you see in the US is obese people. It’s calamitous. And they weren’t like that in 1975… but imagine if the Statue Of Liberty looked like that? You came in to New York Harbor, Staten Island.. the Statue of Liberty was clocking in at around 350 pounds. Maybe she had a Wii exercise bat instead of a torch. It brings out one’s inner Bill Hicks, ladies and gentlemen. God bless the guy, where ever he is, if he was looking down at Texas right now he would not be a happy man. He’d be scolding you worse than me.

So, you know, it’s pretty bad and it’s sleazy and it’s kind of frozen and crazy and we all know that and we pay no attention to it and kinda hope it just goes away on its own. That’s the one attitude Americans fully share with Italians now and that’s what worries me. What worries me is the response to things that really require courage and focused effort and Passionate Virtuosity to carry out.  Like, say, earthquake rescue.

Just go read what happened to L’Aquila. The small, beautiful, medieval town that was leveled by an Italian earthquake. Italians, they know what earthquakes are, they know what volcanoes are, they even know what tsunamis are.. the one massive horror the Japanese have named for everybody else, ’cause they get more of it than everybody else. At least they know what to do when it happens. L’Aquila happened, nothing much went on.. TV appearances.. cheer leading.. the place is still a wreck.

And for us it was that BP offshore oil mess. Freaking nothing happened. Government did nothing. They were not capable of doing it. They pretended to be able to do something. Suppose it had been ten times worse? You think there’s another government somewhere, that was gonna help people from the consequences of an industrial catastrophe like that? So clearly outlined, and there’s nuclear things happening in Japan.. they’re in there working around the clock. Who would save us from a BP?

They’re incapable of rapid, decisive action. The world sometimes demands that of people. You can’t sit on the couch eating chips and maneuvering, verbally, all the time. Like a Gothic Mansion, like a Vampire Geyser, instead of a President.

There’s infinite wars on Abstract Nouns. Wikileaks and Facebook, which freaking didn’t even exist as entities maybe 5 years ago, they’ve got more political clout on the planet right now than the State Department and the Pentagon combined! It’s a weird situation and it’s not something to applaud [as they audience starts applauding and quickly stops] but everybody knows it. They’re all reading the State Dept cables going “this is awful.. I can’t believe they’re so helpless.. why does no one listen to them? They have no class” The calamity. It’s like Gothic torpor in a coffin of earth.

So what? They pretend to govern, we pretend to obey. Italians do that now.. Americans do that now.. Soviets used to do that.. that’s what they were great at, maintaining the pretense that it was alright.

Who’s the real.. who are the real victims of a decaying status quo? Who suffers when your society is incapable of focused action or intentional innovation? It’s young people. It’s people under 25 who are the victims of a decaying status quo. It’s a Gerontocracy. The demographics are easy to predict. Nobody ever looks at them, because nobody ever wants to get old. One of the main reasons these guys can’t do anything, they’re too damn old, ladies and gentlemen.

Berlusconi and his crowd are people in their 70s and they’ve got the younger people outnumbered. The reason Egypt won, is it’s a huge number of kids.. they were just able to outnumber and beat up the cops in the street.. they threw Mubarak out because they had the numbers game on him. That’s not what happened in the Developed World. They are.. the people under 25.. unemployed people.. you know ‘em, you may be them.. they’re a minority, they’re a disenfranchised minority now. AND I WANT TO FORMALLY DECLARE MY PASSIONATE SOLIDARITY WITH THE MILLENNIALS! Boomers, SHUT THE HELL UP!

What’s left of our Civil Rights that you campaigned for? The one thing you might brag about, death of Totalitarianism and national governments. All national governments are weak now, yours is weak.. everyone else’s is weak for [the] same reasons. That’s alright, Totalitarianism.. seeing that off is a great achievement.  1989, your high water mark. Get the heck out of the way. Pack it in Boomers!

What you should be studying right now? Collaborative Consumption. Technomadism. De-materialize people. Vanish! Let it go, give it away. Share it or stop it. Stop clinging to your entitlements. You’re like some kind of Dickensian, Gothic creatures now.  You’re turning in to Miss Havisham, with a wedding cake covered with spiders.

You’re top-heavy with age. You’ve got the votes and the money, you’ve got no conscience. Get out of the way. Over the long term your attitude is fatal. You must support younger people. Who is going to feed you? Who is going to supply those entitlements? What medical care will you have? What pension? What security?

