Graveyard Culture News Special

Posted by on September 15th, 2014

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As explains, the “spacecraft cemetery” is “an area of the South Pacific, approximately 3,900 km from the capital of New Zealand, Wellington. It is used to deposit the remains of spacecraft that do not burn up on re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere, such as the carcass of the Russian Mir space station and waste-filled cargo ships. The remote location was specially selected for the disposal of spacecraft because of its depth of four km and distance from shipping lanes.”

This vast crash site for abandoned Space Age artifacts might, in fact, become the final resting place of nothing less than the International Space Station. According to a slightly over-heated Russian press statement in 2011, the ISS could be deliberately crashed into the ocean as early as 2020.

As a spokesperson for Roscosmos said at the time, “After it completes its existence, we will be forced to sink the [International Space Station]. It cannot be left in orbit; it’s too complex, too heavy an object, it can leave behind lots of rubbish.”

Disastrously underfunded and devoid of human inhabitants by that point, this Mary Celeste of the near-earth orbit would meet a weird and watery fate, falling into the sea perhaps to seed some future artificial reef in the middle of nowhere.

This will happen someday, but not in our lifetimes. Some who have dared to speculate on a timeline have given themselves plenty of space for error in their predictions–one estimate says anywhere from 1,000 to 10,000 years. Whatever the time frame, it is a fact that humans are speeding up this process.

Washed soft and perfectly broken in, this vintage Kent State sweatshirt is cut in a loose, slouchy fit.

welcome to the grim meathook present

Posted by on July 27th, 2014

The Red Alert: Israel platform (for iOS and Android) “has turned into a way for people throughout Israel and around the world to show their empathy for Israel,” Sprung told The Times of Israel. “People who have relatives and friends in the affected areas who want real-time updates on what is happening have been downloading the app, as have many people around the world. Our servers have been overloaded with download requests over the past several days.”

The app sounds a distinct alarm, like an emergency siren, when a Red Color alert is set off anywhere in Israel, listing the location and time of the projected strike. The app sends out its warning at the same time the military’s Homefront Command issues an order to activate the warning system, said Sprung. The app gets its information from the IDF and the Homefront Command, he added, but declined to discuss the process by which the data gets into the app. “It’s classified,” Sprung half-joked. The app also features a chat area, where residents — or anyone else — can comment on their experiences, thoughts, and feelings.


Since 2012 the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, (known as Isis) has issued annual reports, outlining in numerical and geographical detail its operations – the number of bombings, assassinations, checkpoints, suicide missions, cities taken over and even “apostates” converted to the Isis cause.

In 2013 alone, the group’s report claimed nearly 10,000 operations in Iraq: 1,000 assassinations, 4,000 improvised explosive devices planted and hundreds of radical prisoners freed. In the same year it claimed hundreds of “apostates” had been turned.

Called al-Naba – the News – the reports for 2012 and 2013 (a year in which 8,000 civilians died in Iraq) have been analysed by the US-based Institute for the Study of War, which corroborates much of the information they contain. Isis’s aim appears to be to demonstrate its record to potential donors.

“It is clear that Eastern Japan and Metropolitan Tokyo have been contaminated with radiation.”

Dr. Mita compares radioactive contamination of the soil (measured in becquerels per kilogram, Bq/kg) in various parts of Tokyo with that observed in various portions of Europe following the Chernobyl disaster.

Prior to 2011, Shinjuku (the region of Tokyo that houses the municipal government) tested at only 0.5-1.5 Bq/kg. Today, levels at nearby Kodaira are at 200-300 Bq/kg.

“Within the 23 districts of Metropolitan Tokyo, contamination in the east part is 1000-4000 Bq/kg and the west part is 300-1000 Bq/kg,” Dr. Mita wrote.

For comparison, Kiev (capital of the Ukraine) has soil tested at 500 Bq/kg (Cs-137 only). Following the Chernobyl accident, West Germany and Italy reported levels of 90-100 Bq/kg, and both experienced measurable health effects on their populations.

Dr. Mita notes that the radiation situation in Tokyo is getting worse, not better, due to urban practices of concentrating solid waste in small areas such as municipal dumps and sewage plants. That is why, he says, radiation levels in Tokyo riverbeds have actually been increasing over the prior two years.

“Tokyo should no longer be inhabited, and… those who insist on living in Tokyo must take regular breaks in safer areas,” Dr. Mita writes. “Issues such as depopulation and state decline continue to burden the lives of second and third generation Ukrainians and Belarusians today, and I fear that this may be the future of Eastern Japan.”


Nigerian officials said Saturday that they are screening passengers arriving from foreign countries for symptoms of Ebola, following the death of an infected traveler from Liberia who died after collapsing at the airport in Lagos, Africa’s largest city with a population of 21 million.

Nearly 50 other passengers on the flight are being monitored for signs of Ebola but are not being kept in isolation, said an employee at Nigeria’s Ministry of Health, who insisted on anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

Joshua Ellis was good enough to revisit his idea of the Grim Meathook Future on a post here mid 2012. As Eva suggests, that future indeed seems to have passed into the present.

Bruce Sterling once said something like: “the future is on a sliderbar between the grim meathook future and the bright green spime world“. Well it’s clear now that those are two options on the one Möbius strip; two sides of the one dystopic, bad penny. Any hope for a bright internet-of-things that isn’t just another tool of surveillance seems a naive dream in the Snowden Effected world we all share.

The true horror of the real isn’t the ghoulishness of reporters walking through the wreckage of a passenger plane shot down for no reason on breakfast television. It’s that for all the politicians making speeches over the bodies of dead children, there is no empathic energy to be channelled into tv or approval ratings as the West Antarctic Ice Shelf falls into the ocean and the Arctic bubbles with ever more methane. Efforts like to visualize this on a local level completely fail to resonate. Yet these are exactly the things that will cause more regional conflicts around the Earth; more water wars, more heavy weather events, more refugees. More bad news to obsessively dissect on 24hr news channels; experts for every facet, infinite opinions. No action. More dead children.

Our global civilisation: seemingly ever more doomed, completely intent on wallowing in its death throes, turning its spasms into some macabre dance to be celebrated. Are we to be only numbed spectators, or can find our way through this and locate the seeds of the next thing, to plant in the ashes of the world we knew and loved and helplessly watched die? Can we plan now how to re-purpose the very tools causing its destruction and pull this culture out of its nosedive? Please.

