looking to the future with hope

It is no secret that Buckminster Fuller has been a huge influence on my own thinking. I have watched a bunch of TED talks lately, and a couple of talks stood out as people who were picking up aspects of Fuller’s thinking, consciously or unconsciously.

Ray Kurzweil is known as a prolific inventor, and as the singularity guy, positing a technological singularity a-coming real soon as the technological growth curves go exponential. This extends the curve’s on Fuller’s own observations of accelerating acceleration and increasing ephemeralization (basically, being able to do more and more with less and less, as the amount of information and inventions we have increase ever faster) into the 30 years of data post Fuller’s death, and extrapolates from that.

Anyhow. In his talk he links a few developments he sees coming as the curves explode upwards, and it is pretty fascinating. Particularly the stuff on the intersection of biology and technology.

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(Embedding fubar. Get it here )

He really grounds the sense of how damn different things are going to become. (This reminds me of Erik Davis’s interview with RU Sirius, in which Sirius noted that a coming gamechanger was the point at which widespread nanotech fabbing and open source designs collide – being able to make anything anywhere cheaply – was a point at which fairly unimaginable social changes occur.)

The other talk was William McDonough on cradle to cradle design. This to me reflects another aspect of Fuller – comprehensive thinking, and applied design science as a solution. The work the cradle to cradle people are doing is amazing and important – providing a breakdown to the parts per million of the environmental effects of materials – to allow designers to design better stuff, with an awareness of the environmental impact of the entire life cycle of a product. The high point for me was his description of the seven cities they had been commissioned to build from scratch for the Chinese government, based on their principles. Again shades of Fuller, and his Old Man’s River City designs – the difference being here they are really happening. The description of the cities – a vision of how a city can be an integrated healthy functioning organsim – is incredibly inspiring.

For some reason the embedding isn’t working today: so get it here william_mcdonough_on_cradle_to_cradle_design.html)

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So yeah. I guess I am glad that people are picking up on the comprehensive and optimistic parts of Fuller’s thinking; and also, as with Fuller, that more people should know what these people are thinking and doing. We act according to what we believe is possible. And so much more wonderful things are possible than we think.

tao lin on cho seung-hui’s killing rampage

Cho Seung-Hui was the guy people will have heard of for doing the Virginia Tech massacre.

Tao Lin is a guy who I read a very odd book by the other day.

It was odd in a way that it actually seemed like the guy was kind of uncomfortably adapted to reality and wrote to help himself out. His own blog sort of indicated this was so.

Anyhow. This post is Tao Lin’s take on Cho Seung-Hui’s rampage.  It is not an essay so much as a series of statements branching off from one point, dealing with suffering, art, loneliness, and living in modern times. I found it really fascinating reading. I am not going to quote anything from it, just point at it.

Tibet



What exactly you believe, and how much, and why, is a question Tibet asks you more searchingly than any place I know. It’s part of what travel involves everywhere – the stepping out of the bounds of what you know, and into the realm of wishfulness and illusion and real marvel – but in Tibet it comes with centuries of legends, and a self-consciousness, on both sides, you don’t find in other cultures. We go to Tibet, often, to be transported, and so, inevitably, we are (as we might not be if we saw and heard the same things in Wisconsin); “Tibet” is the name we give to whatever we wish to believe, or can’t quite credit.

- Pico Iyer, Sun After Dark

The best TED talk I’ve seen: Wade Davis on Endangered Cultures

TED is amazing, and this is the peak I’ve encountered so far. Absolutely incredible talk. This can only enhance your life.

Watch it now. If you want to download it you can here.

meanwhile

Yesterday I read the internet for the first time in a while. Some Things for your consideration.

Metiria Turei has an interesting post about inequality in NZ., with a promise of more to come.

Where does New Zealand rank amongst its peers? We’ve moved rapidly from one of the most equal countries in the OECD to one of the most unequal. The OECD now ranks us 23rd out of 30. The UN ranks us 18th out of 23.

Inequality has risen rapidly in the last two decades. The good news is that if inequality can rise this quickly, it can also fall just as quickly if we set our collective minds to it. And there is good reason to. Inequality is both damaging and costly for us all. In my next Inequality in Aotearoa blog, I’ll explore some of the specific costs associated with inequality.

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Turkish archaelogical excavation discovers stone temple that predates Great Pyramid and Stonehenge by 6-7000 years. This pushes back the start of civilisation as we know it a fair whack, and will someday filter down to mess with our origin myths.

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This reminds me of a quote from a guy in 1800s London, before the burroughs had combined, viewing the growing sprawl and realising that one day they would all link up into one city: the world’s biggest cities are merging into mega-regions.

The world’s mega-cities are merging to form vast “mega-regions” which may stretch hundreds of kilometres across countries and be home to more than 100 million people, according to a major new UN report.