Precarious employment for people who’s excess wealth is supposed to be underwriting your security? It’s built on sand! You are not looking in the longer term there. You are sucking the blood of your children! You’re like those Twilight guys. This Edward, 110 year old character, still hanging out in High School. Hitting on this moody, Mormon High School chick. There’s a reason why that’s the fable of your times, it’s like you.

Get the fuck away!

You need to take power, Millennials. I’ll vote for ya. I’ll do it! I’m groovy. I’ll sleep on the floor with ya. I’ll live out of a backpack. I’ll be precarious. Proud and pleased to do it, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to adulthood.

You know what you guys need? A global youth movement, good old fashioned style. You need a general strike. They’re not gonna employ you, get the hell away from them. See if they can wash their own dishes, flip their own burgers.

Move to Austin. Leave wherever you are, move to Austin. Take over the town.. take over regional governments. Just withdraw from places that are top heavy with the elderly people, they can’t stop ya. Make friends with the Army and the Cops.. you are the Army and the Cops! You’re not gonna see any 60 year old guys who are in the Army and Cops, they’re not gonna hit you with sticks. They’re all guys your own age, beating you up in order to disadvantage themselves.

And don’t listen to any grey-haired professors explaining why change is impossible. This is an era of Organized Deception, where it takes tremendous effort just to speak factually about simple consequences of our real life. The incompetence of the Powers That Be hangs over your future life like a shroud…

Days of Rage, baby!

Bruce Sterling’s SXSW speech – excerpt 2

Posted by on March 24th, 2011

Continuing my transcription of Bruce Sterling’s excellent SXSW closing speech. Here are excerpts 2 and a bit:

[Discussion of Craig Venter's visit to SXSW, Drew Endy's work with igen and how it's funded by Exxon Mobil's 600 million donation brings us to..]

He [Drew Endy] makes no bones about global warming. He went to great pains to point that out, that his techniques may in fact suck carbon out of the air and, you know, avert or at least delay a colossal calamity.. that Exxon Mobil has just spent three decades lying to us about it, all the time. These guys are the personification of corporate evil in the world today.. Exxon Mobil, I mean if anybody’s board of directors belongs in prison for Crimes against Humanity, it’s these guys. They didn’t force us to put a tiger in our tank. But the tiger they unleashed with these emissions ate Brisbane this year. They’re not the only malefactors, they’re just the best politically connected and he’s making them pay weregild for that.

It’s an allegiance between these malefactors and this visionary. Now the blood of drowned and parched and starving people is gonna be on the hands of those guys in that organization and their fellow travelers on K Street and around Washington, DC. It’s just a fact, nobody can say it out loud. Here,  yeah. In every area where they control the means of expression, hell no.

Just look at HB Gary, if you want an example of the kind of guys… You’re hackers, OK, you don’t care about this, but I bet you care plenty about Wikileaks and Anonymous… These guys are sitting there with heaps of sock-puppets attacking free expression for their corporate masters, and denying global warming by the way, because that’s what pays these cyberwar mercanaries.

Now, if we had it together, the population would give the guy [Endy] 600 million dollars. We’d be in the streets demanding that he be funded… we’d watch him like a rockstar, everywhere he went. We’d know about his girlfriend, his boyfriend, whatever. We’d just be on top of this, because we had it together as a society to recognise our best interests and carry it out politically.

If Texans understood this, they’d be in the street for wind power right now. Oil’s at $325 a barrel and two nuclear power plants just caught fire. And people do freaking nothing about it! You could go out there and make your relatives in West Texas rich over this; Texas has fantastic wind power. Nobody gets out of their seat to do a damn thing about it. Where is the popular pressure for this? Why aren’t social-networks abuzz with this?

Why don’t you take to the streets and paralyse Austin, Madison, Wisconsin-style? ‘Cause that’s your sister city and they’re coming for you, ladies and gentleman. They’re coming for you, get ready!

I was in this place, it happened to be Google’s corporate headquarters, their lobby headquarters in Washington, watching people.. exquisitely well informed, brilliantly educated, Washington mandarins. People from industry and government, as if there’s a difference any more. And they were discussing, you know, the potential implications of this thing. Their air of utter helplessness and detachment was shocking to me. I mean, really, 15 year old kids from Cairo could have kicked these guys to the curb.. they could’ve taken their lunch money. That’s how ineffectual they were. And god help them if that building caught fire; they would issue a whitepaper.. before the exacuation. So, that’s pretty bad..

