inkwell.vue.506 : State of the World 2019
permalink #26 of 220: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 2 Jan 19 14:17
    
After I turned 60, my memory became less sharp and reliable than it
had been, but I could see that happening to others who were growing
older, as well. But I'm not clear that the fog is attributable
strictly to advancing age and consequent cognitive decline. I also
had a worsening attention deficit that seemed related to the memory
issues, and was almost certainly related to my persistent
focus-challenging online activity. I stopped checking alzheimer's
symptoms to remind myself that I wasn't on that path, instead taking
a critical look at my websurfing habits.

Now I'm convinced that whatever cognitive issues I've experienced
derive in large part from effects of a life spent mostly online. And
I suspect that's true of Bill Gates, who at 63 is aging and
experiencing some loss of memory, but who has almost certainly spent
a big part of his life experiencing the same Internet infoburst
syndrome.
  
inkwell.vue.506 : State of the World 2019
permalink #27 of 220: Renshin Bunce (renshin) Wed 2 Jan 19 15:52
    
I read that Gates wants software that will respond to our moods, and
I think of the robots that have been built to comfort elders. 
Scientists stand on the other side of a mirror and high five each
other when they learn that old people are grateful when they get a
little attention.  What if people comforted elders, if this kind of
caregiving were considered a high status well paid job instead of
being scutwork tossed to those most newly arrived from other
countries.  As robots move forward, not because we need them but
because Silicon Valley (where I live) can build them, we're going to
need to find new jobs for those whose occupations have been
eliminated. 
  
inkwell.vue.506 : State of the World 2019
permalink #28 of 220: John Spears (banjojohn) Wed 2 Jan 19 16:19
    
I really don't look forward to being comforted by robots or having
my mood monitored by software. The world is already too dystopian
for my taste. For example, my software tells me I've misspelled
dystopian, but I disagree.  
  
inkwell.vue.506 : State of the World 2019
permalink #29 of 220: Paulina Borsook (loris) Wed 2 Jan 19 21:47
    
<hosts, dont see a link to this from the well frontpage for folks
NOTW>
  
inkwell.vue.506 : State of the World 2019
permalink #30 of 220: James Bridle (stml) Thu 3 Jan 19 01:00
    
Hi Tiffany - nice to meet you too!

I don't have any good answer to the travel issue, other than
travelling less, at least by plane. The long answer thus involves
some kind of change of life, as it's not just a matter of travelling
differently to maintain the same lifestyle, but changing life plans
to live differently. 

In the short term, I have too many embedded plans - contracted gigs
(that I need the money from) as well as teaching commitments (at an
art school premised on travel, which pops up in a different European
country each month) - to make a big difference, but in the
medium-to-long-term I am making more plans to generate projects and
engagements locally, that will keep me in place in a fulfilling and
(mentally, financially) sustainable way.

In reckoning this question, I keep coming up against another of
those dichotomies that need breaking, between the local and the
global. I feel so many of us have taken the internet's injunction to
be everywhere at once as a personal challenge, and turned our lives
into reflections of the network: distributed and always in motion. I
think there must be something in between: a networked
cosmopolitanism, that allows us to properly engage without
stretching our bodies and the planet's resources to breaking point.

That word - cosmopolitan - is a tricky one. Theresa May, the British
PM, my PM, among many other terrible things, has stated that "if
you're a citizen of everywhere, you're a citizen of nowhere", a
jingoistic statement I instinctively rebel against - but of a piece
with her particular brand of nanny-state nationalism. (May is to
nationalism as Thatcher was to capitalism: no-nonsense,
authoritarian, and full TINA (there is no alternative)). At the same
time I'm cognisant that the kind of cosmopolitanism we've engendered
has made the same mistakes as the internet itself: it's never made
it it Stage C (Distributed) of the RAND/Baran network diagram,
getting stuck at Stage B (Decentralised). It includes the big cities
and the developed nations, but its made dependants at best most of
the rest of the world - the peripheries that I referred to
previously. A truly networked cosmopolitanism needs to be more
evenly distributed. It can be local without being parochial, which
is what many of us subconsciously fear.
  
inkwell.vue.506 : State of the World 2019
permalink #31 of 220: James Bridle (stml) Thu 3 Jan 19 01:22
    
To speak to memory slippage and attention fog...