The Many Posthuman Aspects of PacificRim

Posted by on October 22nd, 2013

Or: the candy-coated man/machine rescue mission.

Pacific Rim is many things. Many shiny, spectacular, immersive, self-aware, monster genre mashing, robot smashing, crowd pleasing, city destroying, heroic dancing things. But apart from its surface appeal, it’s also the delivery system for some incredibly out there, subversive, challenging ideas. This may just be my reading of it, and that’s fine. But I suspect Guillermo Del Toro is guilty of being a clever, clever human and knew exactly what he was doing with this blockbuster movie.

Allow me to explain my thinking here. This is not a review. It’s a “User Guide for Humans”, from barely opened, posthuman eyes. This is an analog mind-meld, I mean drift; an English language sequence as slow-boot brain update. Are you ready to accept Singularity?

Want some Candy?

Taken at face value, Pacific Rim is… completely absurd. And if that wasn’t immediately apparent from its premise, it’s clear by halfway through the film that’s it’s winking hard at you. And shouting at you with Idris Elba’s mandatory “the apocalypse is cancelled” speech at the climax, that amazing actor barely containing the joy on his face in getting to deliver an epic line like this. Pure man-child bliss… just the kind you might expect to find in a mech suit vs kaiju fightfest.

Now those of the Otaku-bent might want to do a detailed analysis of the origins and influences and details of Pacific Rim, and that’s exactly what this post on has done, if you want it.

I’m not anti-Otaku. Hell, I raced home as a kid to watch Robotech, and collected what Transformers I could afford. When I toured Japan in ’09 I stumbled onto the Mobile Suit Gundam arcade game and played it every day I was there. I clutched my pilot card when I walked into the preview screening of Pacific Rim, and wore the pirate Neon Genesis Evangelion tee I picked up in a store in Akihabara.

I have been absolutely psyched for this film, and its complement Elysium, all damn year.

What I am saying is there’s a lot more going on below the surface of Pacific Rim. Just don’t expect it to cohere into a logical whole.

Go Borg or Stay Human

First we have the “dance-dance pilot systems”. With its shiny video game aesthetics, and drama engine device, it is first and foremost pro-Borg; celebrating the union of more than one human conscious into a greater whole. There’s been a lot of Borg-hate going on since Google Glass dropped into the world, and I’m looking mostly at Stop the Cyborgs.

Mind you, I walked into this movie with my head having been resident inside in Ramez Naam’s Nexus’verse for a good month. One of the elements of that future world is human hate of anything group-mind (not unlike the linear future world of the Star Trek-verse’s Federation), following various terrorist attacks and cult fiascoes.  So to immediately recognise that there were Borg heroes, front and centre in this film was yet another joyful moment.

Then we have the Robo/Borgsexuality.

Posthuman Gender & Robosexuality

It’s fair to say there are fans going into this already fetishising being inside giant robots…

…which brings us to the giant confusion of posthuman gender. Because what does that even look like from a human perspective? Maybe it’s two buff guys in shiny suits merging through a shared childhood to form a union with a rocket punching, sock’em bot? Maybe it’s also some weird, ritualised staff fighting sequence that isn’t a romantic, courtship sequence… because that would make the two brothers incestuous and homoerotic and is anyone else getting uncomfortable thinking deeply about this?

Let’s cut to the heroic scientist “drifting” with a random chunk of giant alien brain… why on Earth would a Kaiju fanboy ever be turned on by humongous glial cells of extra-dimensional origin?

Chief prosecutor for the homoerotic subtext of jockeying flightsuits argument, thinly fictionalized Quentin Tarantino, explains:

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you want subversion on a massive level…


Those of us raised on Robotech also obsessively watched Top Gun as teens. Hell, my gaming nick was Maverick for much of my youth. So the reconciliation scene at the end of Pacific Rim, the begrudging acceptance of the owner of worst Aussie accent ever and our hero… totally recapitulates Top Gun.

And if you’re still not convinced, you haven’t been watching True Blood; same actor, explicitly homoerotic mind-meld:

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Message received collective unconscious!

Make what you will of the fact that I really hope we get to see the bulldog don a mech suit and borg it up with friendly, genetically engineered Kaiju in a sequel. Plot that on your human linear Kinsey scale!

Move over Seven of Nine, the new borg sexiness is definitely here.

Posthuman Battlesuits

Once you’ve accepted that, the “city as a battlesuit [Matt Jones guest post on io9]” is a not a stretch of the brain meats at all. The mech suit as embodiment of the merger of humanity and its infrastructure; the champion of the Anthropocene. Especially visible when you’ve got ships being used as baseball bats and “Gipsy Danger [using] shipping containers like brass knuckles”.

Each Jaegar is built to defend a city, but really, it’s manifesting its surrounds, even merging with them.

As Matt Jones quotes from a British architecture journal:

While Batman’s Gotham City and Superman’s Metropolis largely reflect the character of the superheroes who inhabit them (Gotham is grim, Metropolis shines)

And as he compares to a hero of The Authority:

“Hawksmoor defeats the giant, monstrous sentient city by wrapping himself in Tokyo to form a massive concrete battlesuit.”

Posthuman defense systems with local characteristics.

And while we’re stretching that long bow of your mind, let’s add that you can argue that its also a recapitulation of one Earth’s oldest tales: Marduk the City God vs the Serpent. The Jaegar as the city turned God-like, and if the Kaiju aren’t the contemporary incarnation of the “monster of primeval chaos”, than what is?

“It’s not Posthuman without going Post-State”

It’s not a posthuman tale without things going post-state. The foolish, political human types gripped by their illusions of control decide that building a giant wall trends much better in the polls, and it’s within that construction effort that we find our hero lurking at the film’s commencement. Kaijus walk right through megastructures dramatis (or thinly disguised metaphors at the political penchant for building barriers to keep out unwanted arrivals). Anyway… our pragmatic, military leader, Idris Elba (TV’s Luther), unencumbered by the requisite trope of giant wall of video-screened suits ordering him turns to… “extra-legal funding sources”, continuing the rescue mission by any means necessary.