Bruce Sterling’s SXSW speech – excerpt 1

Posted by on March 23rd, 2011

Since there isn’t a decent recording online, and as a gift to the Future, I’ve started the process of transcribing key chunks of Bruce Sterling’s closing speech at SXSW, which I’ll post over the coming days, as I complete them. This is taken from this rough recording and maybe a better recording will surface soon, but here you go for now, because he’s saying a lot of stuff here that needs to be said:

It’s very difficult to talk about politics, because all the political language has been rendered toxic. It’s just decades of Culture War now.. reduced all the nouns and verbs to rubble so, you know, it’s either ‘blood sucking bankster[?] moguls’ or ‘socialists punishing success’ and everybody in politics has learned how to deploy this kind of polarising ‘brand management.’ Culture War there is just all over the place.. [The] US has a very bad case of this, but not the worst case in the world, ’cause I’ve seen it worse and we’re gonna get into that.

So I’d like to talk about politics from the point of view of the Design Critic, really.. ’cause I am a Design Critic.. generally I criticise stuff that doesn’t exist yet, that’s kind of a metier for me, as someone that’s a Futurist science-fiction writer. Of course I’m interested in things that have one foot in fantasy and maybe a toe in reality, stuff like Augmented Reality, Generative Art, Design Fiction. Are they good or bad? Are they interesting or boring? Are they cool ideas? I spend a lot of time accumulating cool ideas. I’m a zealot for this. If you want cool ideas, like cool, political ideas.. techno-political [ideas], here you go, World Changing 2.0 is just out.

It’s great, it’s got thousands of ideas. They’re pre-sorted, almost kind of practical, cool out there, fabulous, well illustrated, beautifully designed, nifty keen.. an endless parade of ‘em. But from the point of view of a critic, like a culture critic, are they really good ideas? It’s not enough that there are huge numbers of them. Cause that’s just kind of a sci-fi notebook approach. What you really need to have critical success it’s pretty simple and it’s Passionate Virtuosity.

It took me a long time, I had to read a bunch of boring critical stuff to figure that out, but that’s really what it’s about in the Arts or Design. And what does that mean? Well first you gotta find someone who really cares about what he’s doing and he’s capable of higher than average performance (she is), and that would be Passionate. Then they’ve gotta be really, really capable of doing it, they’ve mastered the minutiate of it, just on top of their game, performance wise, and that’s Virtuosity.

So typically in a writer’s career, any creative person really, you’ve got the opening period where they’re super passionate, full of burning things to do, sometimes they actually set fire to stuff.. wild rebels.. eager, hard charging, youth fervour there. Then at the end of their career they’re very much masters of their field, but they don’t really feel like doing much. They’ve found their favourite easy chair, they like to make wise-cracks about younger people.. and somewhere in the middle there, is Passionate Virtusoity. Where they still really want to do it, and they’ve got some kind of burning energy and motivation and they’re also really great at it..this are the works that are the peak of their whatever.

[Bruce holds up WorldChanging 2.0] So the ideas in this thing kind of lack Virtuosity, ’cause they’re speculative. They’re not gone into in great detail. So though there’s a lot of passion in the book, it lacks people who have been able to pick it up and deploy it. Now, if these ideas and approaches and tools in this book were actually deployed in our society, our society would improve radically and it would be better by almost every metric. But we’re not getting there because we don’t have the political will and we also don’t have the organisational skill and also we’ve just got a series of problems that are poorly recognised.

The passage of time turns Cyberpunks into Design Professors, or in the case of my pal Rudy Rucker, a Mathematics Professor, and we end up practicing a lot of Attention Philanthropy; bring attention to stuff as critics rather than creatives. Teaching in design school, rather than designing stuff, so forth and so on. Politically in our society, we don’t have any Passionate Virtuosity. If you look at it objectively, as a political situation, it’d be the polar opposite of Passionate Virtuosity. If there was a term for that, it’d be Disgusted Incompetence. It’d be a good term for what’s going on..

Adam Greenfield’s Cognitive Cities keynote: On Public Objects

Posted by on March 18th, 2011

Here’s Adam Greenfield‘s excellent, thought-provoking keynote at the recent Cognitive Cities conference in Berlin – On Public Objects: Connected Things And Civic Responsibilities In The Networked City


Transcendent Man

Posted by on March 4th, 2011

Your Friday Afternoon Movie for this week…

…yes, I AM stealing the “Friday Afternoon Movie” from COILHOUSE - we’ll keep it between us, right?

Your Friday Afternoon Movie for today is: Transcendent Man: the Life and Ideas of Ray Kurzweil.  Long time readers will know that I’m not the world’s biggest cheerleader for Kurzweil, but this documentary is still very much worth a look, even if you’re a grumpy old creature like myself.  The film is 9 parts on youtube.