Back to the Futurist interview with Anab Jain

Posted by on April 28th, 2012

One of our current project investigating some of these themes is ‘Mutations’, in which we’re looking at new products and services at the intersection of synthetic biology and deviant globalization – a murky world of illegal, informal and pirate economies, new patent laws, cross-border flows of technology and expertise, and home DNA printing. Both here, and elsewhere, it is important to remember that science and technology do not emerge in a vacuum, but condition, and are conditioned by the social and political context in which they emerge.

Just a fraction of a great interview with Anab Jain on URBNFUTR.


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.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Posted by on December 29th, 2011

It’s been an annual tradition for Chairman Bruce (and others) to have an extended Q&A over on the ancient and venerable The Well message boards. Bruce Sterling’s State of the World has long been an annual highlight of the season for us here at Grinding. But since it seems it’s not going to happen this year, there’s no long rambling thread of information laying out an exquisite cartography of exactly how fucked we are.

Well screw that, we say.

Here’s the deal. Ask us anything — anything at all — via our formspring account here: We will then answer your questions in a hopefully entertaining manner. It would be nice if some sort of intelligent conversation manifested as an emergent phenomena from this experiment, but we’re perfectly willing to let a cascade of dick, fart, and Tea Party jokes roll us into 2012.   (No, we’re not. I’m just trying to sound cavalier.)

Remember to use the Formspring account and not the increasingly compromised comments system for this. That’s — stay anon if you want or not. No topic is off limits, but things involving Grinding, the future, or whatnot would probably be a good idea.

Come, let us reason together! Alternatively, let us party like it’s the end of the world!!!

Bruce Sterling interviewed by Andrew Keen @ SXSW

Posted by on March 18th, 2011

Here’s a selection of short clips from TechCrunch TV’s Andrew Keen interview with The Chairman, Bruce Sterling, at this year’s SXSW.

Watch the full selection on Tech Crunch: part1 & part2.

via Technoccult & @doingitwrong.