Research shows that the world’s largest 40 mega-regions cover only a tiny fraction of the habitable surface of our planet and are home to fewer than 18% of the world’s population [but] account for 66% of all economic activity and about 85% of technological and scientific innovation,” said Moreno.

The cities that are prospering the most are generally those that are reducing inequalities,” said Moreno.

*

This is just cool: solarbeat. Music made by assigning each planet a tone and then having each tone sound when it completes a revolution of the sun. You can play with the speed the planets rotate.

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This is bizarre. Introducing: Death Bear.

A shadowy, masked New Yorker relieves people of painful remnants of their pasts: love letters, photos, even underwear. To the man under the giant bear head, it’s performance art.
..

The anguished individual had turned to Death Bear, a macabre performance artist who silently walks the city streets in a one-man quest to relieve people of painful remnants of the past: love letters, photos, gifts, dog tags, underwear — a lot of underwear, it seems — anything that might reduce an otherwise well-functioning person to a sniffling wreck.

The mask is what makes it for me.

*

And, of course, what you have always wanted from your favourite psychopath hiring private mercenary army contractors bent on holy war: that’s right, a blackwater christmas tree ornament.

Hit’n'Miss Aotearoa # 12: Ramsey Dukes

Wow. It has been a while since any podcasting happened.

All the old ones are yet to be reuploaded after the server move, and to be honest I’m not sure I’ll get around to it. Bootlegs lost to time.

But here is a new one, which is closer to the interviews with interesting people that I originally had in mind, but still different.

What it is, is cool.

Unfairly obscure, Ramsey Dukes is one of the foremost philosophers of magic alive today. His now-classic book SSOTBME is widely regarded as one of the best introductions to magic. Dukes brings a clarity of thought and expression to a nefariously murky subject. Replete with clever examples, he explains the differences and relations between science, religion, magic and art. Over the past decades he has developed his thinking through a series of books, which are all worth tracking down if you can. He is consistently ahead of any curve you care to consider. (For instance, Words Made Flesh, his book riffing along matrix-esque universe as virtual reality lines came out in the 1980s.)

So yeah. A brilliant mind. And, it turns out, lovely and terribly English.

This audio is of a talk he gave at the NZ Pagan Fest in February, entitled Magic, Religion and the Quest For Meaning.

Ramsey Dukes – Magic Religion and the Quest for Meaning

In it he describes and updates the basic model presented in SSOTBME. There is also a fairly lengthy audience Q&A.

There is very little in the way of interviews and talks available  online from Dukes, so this is a real treat we of the dancing moose are very happy to share.

Special thanks to Ramsey Dukes for permission to post this.

book four, draft one

Last night I finished a rough as guts draft of a new book (working title Riding The Tiger.) Slim, at around 40000 words, it came out in about 20 days. The length is about right – it is non fiction. I am expecting about 60000 for the final figure, and things tend to get longer in rewrite.

The process was smooth. Almost painless. A combination of writing what I know, plus having done it before, and in particular having the knowledge of how much it will change in successive drafts really frees the process of a first draft. What matters is getting the basic structure and content down. The shaping comes later.

The result was I pushed through much harder than I have previously. It will be interesting to read it back in a wee while and see what I’ve done.

However, writing does tend to override my life. What was I doing? Time to reconnect with the other processes…

now playing on repeat

Flashback time.

I lost a certain amount of my youth to my Amstrad. One of the reasons I never fell for latter day game platforms. Same shit, better graphics. I get the appeal but the game logic never really improved.

On the Amstrad, Raffaele Cecco’s games were easy to play yet fiendishly difficult. They looked amazing, for the times, but little has the glory of their music.

This is the theme to Equinox. It looped throughout the game.

So awesome.

The soundtracks to Exolon, and Cybernoid 2, are also stunning. 8 bit joy. Spent a while trying to hack the interwebs to get access to their music in a useful form. Exolon seems nowhere. It had amazing emotional range for a peppy crunchy sound track to a shooting game.

This is the gameplay to Cybernoid 2. The music is eaten a bit by the sound effects, but it is still pretty choice. And the game is really fun. One of those exquisite timing and millimetres to spare jobs.

Weird flashbacks. I could probably find an emulator somewhere. But it is also nice that lots of play throughs of games are on youtube.

This is the most flat out time wasting I have done online in a while. Funny that it is recapitulating the time wasting of my youth.

Reading 2010: vol 2

Second installment. Will maybe aim to do these once every 6 weeks or so…

Primitive Magic – Ernesto de Martino

Italian scholar surveys anthropological and ethnological case for magic powers of shamans and sorcerors. Largely argues (convincingly) that we can’t understand it from a modern western perspective since we assume a fixed underlying reality of a different order which prevents us entering into the experience of magical reality. Dry in places but interesting.