In this case, dealing with a bizarre caricature of a bad guy with great shoes; the hybrid Spy Kids enemy / Bond Villain. (Ranking the film just above Contact on someone’s “Top 10: Projects funded by an absolute Bond Villain?” list)

But let’s not miss the metaphor of the real villains; the Kaiju themselves. Thomas Hobbes described the State as a Leviathan. And what better way to portray the entities that have really destroyed the climate of this planet for their own ends, what more apt depiction of rogue geoengineers than as giant monsters?! It’s definitely how the various manifestations of corporate-democratic empire looks to the rest of the world.

And this is the most subversive element of all snuck into the subconscious of the audience for a gigantic popcorn flick by a Mexican director. Perhaps no surprise then that the film did terribly in the US, but made serious bank globally.


Maybe it’ll take the US a decade or so to appreciate it, as critics are just now accepting Southland Tales, but when you’re watching Elysium wondering why augmented super soldiers are battling with swords and chainsaws over the rights of a breakaway civilisation to exist, remember that Ron Perlman probably said it best in the post-credits scene:

where is my other shoe? -^

When will it drop?

Disproving its antecedent film on things that lurk in the cracks of the earth, beneath the waves, The Abyss: “They want us to grow up a bit, and put away childish things. Of course, it’s just a suggestion.

With Del Toro it’s posthuman man-children dancing off to the rescue, and that’s just super by me.


Posted by on November 22nd, 2012

In 1978 William S. Burroughs opened the Nova Convention (a truly Weird Nodal Point) with these words:

All this has happened before. Like in Maya:

The ancient Maya in this hilly and riverless region confronted long-term climatic aridification, experienced decadal to century-level or longer droughts amplified by the landscape changes that they made, including large-scale deforestation indicated in the paleoecological record.

Previous to the collapse, the Maya occupied the area for more than 2,000 years, noted researchers, “a time in which they developed a sophisticated understanding of their environment, built and sustained intensive production [and water] systems, and withstood at least two long-term episodes of aridity.”

The researchers noted that the Maya case lends insights for the use of paleo- and historical analogs to inform contemporary global environment change and sustainability.

They described the Classic Period of the Lowland Maya (CE 300-800) as a “highly complex civilization organized into networks of city-states,” in their perspective article published in the online Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Just not on this scale; worldwide Collapse. Thankfully, it’s not like there isn’t some new “Cold War”, Arctic oil grab a-coming:

Major powers like the the US, China and Russia are still waiting for the Arctic ice to hurry up and melt away. And that process is moving along at a pace that makes the average environmentalist want to sign yet another petition during Nat Geo Channel commercial breaks and bong hits. The Arctic is said to have up to 25% of the world’s oil and gas sitting like Inca gold under all that pesky ice and, with current global oil production maxed out and prices rising fast, the North Pole sure has the potential to be proxy resource war central in the increasingly tense 21st century

They won’t be waiting long…

The Arctic ice cap is on course for a record-breaking melt session following a summer of unstable conditions, says the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

The center, based at the University of Colorado, has been comparing the data against 2007 sea ice levels, when the Arctic cap shrank to a record low of 4.25 million square kilometres. That rapid decrease was expected and explainable because of enduring patterns of high pressure over the central Arctic Ocean combined with low pressure over the northern Eurasian coast. Throughout 2012, however, conditions have not been consistent — from the end of June the rate of loss was recorded as being 100,000 square kilometers per day, but this figure dramatically doubled for several days in August when a cyclone brought warm winds to the region, with the expanse of open water in the Atlantic continually contributing to the loss. Over the course of just a few days, 200,000 square kilometers of ice disappeared in the East Siberian Sea alone.

While predictions of a total melt during the summer months and its potentially devastating effects on the planet has many worried (Serreze says the rapid melting may have contributed to severe storms in the US in recent years), commercial enterprises are busily jumping at the opportunity to open shop in the Northern Passage. China sent its first vessel along the Arctic route in August, trimming its usual route length by 40 percent, while Germany and Russia are already established players.

And that was in August! Then there’s these thoughts, within David Brin’s (author of the highly relevant EARTH) longread, How Will the World End?

What about those “collapses?” Failure modes that would not wipe out humanity, but might kill millions, even billions? Even with survivors scratching out a bare existence, would there forever after be harsh limits to the range of human hopes?

This category is where we’d assign most punishments for mismanaging the world. For carelessly cutting down forests and spilling garbage in the sea. For poisoning aquifers and ruining habitats. For changing the very air we breathe. For causing temperatures to soar, glaciers to melt, seas to rise and deserts to spread. For letting the planet’s web of life get winnowed down, through biodiversity loss, till it’s a fragile lattice, torn by any breeze.

Most animals have the sense not to foul their own nests.

In his prescient novel “The Cool War,” Frederik Pohl showed a chillingly plausible failure mode in which our nations and factions do not dare wage open conflict, and so they settle for tit-for-tat patterns of reciprocal sabotage, each attempting to ruin the other’s infrastructure and economy. Naturally, this sends civilization on a slow death-spiral of degrading hopes.

Sound depressing? It makes one wonder — what fraction of the “accidents” that we see have nothing to do with luck?

Oh sure, there are always conspiracy theories. Super-efficient engines that were kept off the market by greedy energy companies. Disease cures, suppressed by profit-hungry pharmaceutical giants. Knaves, monopolists and fat-cats who use intellectual property to repress knowledge growth instead of spurring it.

But those dark rumors don’t hold a candle to this one — that we’re sliding toward despair because all the efforts of good, skilled men and women are for naught. Their labors are deliberately spiked, because some ruling elites see themselves engaged in a secret struggle on our behalf. And this tit-for-tat, negative-sum game is all about the most dismal human pastime.


If that’s not bleak enough, imagine a world without coffee!

Rising global temperatures and subtle changes in seasonal conditions could make 99.7 per cent of Arabica-growing areas unsuitable for the plant by 2080, according to a new study by researchers from Kew Gardens.

Although commercial growers could still grow their own crops by watering and artificially cooling them, the wild type has much greater genetic diversity which is essential to help plantations overcome threats like pests and disease.

Identifying new sites where arabica could be grown away from its natural home in the mountains of Ethiopia and South Sudan could be the only way of preventing the demise of the species, researchers said.

Justin Moat, one of the report’s authors, said: “The worst case scenario, as drawn from our analyses, is that wild Arabica could be extinct by 2080. This should alert decision makers to the fragility of the species.”