My handle here - stml - is the diminutive of short term memory loss
- the first domain I registered almost twenty years ago. I used it
because that's what the internet felt like even then, something
fleeting and uncertain, subject to change and erasure. It still
does, in fact, except we've come to expect permanence and authority
from it, and perhaps dangerously so.

It's quite clear that many things being currently constructed, from
large-scale capitalist enterprises to social media timelines to
microinteractions on smartphone apps are specifically designed as
attacks on our ability to think clearly and act autonomously: "the
race to the bottom of the brain stem" as Tristan Harris puts it.
What you're feeling is not some weird emergent effect of too much
screen time: it's deliberate. (cf Jonathan Crary's "24/7: Late
Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep".)

If we acknowledge it as deliberate, we also empower ourselves to
counter it in meaningful and progressive ways - not going back to
the cave, and certainly not to Vipassana retreats in Myanmar, but by
reconstructing technologies that support rather than degrade
attention and thinking. Again, I'd point to those systems which
actively work towards true decentralisation, rather than mere
distribution (which, as we've seen, just concentrates power in
different hands). These technologies exist, in forms as obvious as
peer-to-peer video chat and the interplanetary file system, as well
as slower but more dispersed forms of social media.

They also emphasise trust and care in ways which are inimical to
fully marketised digital media, but must be foundational to whatever
comes next. The people working on those things, which include
schools, affinity networks, and residencies as well as software, are
the ones I'm watching most closely right now.
  
inkwell.vue.506 : State of the World 2019
permalink #32 of 220: James Bridle (stml) Thu 3 Jan 19 01:28
    
And I meant to add to the above: these forms of media are both
correlative and performative: that is, they change our behaviours as
they change the form of the network. You use different technologies
and you change the landscape and yourself, so this is one of many
answers to the travel as well as the attention question.
  
inkwell.vue.506 : State of the World 2019
permalink #33 of 220: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 3 Jan 19 06:07
    
*Here in the WELL SoTW, we’re not alone in our apparent urge to drop
Facebook and flee headlong to the polar tundra.  Check out this 
recent WIRED magazine article.  When even WIRED doesn’t wanna be
wired any more, man, who is left to cheer on the tech-scene?

https://www.wired.com/2017/01/how-i-got-my-attention-back/


“I want my attention back.

“Did I really have it before Facebook? Thinking back, the early
versions of Facebook were adorable. Benign. No tagging. No
timelines. Just The Wall. A way to say — Hey, what’s shaking dorm
buddy? Poke. No algorithms. A human scale.

“The more I thought about my attention the more I thought about the
limits to human scale. How technologies inevitably amplify ourselves
— the best and worst parts — in a way that is almost impossible for
us to comprehend….”
  
inkwell.vue.506 : State of the World 2019
permalink #34 of 220: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 3 Jan 19 06:10
    


*Call me sentimental, but I really hate to see WIRED writers suffer.
The thing is, though -- I’m not sure it’s all that hard “to
comprehend.”   I’m thinking that maybe we’re just unwilling to do
the work of comprehension.

*Once the tech-glamour novelty fades, it’s kinda easy to comprehend.
Pretending that it’s all Singularity-like and brain-boggling is a
cheesy evasion.   It’s like comprehending Virtual Reality.  VR seems
more important than the discovery of fire the first time it’s
clamped on your head (especially if you’re on acid).  But that
thrill fades about as fast as the thrill of 3D movies.

*It Tiffany is right and Facebook has become a thing of “dismay and
hideousness,” then what part is the dismay and what part is the
hideous?  You can get over the dismay.  The hideous, that really
lasts.

