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:

Cilium – robotic recreation of microscopic hairs

Posted by on May 31st, 2011
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via Justin Pickard

Very Large Telescope

Posted by on May 30th, 2011

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Some gorgeous video via, eight minutes of time-lapse sequence taken inside and outside of the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope.

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

Festo’s Smart Bird

Posted by on March 27th, 2011
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via a good chunk of the Twittersphere, for good reason.!

Forgotten: The most radioactive town in Europe

Posted by on January 31st, 2011

At about 10.30am on 17 January 1966, when Jesus Caceido heard a deafening explosion coming from the village of Palomares, the future mayor of the area had no idea he had just witnessed one of the Cold War’s most serious nuclear accidents – or that nearly half a century later, the 1,500 villagers would still be battling to have the ensuing contamination removed for good. After all, they live in Europe’s most radioactive village.

Today, 45 years after four nuclear bombs fell near the village when a US Air Force B-52 bomber and a refuelling aircraft collided in mid-air, tens of thousands of cubic metres of contaminated soil and an estimated – although never officially confirmed – half a kilogram of plutonium remain. And the radiation is getting potentially more dangerous, not less.

“As this type of plutonium decays, it is converted into another radioactive substance, americium, which is highly carcinogenic and can be released into the atmosphere,” says Igor Parra, a specialist for the Ecologistas en Accion pressure group for Palomares.

Via The Independent.

The Soul is a Plastic Bag

Posted by on January 31st, 2011

In the film Plastic Bag, the title character spends a lifetime (or more) on a quest for a creator not even aware of his existence. A stunning short by Ramin Bahrani, director of Man Push Cart and Goodbye Solo, Plastic Bag is both a postmodern spiritual pilgrimage and an ecological fable.

Via Next Nature.

Policing Genes

Posted by on January 21st, 2011

The honey bee, pollinator and drug insect:

The genetics of the plants in your garden could become a police matter. Pharmaceutical companies are experimenting with genetically engineering plants to produce useful and valuable drugs. However, the techniques employed to insert genes into plants are within reach of the amateur… and the criminal. Policing Genes speculates that, like other technologies, genetic engineering will also find a use outside the law, with innocent-looking garden plants being modified to produce narcotics and unlicensed pharmaceuticals

Via Next Nature.

The Sporenspiel

Posted by on January 20th, 2011

This shows an early incarnation of the Sporenspiel, a glockenspiel which is automatically played based on the amount of spores falling from a mushroom in real time.


New Taser Specially Designed For Use On Wildlife

Posted by on January 19th, 2011

Silly bear, put back that picnic basket! A new ‘non-lethal’ weapon is availible to dissuade the local wildlife from snacking on someone:

According the manufacturer, Taser International, the animal oriented stun guns are capable of firing multiple shots, delivering a shock specially designed to stop animals like bears and moose in their tracks. Law enforcement officers have been using similar devices for years, but now the Tasers are available for any outdoor enthusiast who fears a run-in with disgruntled wildlife.


34,000 Year-Old Bacteria Discovered Alive

Posted by on January 19th, 2011

Scientists have found prokaryotes believed to have been alive when trapped in salt crystals 34,000 years ago, according to a study published this month in The Geological Society of America’s open-access journal GSA Today.

“Microbes are known to exist in subsurface habitats, such as sub-seafloor sediments and continental and oceanic crust, to depths of up to 3 km,” the paper reads.

“Prokaryotes (single-celled organisms lacking a nucleus and other membrane-bound specialized structures) in these subsurface environments live in water within sediment pores and rock fractures.”


Polar Ice for sale

Posted by on November 26th, 2010

Polar Ice

Original pieces of polar ice will be sold in a shop in Amsterdam from this Friday the 25th. MyPolarIce is a venture led by Coralie Vogelaar and Teun Castelein. They went to the northern part of Greenland to harvest some of the finest polar ice still available. The pieces of ice were extracted from the Sermeq Kujalleg glacier, and were put on transport to Amsterdam

Starting from November 26th till December 5th your are invited to get your piece. It is the chance of a lifetime to obtain a frozen relic from the last ice age.
A piece of polar ice will cost 24.95 euros, but if the stock rapidly diminish prices may rise. A fixed amount of 1000 pieces is for sale, each numbered and a certificate of authenticity is attached. The pieces are packed in special capsule-shaped containers. This packaging ensures that the ice remains frozen up to three hours outside a freezer. The goal of MyPolarIce is to sell the pieces to people that cherish and preserve it.

Via nextnature.

Extinctions Expected to Increase Strongly Over the Century

Posted by on November 25th, 2010

The main factors behind loss of biodiversity are the degradation and destruction of natural habitats, climate change and overexploitation of biological resources. Changes in land use, brought on for instance by urbanization or the conversion of equatorial forest into pasture and arable land, is therefore the principal threat to biodiversity.

Via ScienceDaily.

Owning the Weather

Posted by on August 29th, 2010

“What if we could have altered the track of Katrina?”

Owning the Weather” is a documentary about geo-engineering by Robert Greene. It’s about whether or not we should engineer the weather and the different impacts that this has. And not only because we can, but also because actually we are already doing so.

Words and video via Next Nature.

See also:

Jamais Cascio presents the IFTF’s forecast for the coming decade

Posted by on August 9th, 2010

What follows is Jamais Cascio, who we’ve mentioned here a few times before, presenting a condensed, thirty-minute version of the Institute for the Future‘s forecast for the next ten years.

This is what Futurism looks like today; not rabid predictions of jetpacks and flying cars, but sane, measured statements that pick up recent trends and forecast their result.

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See Russia burning from space

Posted by on August 5th, 2010

From Space Fellowship:

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) captured this view of the fires and smoke in three consecutive overpasses on NASA’s Terra satellite. The smooth gray-brown smoke hangs over the Russian landscape, completely obscuring the ground in places.

The fires along the southern edge of the smoke plume near the city of Razan, top image, are among the most intense. Outlined in red, a line of intense fires is generating a wall of smoke. The easternmost fire in the image is extreme enough that it produced a pyrocumulus cloud, a dense towering cloud formed when intense heat from a fire pushes air high into the atmosphere.

According to news reports, 520 fires were burning in western Russia on August 4. MODIS detected far fewer. It is likely that the remaining fires were hidden from the satellite’s view by the thick smoke and scattered clouds. High temperatures and severe drought dried vegetation throughout central Russia, creating hazardous fire conditions in July.

Delicate Patterns in the Sea

Posted by on June 16th, 2010

From the Guardian:

Delicate patterns in the sea

Delicate patterns in the sea breaking on Orange Beach, Alabama, more than 90 miles from the BP oil spill, cannot distract from the mess four to six inches deep on parts of the shore

Meanwhile, Mother Jones asks: “Is the BP Gusher Unstoppable?”

Brilliant Noise

Posted by on June 3rd, 2010

To create Brilliant Noise, Semiconductor (aka Ruth Jarman and Joe Gerhardt), went through hundreds of thousands of computer files to select some of the sun’s most spectacular and unseen moments and compose a video animation on the oscillations of the star. Taken by orbiting satellites, the images reveal the energetic particles and solar wind as a rain of white noise.

Through a process of audio data processing, Semiconductor used images to control the fluctuations of sound. The sound varies, crackles, buzzes and falters according to the brightness of the image, highlighting the hidden forces at play upon the solar surface.

Words and video from

Edge of Night

Posted by on March 23rd, 2010

From ~EvidencE~’s photostream.

Ice Alien

Posted by on February 15th, 2010

From ~EvidencE~’s photostream.