Arabica is one of only two species of bean used to make coffee and is by far the most popular, accounting for 70 per cent of the global market

We can do better. And I don’t mean polluting the Earth better:

Carbon dioxide levels rose to 390.9 parts per million (ppm) in 2011, a 40% increase on levels in 1750. Other greenhouse gases such as methane and nitrous oxide also reached record levels. Michel Jarrud, secretary-general of the WMO warned that billions of tonnes of additional carbon dioxide would remain in the atmosphere for centuries: “…causing our planet to warm further and impacting on all aspects of life on earth.”

“We have already seen that the oceans are becoming more acidic as a result of the carbon dioxide uptake, with potential repercussions for the underwater food chain and coral reefs. There are many additional interactions between greenhouse gases, Earth’s biosphere and oceans, and we need to boost our monitoring capability and scientific knowledge in order to better understand these,” says Jarraud.

Understanding the role of carbon sinks is key to understanding how increasing levels of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere will contribute to rising global temperatures.

It’s not like our oceans are filled with wonder and unknown species and…

The first official register of what lives in the oceans has revealed that the marine environment may be home to as many as a million species of animals and plants, but only about a quarter of them have actually been formally described.

Previous estimates of the number of species living in the oceans have ranged wildly from a few hundred thousand of several million, but the latest estimate is based on the first proper attempt to draw up an accurate inventory of marine life.

Although more ocean species have been discovered in the past decade than in any previous 10-year period – and about 65,000 newly “discovered” species are still waiting to be given formal scientific names – scientists believe that at least a third of all the marine life forms may be completely unknown to science.

Fuck it, let ‘em soak up the carbon instead…

More than 1,000 coal-fired power plants are being planned worldwide, new research has revealed.

Coal plants are the most polluting of all power stations and the World Resources Institute (WRI) identified 1,200 coal plants in planning across 59 countries, with about three-quarters in China and India. The capacity of the new plants add up to 1,400GW to global greenhouse gas emissions, the equivalent of adding another China – the world’s biggest emitter. India is planning 455 new plants compared to 363 in China, which is seeing a slowdown in its coal investments after a vast building programme in the past decade.

This is what hope looks like, people actually admitting there’s a problem:

According to a new Rasmussen poll conducted a day before the election and released this morning, 68 percent of American voters said that global warming is either a “very serious” or “somewhat serious” problem. This represents a major increase over the last few years. In 2009, Rasmussen reported that only 46 percent of Americans believed that global warming is a problem. (Interestingly, while more people say they are concerned about the problem, there was a drop in the number of people who say it’s human caused).

And that brings us back to Ontological Warfare and the Nova Conspiracy.

Hope vs. Fear: we stand in the gap.

Posted by on November 8th, 2012

In which I string a narrative together from #OccupySandy / US Election / Eschaton coverage.

Power to the People : Occupy’s afterlife — a dispatch from New York’s dark zones by Sarah Jaffe:

The comparisons to Katrina have been everywhere, of course, but for me they hit home when, safe in my Crown Heights apartment that never even lost power, I saw friends and acquaintances who’d been involved with Occupy Wall Street tweeting their relief activities under the hashtag #OccupySandy. I couldn’t help but think, as I watched them tweet their setup of a hub in Red Hook, of Common Ground, of Malik Rahim, of New Orleans’ mutual aid after the storm, and how leftists and radicals (Rahim, a former Black Panther, learned about community care from the Panthers’ free food and tutoring programs) step quietly into the spaces that are left vacant by the wrecking crew that’s laid waste to social welfare programs and the churches and charities that Republicans keep telling us will step up to provide care.

Explaining #occupysandy in NY doing things FEMA, Gov, NYPD, Red Cross can’t, Ada says: “That’s because they’re not used to taking orders.”

— Quinn Norton (@quinnnorton) November 6, 2012

Quinn said - Don’t Vote:

The magic of aggregate human attention is so strong that we can fix this world, we can exceed these troubles — but only together, not looking to leadership structures that have failed us again and again.

Humanity is amazing. It is the elemental magic of the world. You are the ground that can shake and rise under the fragile political structures of the Earth. You are the wrath of angry gods, you are the true storm a small and accidental system of power fears. As long as you keep believing you have to vote, and all your power is tied only to that vote, our leaders get to balance a pyramid on its tip and call it democracy.

Lay down the lie of the American ballot box, with its legal rigging, lobbying, revolving doors, gerrymandering, and even at moments outright fraud. You will have to ask yourself what is next? What do you believe, and how do you live out those beliefs? It is a scary and beautiful thing to live your beliefs.

Don’t Vote. Do by Dymaxion:

Get out a sledgehammer and claim the real right you have to remake the system.  If you’re not American, if you live in a place where your vote really can change the fundamentals of your world, great; go do that first and then act.  For everyone who lives in the US or a place like it where your vote is consent and nothing else, don’t vote in the booth, vote in the street.  Don’t consent to a poisonous system that isn’t listening or let it confuse you into thinking the consent you give means anything.  Organize.  Strike.  Demand.  Whistleblow. Speak.  Build.  Rebuild.  Insist that the world treat you and those around you with decency, dignity, kindness, and equality.  Start by making sure you do the same to those around you.  Keep doing it until your vote matters again, and then keep doing it some more.

Do not consent to be governed by a man who would kill you in the street just because the other man would kill you in the street and piss on your corpse.  Do not consent to be governed by the system that made them.  Do not give your life to a machine designed to absorb it without a trace.

Teratocracy Triumphant? by Jamais Cascio:

I strongly suspect that, regardless of who wins the US presidential election today, the United States is likely to be entering a period of a crisis of legitimacy. If Romney wins, the claims of voter suppression and out-and-out shenanigans (this is a less ambiguous example) will potentially leave many Democrats incandescent with anger, even more so than after the 2000 Supreme Court selection of George W. Bush — because now it will be a “we can’t let them get away with this again” scenario. If Obama wins, the already widely-extant opposition to his legitimacy as President among Republicans could explode; expect to see Twitter storms about secession and armed revolution, as well as the very real possibility of violence.

Donald Trump has a Grump:

…and the one he deleted:


— Mark Pesce (@mpesce) November 7, 2012

Fox News, Karl Rove Argue Over The Outcome In Ohio:

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Imagine if Fox News was your only source of information right now.

— Matt Novak (@paleofuture) November 7, 2012

I’m told there are motels in Amerika where the tv’s are only tuned to Fox News. This is what we mean by reality tunnels.

This is the Ontological Gulf. On the other side of the Abyss there are people that hate us.