*So I’m thinking the aesthetics is the key here.  Because if “the
hidden beauty will rematerialize,” which is a lovely rallying slogan
that I like quite a lot,  what would that beauty look like?  When it
came out of hiding, how would we know it was beautiful?  We don’t
exactly need a “new aesthetic” to know that, because wrinkled old
Dorian Gray Facebook isn’t all that new any more, but we do need an
aesthetic, because an aesthetic is how you convince other people
that the beauty has arrived. 
  
inkwell.vue.506 : State of the World 2019
permalink #35 of 220: Alex Davie (icenine) Thu 3 Jan 19 06:29
    
Slippage while composing
Tiff:
”from that perspective, where do you think we stand in 2019, in our
case as
Americans, or as citizens of the world? do you think we understand
what
environmental remediation really is, and do we have a firm grasp on
what
needs to be remediated?”

When I started performing environmental remediation projects across
the Midwest in early 1986, I believed that my work managing
environmental remediation projects was directly healing Mother Earth
by removing hazardous chemicals and materials from the soil and
water and disposing of the extracted haz-mat properly and would
unabashedly tell people that when it would come up in conversations.


Over the years, we, as a nation, have cleaned up the worst and
largest of these depredations and have moved to smaller and smaller
projects where the clean-ups are more elusive and in some ways, more
intractable but we continue to do it (large and small) and we and
Mother Earth are the better for it. There are some contaminated
sites that we started back then and we are still pursuing clean-up
today in 2019, thirty years later.
And yes, in my mind, we do know what environmental remediation was
and is today. And that is the removal of large and small
contaminates from two media, soil and water. Air pollution, as Bruce
talks about is a whole different animal. But even there we have made
great progress but more can be done, here and abroad. 
And yes, we do have a firm grasp on what needs remediation today
based on our efforts, experience and research over the past 49 years
when the USEPA was formed and environmental remediation (soil, water
and air) began in earnest.

And this then takes me back to what I said earlier about local
political action and now citizen environmental awareness. Both of
those is how hundreds of connected (primarily social media)
concerned, local citizens rose up and protested the siting of a new
water treatment plant. The protest started small among neighbors who
spotted a surveyor, queried him and found out that without any
notice whatsoever, the County was buying 99 acres of raw, forested
land for the construction of a water treatment plant in their
”backyards". The upshot was that these concerned citizens, connected
by social media, packed to overflowing (SRO inside the hall and
watching on monitors in the lobby) a Townhall meeting hastily
convened by the County. This happened again when the County had
their formal and official meeting and these citizens forced the
County to abandon their purchase ($3M) of the 99 acres and look at
more appropriate sites in already industrial areas of the County.

So, as much as I see social media commoditizing, invading and
surveilling us, I have seen it put to beneficial use, locally and
globally. I have also, seen GAB, MINDS, MEWE, SPREELY, MASTODON and
others spring up to take in migrants from the aforementioned
omnivore social media platforms. I mention these new platforms with
no judgement but observing concerned citizens protesting and
refusing to participate in what these omnivores are doing to us. 

So in 2019, are these platforms with their promises of no ads, no
commodification and no surveillance of its participants going to
supplant the omnivores?
  
inkwell.vue.506 : State of the World 2019
permalink #36 of 220: gary b (jonl) Thu 3 Jan 19 06:38
    
We're starting to get comments and inquiries via email. The first,
from gary b, asks, simply:

if water is the new oil, just how screwed are we? 
  
inkwell.vue.506 : State of the World 2019
permalink #37 of 220: George McKee (jonl) Thu 3 Jan 19 06:43
    
Via email from George McKee:

So, the exponential phase of a logistic growth curve is tapering
off, and it's not so thrilling any more.  Good!  I have a couple of
comments and a question:

To put BruceS's European residences in a US perspective, the
distance between Ibiza and Turin is less than the distance between
Austin and El Paso.