The Road – Cormac McCarthy

Beautifully written, dark as all fuck. A man and his son walk through a grey post-apocalyptic America, struggling to survive in a savage emptiness. Bleak bleak bleak, but fundamentally about the enduring power of love. Really can’t imagine what they were thinking in adapting it into a movie, though kind of curious to see it.

The Orange Tree – Carlos Fuentes

Five thematically linked novellas. Incredibly well written. Dude is genius. He has one of Those minds. Epic, encompassing, humane.


Forty Stories – Donald Barthelme

Very odd, very experimental short stories. Pretty much always entertaining, even when they fail; and when they succeed they are awesome.

Death is not the end – Ian Rankin

Novella. Giving the guy a go based on a recommendation. Crime etc is not my genre, but the genre felt incidental to the people and the place. Grounded, straightforward, and better than I expected, without being stunning.

The Elements of Style – Strunk and White

Legendary brief style guide for the English language. I have written three 100K plus manuscripts, and I am learning stuff. Startled at how they lay bare the rules. In practice most of them I knew but didn’t know I knew. But yeah, recommended for anyone who uses the written word on a regular basis, as it will certainly tighten your typing.

Penny Dreadful – Will Christopher Baer

Followed up a recommendation on a whim; had never heard of the guy until a couple of days ago. Not quite sure what genre if any it is. Elements of gothery, fantasy, Philip K Dick reality warping going on. Sharply written. Enjoyable, twisted, cinematic; self-aware Cool, but not choking on it. Definitely managed to be about something beneath the weirdness; identity and the roles we play. Good shit, but won’t leave you with a happy vibe. Probably of special interest for role-players and drug users, and anyone attracted to losing themselves in illusion.

.

Reading has felt a bit unfocused of late; almost a reflex. Lacking motivation, or perhaps inspiration. Most things are research of a sort.

Care to recommend short brilliant novels of any type?

the world in 2050

Went along to see Martin Lord Rees talk last week.

Rees is the President of the Royal Society of London, more or less the most prestigious scientific organisation in the world.

The talk was called “the world in 2050″.

It was a competent genteel coverage of where we are heading, and the challenges ahead. There was nothing new in it. Population will grow, then fall; climate change and energy resources need dealing with; biodiversity is dropping at an alarming rate due to our actions;; a lot of interesting developments may or may not happen in biotech, genetics, AI, etc.

It was entirely grounded and reasonable, but frankly tame. I came away thinking if this is the pinnacle of scientific leadership, then we are doomed.

Easily the most coherent thing, and the only sign of vision, was his call for something equivalent to a Manhattan project, or the race to put a man on the moon, for developing new technologies to adapt to the challenges of climate change. The situation is stark; we cannot go on as we are without facing disaster. If we want to maintain economic growth and reduce emissions – and I wonder how long it will be before we realise that is having our cake and eating it too – we need new clean technology to power our civilisation. We have the means to pursue those technologies, while we still have fossil fuels to power the research and development (and it will take about 30 years to shift society to new technology); the question is as ever political will.

Creating political will means communicating strongly with the public, and strongly with the politicians.

I guess my objection was to the genteel nature of the call. For fuck’s sake. Advocating the urgent adoption of one of the largest scale endeavours in human history to avoid disaster should not be done with a polite cough. Grab the politicians by the fucking lapels and scream in their face. Scientists say: ‘if we don’t do this your constituents’ children will be fucking dead’ – are the headlines we need.

Knowledge is power, and with power comes responsiblity. Politicians are stupid. Okay, not all of them. But the skill set required to lie and cheat and get elected is not the same as one that requires you to have a comprehensive knowledge of the world and applied intelligence.

Right now the knowledge is with the scientists. Yes, it needs to be communicated to the masses. But the time for being polite about it is over. Otherwise we will just see the continual side-lining of the issue by a confused corporate-owned media that can’t tell the difference between the opinions of a paid corporate lobby group and a scientific consensus. [EDIT: this is timely - Greenpeace reveals the oil company subsidiary sponsoring tonnes of climate skeptic propaganda.]

We get most of our information from journalists. Journalists are not actually any smarter than the rest of us. They just copy shit from press releases from PR companies and act smug.

But if the scientific community isn’t smart enough to realise that they have the power and responsibility to lead the debate and set the agenda – and here we are talking actually demanding society reorder itself to attain goals that matter – then they aren’t that smart either.

And if we are collectively too stupid to figure this out, we can die off. Evolution takes no prisoners. We are not the end product of evolution, we are a part of the process. The process can go in other directions, with another species dominating.

Maybe I am being too hard on him. Maybe speaking to another audience he would put forth a different message. (The link up top is to his TED talk, which I haven’t watched, which will probably cover similar ground.) But I feel we need more participation in leading and shaping our political will from our scientific community. Scientists are also members of the democratic population, and free to act as such, not being limited by what is perceived as appropriate to the scientist’s role.