Time’s Up by David Gelernter:

We’ve seen an important (though far from decisive) battle in the slow-motion civil war the nation is undergoing: The blue states want to secede not from America but from Americanism. They reject the American republic of God-fearing individuals in favor of the European ideal, which has only been government by aristocracy: either an aristocracy of birth or, nowadays, of ruling know-it-alls — of post-religious, globalist intellectuals (a.k.a. PORGIs). As I’ve said before — many others have too — you can’t graduate class after class after class of left-indoctrinated ignoramuses without paying the price.  Last night was a down payment.

More ideology from this theorist of the Right; Dismantling of a Culture:

 LOPEZ: And a “PORGI (Post-Religious Globalist Intellectuals) establishment.” Is that to get you tea-party cred?

GELERNTER: If we don’t understand who’s running our leading colleges, we can’t even begin to understand our own culture. Our most powerful colleges have gigantic cultural influence through their alumni, graduate, and professional schools (especially their law, journalism, business, and education schools) and their direct influence on sister institutions throughout the nation. So who’s in charge? Once upon a time, there was a powerful WASP elite in this country. Obviously they weren’t all the same, and obviously we can generalize (either that or we can’t think). The WASP elite on the whole was politically moderate and Christian.

And what sort of people are running our powerful colleges today? Or are they so diverse, it is impossible to generalize?

In fact they’re radically un-diverse. They’re not all the same, there are dissenters, but culturally they are far more uniform than the old WASP elite ever were. You won’t find lots of church-goers among them. You won’t find lots of patriots. You will find plenty of intellectuals. You can call the PORGI establishment whatever you like, but there’s no way around the fact that the culturally uniform, conformist group in powerful positions at top colleges are likely to be post-religious and globalist and intellectuals — or at least intellectualizers, would-be intellectuals. So call them whatever you like, but they’re PORGIs to me.

LOPEZ: Why is that “post-religion” bit so important?

GELERNTER: Post-religious thinkers don’t even live on the same spiritual planet as Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish Americans. Old-time atheists struggled with biblical religion and rejected it; modern post-religious thinkers struggled with nothing. Since the Bible and biblical religion underlie the invention of America, it’s hard (unsurprisingly) for post-religious people to understand America sympathetically. Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural, the most sacred of American texts, is (precisely) a sermon describing North and South as equally guilty in God’s eyes for the sin of slavery and, ultimately, for the war itself:

Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said, “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”

The quote is from Psalms 19; Reagan’s famous “shining city on a hill” paraphrases the gospels. Expecting post-religious, Bible-ignorant thinkers to grasp America is like expecting a gerbil to sing Pagliacci. The gerbil might be brilliant in his way, but he’ll never make it in opera. (If this be species-ism, make the most of it!) How can my post-religious colleagues and countrymen, many of whom have never even opened a Bible, understand Lincoln or America or Americans?

The Truth, such that it exists, is that the way one frames their enemy speaks far more to their own worldview. Just look at the depictions of the Gnostics by the early Christians. So at this point we may as well quote from an upright fictional work by a Globalistia Intellectual, a counter point scene from Cory Doctorow’s Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom:

It was the second year of my undergrad, taking a double-major in not making trouble for my profs and keeping my mouth shut. It was the early days of Bitchun, and most of us were still a little unclear on the concept.

Not all of us, though: a group of campus shit-disturbers, grad students in the Sociology Department, were on the bleeding edge of the revolution, and they knew what they wanted: control of the Department, oustering of the tyrannical, stodgy profs, a bully pulpit from which to preach the Bitchun gospel to a generation of impressionable undergrads who were too cowed by their workloads to realize what a load of shit they were being fed by the University.

At least, that’s what the intense, heavyset woman who seized the mic at my Soc 200 course said, that sleepy morning mid-semester at Convocation Hall. Nineteen hundred students filled the hall, a capacity crowd of bleary, coffee-sipping time-markers, and they woke up in a hurry when the woman’s strident harangue burst over their heads.

I saw it happen from the very start. The prof was down there on the stage, a speck with a tie-mic, droning over his slides, and then there was a blur as half a dozen grad students rushed the stage. They were dressed in University poverty-chic, wrinkled slacks and tattered sports coats, and five of them formed a human wall in front of the prof while the sixth, the heavyset one with the dark hair and the prominent mole on her cheek, unclipped his mic and clipped it to her lapel.

“Wakey wakey!” she called, and the reality of the moment hit home for me: this wasn’t on the lesson-plan.

“Come on, heads up! This is not a drill. The University of Toronto Department of Sociology is under new management. If you’ll set your handhelds to ‘receive,’ we’ll be beaming out new lesson-plans momentarily. If you’ve forgotten your handhelds, you can download the plans later on. I’m going to run it down for you right now, anyway.

“Before I start though, I have a prepared statement for you. You’ll probably hear this a couple times more today, in your other classes. It’s worth repeating. Here goes:

“We reject the stodgy, tyrannical rule of the profs at this Department. We demand bully pulpits from which to preach the Bitchun gospel. Effective immediately, the University of Toronto Ad-Hoc Sociology Department is in charge. We promise high-relevance curriculum with an emphasis on reputation economies, post-scarcity social dynamics, and the social theory of infinite life-extension. No more Durkheim, kids, just deadheading! This will be fun.”

She taught the course like a pro—you could tell she’d been drilling her lecture for a while. Periodically, the human wall behind her shuddered as the prof made a break for it and was restrained.

At precisely 9:50 a.m. she dismissed the class, which had hung on her every word. Instead of trudging out and ambling to our next class, the whole nineteen hundred of us rose, and, as one, started buzzing to our neighbors, a roar of “Can you believe it?” that followed us out the door and to our next encounter with the Ad-Hoc Sociology Department.

It was cool, that day. I had another soc class, Constructing Social Deviance, and we got the same drill there, the same stirring propaganda, the same comical sight of a tenured prof battering himself against a human wall of ad-hocs.

Reporters pounced on us when we left the class, jabbing at us with mics and peppering us with questions. I gave them a big thumbs-up and said, “Bitchun!” in classic undergrad eloquence.

The profs struck back the next morning. I got a heads-up from the newscast as I brushed my teeth: the Dean of the Department of Sociology told a reporter that the ad-hocs’ courses would not be credited, that they were a gang of thugs who were totally unqualified to teach. A counterpoint interview from a spokesperson for the ad-hocs established that all of the new lecturers had been writing course-plans and lecture notes for the profs they replaced for years, and that they’d also written most of their journal articles.