Having worked for a paternalistic Fortune 50 company where "you have
no expectation of privacy in the office" is drummed into everyone, I
suspect that Bill Gates' musings about emotional regulation by AI
might come from Googlish or Facebookish thinking about what can be
done with all the data Microsoft has in the untold billions of
business emails and documents in Outlook and Office 365 clouds, and
their recent acquisition LinkedIn. Not to give them ideas, but
imagine the monetization opportunities if a company could learn by
textual analysis, not to mention speech patterns in Skype for
Business calls, that a key employee is having emotional problems
likely to affect their productivity or likelihood to jump ship. 
Subtle tuning of LinkedIn newsfeed article suggestions and reminders
of the corporate health plan's psychological services would be a
quite reasonable response.  The low-profile Amazon/Berkshire
Hathaway/Chase healthcare initiative has similar motivations and big
data exploitation capabilities.

In the big political picture, I sometimes wonder if we're seeing a
non-Marxian version of the nation-state withering away into
ineffective figurehead status, with lots of nationalist
grandstanding and soapboxing, but with increaingly autonomous
sprawl-class city-states having the real power, and between them
vast farming regions controlled by Big Ag, and depopulated
no-man's-lands making up the rest.  Key battlegrounds could be
tropical rainforests and Asian breadbaskets like Ukraine and
Georgia.  As usual, "follow the money": if the dollar gets displaced
as the global reserve currency by renminbi or World Bank SDRs or
Euros, look out!

Finally, my perennial media mortality and morbidity question.
Whither Facebook, Twitter, Snap? VR & AR, still coming or going?
What will be the long-term effect of #MeToo, if any?  Will CBS even
notice the departure of Les Moonves?
  
inkwell.vue.506 : State of the World 2019
permalink #38 of 220: Alex Davie (icenine) Thu 3 Jan 19 06:58
    
Slippage again while I was composing
Just read thru Bruce's comments and the Wired article and my first
reaction to the article and the author was:
 Get a grip and Jeez-O-fricking-Pete, get over yourself. Oh well, so
what that you are so addicted to your screen time that it took a
month in residency on a rural plantation so you could get your
attention back. Yikes, gimme a fookin' break! The author was talking
like he was powerless to resist the algos. Yeah, it is enticing but
WTF exercise some self-discipline and separate yourself from the
herd and your dopamine addiction. No sympathy for the devil here.
  
inkwell.vue.506 : State of the World 2019
permalink #39 of 220: Tom Valovic (tvacorn) Thu 3 Jan 19 07:10
    
To some earlier comments, so just catching up. Thanks to Bruce and
Jon for doing this. I found Bruce’s comments on the “new dark” quite
interesting and insightful. 

I’m a member of a small group of Internet activists who tried to
shape the direction of the Net in the 90’s when it still could be
shaped. Sven Birkerts, Cliff Stoll and others were in this group. My
own approach was that of a middle path: tech has great promise so
let’s not screw it up. I wrote a book called “Digital Mythologies”
outlining this vision with some cautionary tales including several
essays about my experiences on the WELL.  (I think there might still
be an Inkwell session describing its genesis.) 

I still believe that the impressive array of technology we now
possess has great promise but much of it is hitched to the wrong
star: the excesses of a financial industry decoupled from and
oblivious to the concerns of ordinary Americans. This reality is
still not widely understood or reported on accurately in the
mainstream press.

The moment for steering towards something more consistent with the
need to “re-enchant the world” (as cultural historian Morris Berman
put it) has probably passed. Now we have to go backward to go
forward. People moving from Facebook to the WELL like Jon and myself
are a good example of this. (The WELL itself probably could have
been perfected but not improved if that makes sense.)