The profs brought University security out to help them regain their lecterns, only to be repelled by ad-hoc security guards in homemade uniforms. University security got the message—anyone could be replaced—and stayed away.

The profs picketed. They held classes out front attended by grade-conscious brown-nosers who worried that the ad-hocs’ classes wouldn’t count towards their degrees. Fools like me alternated between the outdoor and indoor classes, not learning much of anything.

No one did. The profs spent their course-times whoring for Whuffie, leading the seminars like encounter groups instead of lectures. The ad-hocs spent their time badmouthing the profs and tearing apart their coursework.

At the end of the semester, everyone got a credit and the University Senate disbanded the Sociology program in favor of a distance-ed offering from Concordia in Montreal. Forty years later, the fight was settled forever. Once you took backup-and-restore, the rest of the Bitchunry just followed, a value-system settling over you.

Those who didn’t take backup-and-restore may have objected, but, hey, they all died.

Except this is not a war. It’s a rescue mission. Just because someone hates us, doesn’t mean we won’t save them. The network doesn’t think like the hierarchy. Back to the Rescue.

The New Revolution: The Grassroots Efforts of Hurricane Sandy Relief by Veronica Varlow

This is what I learned this week:  We are at the helm of our world community thriving or dying.  Know this.

Down at Beach 23 and Seagirt Blvd in the Rockaways, the five of us, jammed in a 1990 Mazda 323, on top of 2 generators and a pump to empty basements of water,  pulled up to a parking lot.

Sixty people came running to our car, surrounding it. “Do you have blankets? Please, we’re freezing!”

We had two left to give.

I was not expecting this. We came out to pump out basements so the people can get power back without danger of electrocution or house fires.

Four of the small band of five of us, have had our houses burn to the ground with everything in it. I know that devastation first hand and I still was shocked at what I saw happening out there.

I wish my eyes had cameras so that I could show you what is going on right now. At Beach 23 and Seagirt Blvd, a neighborhood deemed dangerous – there is no media presence.

It is true.  We are the media. You and me.

I did not see FEMA there, I did not see the Red Cross. It was us.

It is people like Cory Booker, getting emergency updates from people on Twitter and running in to help. It is the grassroots movement of Occupy Sandy who are stepping in to help organize relief, it is the performers of the House of Yes who piled into an RV with supplies, food, and people ready to help.

People like you and me ARE the new emergency response.

The years ahead aren’t going to be easy. Far from it. But together, we can do it!

Just listen to Robert Anton Wilson, from the audiobook discussing his book TSOG:

This is not how the world ends

Posted by on August 16th, 2012

Images link to source or higher rez where available. Your favourite Zeitgeist images, put them in the comments.

The Onion: Preemptive Memorial Honors Future Victims Of Imminent Dam Disaster

Posted by on July 2nd, 2012

Just in case you don’t “get it”, this is about teh Climate Change.

Time travellin’ with Werner Herzog

Posted by on February 7th, 2012

In a forbidden recess of the cave there is the footprint of an eight year-old boy next to the footprint of a wolf. Did a hungry wolf stalk the boy, or did they walk together as friends? Or were their tracks made thousands of years apart?

There’s a rule futurists use: go back twice as far as you wish to predict forwards. I have a new theory though, that’s hinted at by the popularity of Atemporality: the further we progress with our technology, the more all of time itself can (effectively) exist at the same time.

Pleistocene Rewilding, for instance, is one of the better strategies I’ve seen to help ‘fix’ climate change (by preventing the release of methane in the arctic tundra). And as the Chairman himself noted in the Art+Enviroment conference keynote, this Anthropocenic period increasingly resembles the Pleistocene.

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Which is why Werner Herzog’s documentary Cave of Forgotten Dreams is near mandatory viewing. The above quote is one of the more mind-boggling parts. As is the evidence that two adjoining cave paintings were made FIVE THOUSAND YEARS apart. Just hold that thought in your mind, instead of wondering what’s in the next iPhone.

For a glimpse, here’s the experimental archeologist Wulf Hein playing a flute carved from the arm of a vulture (wearing the skins of reindeers, thought to be the ‘fashion’ at the time). This is the music of 30K B.C.:

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We can’t honestly consider the future of humanity, without looking honestly back at its beginning and assessing how we got this far to begin with.


Joseph Campbell on the Origins of Man and Myth:


  • a very on-topic SMBC

The Fall of Man and the Anthropocene Era

Posted by on January 22nd, 2012

Here’s the current title holder of the Comedian’s Comedian, Mr Louis CK explaining the mess that is Civilisation and what The Fall of Man amounts to:

Note: NSFW

During the Enlightenment the state of the human being was critically re-examined, and compared to its imagined origin, in a ’natural state’ (ie. pre The Fall). Of particular note here is Rousseau and his Theory of the Natural Human; consider these words from its entry in the GreatWiki (emphasis mine):

Society corrupts men only insofar as the Social Contract has not de facto succeeded, as we see in contemporary society as described in the Discourse on Inequality (1754).

In this essay, which elaborates on the ideas introduced in the Discourse on the Arts and Sciences, Rousseau traces man’s social evolution from a primitive state of nature to modern society. The earliest solitary humans possessed a basic drive for self preservation and a natural disposition to compassion or pity. They differed from animals, however, in their capacity for free will and their potential perfectibility. As they began to live in groups and form clans they also began to experience family love, which Rousseau saw as the source of the greatest happiness known to humanity. As long as differences in wealth and status among families were minimal, the first coming together in groups was accompanied by a fleeting golden age of human flourishing. The development of agriculture, metallurgy, private property, and the division of labour and resulting dependency on one another, however, led to economic inequality and conflict. As population pressures forced them to associate more and more closely, they underwent a psychological transformation: They began to see themselves through the eyes of others and came to value the good opinion of others as essential to their self esteem. Rousseau posits that the original, deeply flawed Social Contract (i.e., that of Hobbes), which led to the modern state, was made at the suggestion of the rich and powerful, who tricked the general population into surrendering their liberties to them and instituted inequality as a fundamental feature of human society. Rousseau’s own conception of the Social Contract can be understood as an alternative to this fraudulent form of association. At the end of the Discourse on Inequality, Rousseau explains how the desire to have value in the eyes of others comes to undermine personal integrity and authenticity in a society marked by interdependence, and hierarchy. In the last chapter of the Social Contract, Rousseau would ask “What is to be done?” He answers that now all men can do is to cultivate virtue in themselves and submit to their lawful rulers. To his readers, however, the inescapable conclusion was that a new and more equitable Social Contract was needed.


Where Nietzsche speaks of his transcendant Übermensch being Beyond Good & Evil, as a counterpoint we have Rousseau’s “Natural Human” being Before Good & Evil. This is what Terence McKenna speaks of as the Fall into History.

But the situation in this new Anthropocene Era leaves us with no ‘natural state’ left to return to. This is the subject of Bruce Sterling’s Art+Enviroment conference keynote, finally extending upon the seed of an idea he left dangling in DISTRACTION (aka “the book that predicts Occupy Wall Street”):

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via THINKPROGRESS, which has some handy bonus quotes.

Which leads us where?

  • Next Nature as an internet of animals.
  • Bioengineered RFID-tagged stags roam Roundup Ready forests in search of their neural-networked doe harems.” ~ @claytoncubitt

See also:


Posted by on January 10th, 2012
  • 2011 was a damned weird year. At least it was around here. Coldest winter ever, the deepest snow ever, the hottest summer ever, and my first earthquake. Was that just a prelude to 2012 or will the coming year be mercifully quieter? (not including politics) -Anon

    m1k3y: Unquestionably the weather is only get to be more extreme, with peak heavyweather lying somewhere far over the horizon of 2012.What genuinely frightens me is the interaction with man-made/created disasters. What happens if Japan gets another tsnuami, because that whole reactor zone is Or a Cat-6 hurricane tears up the containment cap on the Mexican Gulf oil spill? Or, more likey, some horrible new disaster we never thought could happen occurs, some corner case not in the manual: say, North Korea mistaking the radar signature of the forced migration of birds (due to flooding of their usual seasonal habitat) for a stealth attack from South Korea/US/Japan. A young, paranoid ruler at the helm? (Hell, they were worried enough about the immediate succession, remember.) And something the whole globe is mostly unprepared for still, massive solar storms. Go read about the last one, then imagine it happeneing tomorrow with all our unshielded infrastructure.Nature’s back, and she’s pissed.

  • While something of an unanswerable: do you see any potentially disruptive technologies on the horizon? will 2012 be the year of drone deployments or ramped up ubicomp? Further breakthroughs in citizen science equipment or personal manufacturing? -amkelly0

    m1k3y: open source artificial general intelligence – mixed into EVERYTHING. specifically the Open Cog project. I saw Ben Goertzel speak at the local Singularity Summit, and I was very impressed.

    Kevin: Again, I think it’s a toss up between 3d printing/rapid fabrication and drones.  And you can obviously see the point where those circles overlap to make a sexy self-replicating Venn diagram.   This will be the year a horrible act of police/state brutality is captured by citizen-operated drones, as well as the year that the idea of downloading and fabricating items sneaks in the mainstream.  And if you think “piracy” gets people pissed off now, you haven’t seen anything yet.  It’s not post-scarcity by any means, but it’s going to be disruptive nonetheless.

  • What are the team’s top three most-anticipated Grinder Films of 2012? -Wolven

    m1k3y: Nothing leaps out as a fave, so I’d have go with the blockbusters: Bane in the new Batman, and the GI Joe sequel (the first one is pure mech&HUD pr0n, and I only expect the sequel to have *moar*. And third… um? GOOD QUESTION WOLVEN! Instead, let me list the the great transhuman films of 2011: Hanna, Limitless, Captain America, In Time and you could say Thor too.

    Kevin: My vote is for the above-mentioned drone atrocity video because fuck Hollywood. I love movies, truly I do, and I really want to see Dark Knight and Avengers and Ghost Rider and Prometheus and…   *sigh* But the tug-of-war between my desire to see the latest adventures of whatever franchise and my knowledge that every red cent spent on these films goes directly to facefucking the future of media, free speech and humanity is really getting to me. Every penny you spend on mass media, goes directly towards backing anti-speech, reactionary, narrow-minded bullshit like SOPA.

    Whew. Okay. Back to playing The Old Republic while loading my Fire with the latest Hickman comics.

    Shit. Rumbled.

  • What can those of us fortunate enough to have jobs and are time-poor but not money-poor (but certainly not rich enough to buy-up aquifers, or even arable farm land), do to improve our personal resilience? Particularly WRT shocks that aren’t total collapse. – Klint Finley

    m1k3y: Keep a month’s worth of food on hand. Get a good first-aid kit, and learn how to use it. Being physically fit won’t hurt either, and also some self-defense skills won’t..Become a node, not the end of a tree. We’re talking solar panels and rain water tanks. We’re talking having bikes, and a hybrid car. In short, we’re talking a gradual detachment from the status-quo, as it existed prior to the GFC. If you’re really brave run simulations. Take a weekend and pretend the Grid is dead. Test, learn, adapt.Last, and most of all… know your neighbourhood, meet your neighbours. Learn where the nearest fresh water supply is, that sort of thing. Generators, appropriate clothing for all weather conditions, optimal thermal effeciency for your dwelling (which will save your money and have the added bonus of surviving a heat wave or cold snap sans grid power).

    Neil Strauss’s book Emergency is a nice, general introduction to this sort of thinking.

    Kevin: I’ll definitely second the nod to Strauss’s Emergency as a good guide to this sort of thing. It’s the book that led me to getting a mess of Red Cross certifications. All of which ended being ridiculously useful skills out on the road or in Occupied Oakland.

    I agree that knowing your neighbor is key. Free-floating nodes that can become a network on the most practical scale are key. Me? I find that thinking post-disaster is a useful train of thought. What would you need if the Collapse happened last week?

    Become a street medic. Learn to grow something. Learn 1st aide. Learn to collect moisture.  Teach others. And I’ll say it again because that’s how important it is: Become a street medic or get the training. The black and scarlet clad, masked medics of Anon Medics are the point where “real life superheroes” really emerge into the world of the practical or the “real”.  (Also, throwing out a nod to the New York Initiative who seem more focused on forming resilient communities than the “one man vs. crime” antics of Phoenix Jones and company.)

  • How has your view of the future shifted during the last 4 years on -Anon

    m1k3y: I’d say I’m much more optimistic, and that was before the Occupy movement (following on from Tahir Sq and the Indignado movement and so on) sprang up. Part of that is through maturing my worldview, to step back from the purely technological and look at the political, economic, cultural, legal and moral aspects. These changes are happening in part because people are more educated, and connected to each other. Propaganda is just another meme. History is interchangeable with conspiracy theory once you realise that there is no objective position. More and more people are “waking up”, then turning around and illumating their friends. I don’t think anybody expected Enlightment to go viral.

    I really don’t think the so-called ‘global over-population problem’ is a bad thing. It means this is the greatest sum of human mind that has ever existed. That a connected humanity is the greatest supercomputer we’ve never dreamed off. And now we’re adding an increasingly autonomous robot ecology as part of Next Nature.

    Likewise, the majority of people are in urban environments now. Which is the native habitat of the civilized human. With everyone in cities, and more people interconnected globally the ability to adapt and upgrade infracture and tools only increases.. which, grey goo disasters aside, can let the land and sea outside the cities’ domain revert (back to Next Nature). And slowly the climate can stablize again.

    I don’t see challenges anymore, I see opportunities. Humanity’s gonna make it through this dark period and what comes out the other side might way be a whole new species (or two).

    None of which I’d ever have said four years ago.

    Kevin: We never did get as much sex on here as I’d have liked.

    Beyond that, when I started writing here, I was a lot more concerned with theoretical approaches to practical transhumanisim.  Talking about how we’re all already cyborgs, how pre-existing technologies can be applied towards life extension, how the world is a lot more science-fictional than most people give it credit for already.  Now I’m a lot more concerned with practical approaches to theory.  How do Debord and Deluze and Guattari look when applied to resistance or a running fight with riot police?   (And that’s not an idle speculation, either.  Just as the IDF has taken to using tactics from a re-conceptualization of urban space against Palestinians; the Occupiers pulled techniques almost right out of the Situationist playbook — for example the “Portland Snake”.)

    Honestly, I’m just a lot more interested in nitty-gritty practicalities.  I think in part because I now believe the Collapse is unavoidable — but I’m pretty okay with that.  Just like Utopia is a moving target, Collapse is a process and one state does not cancel out the possibility of the other.  In other words:  Shit is going to get really bad before it gets better — and you could argue that it has to get really bad in order for it to get better.  I’m not interested in taking up fiddling lessons while Rome burns, though, I want to make sure that the damage can be minimized and that the cost in real, living breathing human lives is as minimal as it possible.  The system is going to collapse, and I don’t want any of us to be underneath it when it does.

  • Who would you suggest as people to consider as life coaches (such as sex advice, health & fitness, tech predictors worth paying attention to)? Lets affix a number to that and say 5 people. – Atomdari

    m1k3y: … Tim Ferris maybe? I don’t really dig on the whole life-coach deal. What I would recommend instead is the book Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert.

    Kevin: If we could crossbreed Tim Ferris with Magpie and feed the resulting uberchild the secret drug stash of Terence McKenna, I think we’d be getting somewhere.  Ferris is a Grinder-par-excellence, powers of self-promotion aside. The man has a runaway best-selling book that discusses extreme body hacks, black market biological experimentation and off-label installation of medical diagnostic electronics.  And a lot of the things in his book work and work well.

    That said, the best “Life Coaches” are the people whose names you usually don’t know. Don’t look for a compass rose burred in a TED talk — look for people around you who are good at something or who have a knack for enacting their dreams and schemes.  I’d suggest less tech predictors and more tech producing. Less sex advice, and more shagging that good looking person’s brains out.  I can almost guarantee you that every life skill you desperately want to posses or master can be cracked or taught by someone you know.

PS – it turns out Bruce Sterling’s State of the World 2012 is a happening, jump in there too!

PPS –  I’m hoping ours has a lot more sweary bits.

heavy weather, it’s not just for Terra

Posted by on November 19th, 2011

Behold the awesome storms of Saturn, shown here by NASA in false-colour rendering.

The head of the storm is beyond the horizon in this view. Saturn’s atmosphere and its rings are shown here in a false color composite made from 12 images taken in near- infrared light through filters that are sensitive to varying degrees of methane absorption. Red and orange colors in this view indicate clouds that are deep in the atmosphere. Yellow and green colors, most noticeable near the top of the view, indicate intermediate clouds. White and blue indicate high clouds and haze. The rings appear as a thin horizontal line of bright blue because they are outside of the atmosphere and not affected by methane absorption.

via acidic.

Bangkok’s drownening (PIX)

Posted by on November 18th, 2011

These four photos aren’t from a Worth1000 competition, they’re just some of the striking images of Thailands ongoing, slow-moving flood hitting Bangkok.

See if you can guess the captions before checking out the full gallery.

Earth 2.0: Initialization

Posted by on October 9th, 2011

EARTH 2.0™ – Re-establishing a harmonious relationship between humanity and nature, using art, science and digital creativity.

Despite their need to trademark the phrase Earth 2.0, and the heavy post-production, the content in the following videos is spot-on. To soften the blows a bit further, I’ve added some matching quotes from my own unfinished writings on these subjects.

What our cities need today to survive in the midst of climate change and increasingly heavy weather is Aikido Infrastructure.

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Any sufficiently advanced engineering is indistinguishable from nature.

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Plastic Devil (Heavy Weather art)

Posted by on June 3rd, 2011
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via BoingBoing

TEDTalk: The Anthropocene

Posted by on April 23rd, 2011

Executive Director of the Australian National University’s Climate Change Institute, Professor Will Steffen, takes us on a journey through the science measuring humanity’s effect on the planet. Using tangible, real measures, Will shows us the profound change in the planet since the Industrial Revolution and argues that now, more than at any other time, humanity is the single most influential factor in global changes; so much so that we should recognise that now is the age of mankind – The Anthropocene.

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Unfortunately, this is unlikely to sway a climate-change denialist, but regardless, it’s an excellent overview of this important theory.

“We did not consider the effect of disastrophism”

Posted by on April 13th, 2011

That’s just edge of the reactor plant, taken from Martyn Williams’s posterous blog. More photos there and a translation of an appendix released from the investigation into this tragedy; key sentence being: “We did not consider the effect of disastrophism.”

Massive webs created by spiders fleeing the floods in Pakistan (PIC)

Posted by on April 10th, 2011

epic webs are epic

From nejlon (Several more images there), via @liamosaur

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..