I’m very concerned about Gates’ pushing both nuclear energy and the
transhumanist vision of merging our emotional lives with computers.
There is a fundamental kind of dehumanizing force at work here,
figuratively and even literally in the semantic root sense of the
term. But if the singularity was really dead then I doubt people
like Gates would be pushing this macabre vision in which we
literally outsource the essence of our humanity – our emotional life
along with compassion and empathy  – to highly sophisticated
machines. In essence, doing so successfully would in my opinion
represent an abnegation of the very qualities that make us human,
almost an admission of failure and not its apotheosis in the march
of evolution seen from any number of philosophical, cultural or even
spiritual perspectives.
  
inkwell.vue.506 : State of the World 2019
permalink #40 of 220: Mark McDonough (mcdee) Thu 3 Jan 19 07:33
    
Gates has always seemed to me to be a very bright well-read
dilettante.  An example: His major intervention in education based
on the idea that small high schools must be better than big ones. 
School districts from coast to coast (including the one I used to
teach at) jumped on board, in some cases aided by Gates Foundation
money.

Turned out there was nothing to it at all.

Oops.
  
inkwell.vue.506 : State of the World 2019
permalink #41 of 220: James Bridle (stml) Thu 3 Jan 19 08:03
    
I don't know about aesthetics - we seem characterised by an absence
of them. I'm thinking about the abundance of fake imagery/content
online (cf
https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2018/12/how-much-of-the-internet-is-fake.html or artist Jenny Odell's superlative https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/11/27/style/what-is-inside-this-inter
net-rabbit-hole.html), the prevalence of GAN-generated imagery producing alien otherworlds, and the dominance of deliberately obscure Gerasimov Doctrine warfare from "little green men" to cyberattacks, drones (military and civilian) and Swedish submarines - all absent real surfaces. Like the ecological hyperobject.

Surface, as we understand it, is specifically what's missing. Hence
the absence of aesthetics, and its uselessness as a concept to
address the now. Cybersecurity folk talk about "attack surfaces",
and we've lost contact with the attack surface of the present - all
smooth and uniform and strawberry as a friend once said of a
particularly intractable website design.
  
inkwell.vue.506 : State of the World 2019
permalink #42 of 220: Ari Davidow (ari) Thu 3 Jan 19 08:12
    
>[re small vs. large high schools] Turned out there was nothing to
it at all.

I just read a book from this past year in which the author seemed
quite convinced by the evidence in favor of that proposition,
<mcdee>. What studies lead you to believe that it is now debunked?
  
inkwell.vue.506 : State of the World 2019
permalink #43 of 220: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 3 Jan 19 08:23
    
Tom says that pervasive technologies of the network era are "hitched
to the wrong star: the excesses of a financial industry decoupled
from and oblivious to the concerns of ordinary Americans." He says
that mainstream media don't report this accurately. 

Of course they wouldn't, because it's "where they live." In the last
century journalism had evolved as a loss loser - e.g. television
network news divisions were operating as public service, not as
profit centers. Today mainstream journalism has become a profit
center, especially cable news. Accuracy is secondary to profit, and
there's an inherent blind spot about "excesses of a financial
industry." 
  
inkwell.vue.506 : State of the World 2019
permalink #44 of 220: Paulina Borsook (loris) Thu 3 Jan 19 08:46
    
a cranky hit and run; i dont usually bother but this time i will:

'all politics are local' and 'think globally, act locally'. these
ideas been around a  very long time.

and, ijwts, all i ever tried to write and say was that technology
will not change human nature (aggression, gamesmanship, opprtunities
for creative abuse). the advent of microprocessors sure didnt.

a weird sort of relief in that i no longer hear much the 'technology
will be our salvation'. seems to be more 'let's bug out to NZ — or
mars'.

also, 'travel' has become again a certain kind of class marker — and
also a marker for those who dont have caregiving responsibilities
-tying them down-. or (mostly) dont have disabilities themselves.
caregiving; disabilities; oh so not -interesting-. these are among
the perennials of the suffering human condition and i dont see
robots or IOT really addressing them other than in a pitchdeck.
  
inkwell.vue.506 : State of the World 2019
permalink #45 of 220: Jake Dunagan (jdunagan) Thu 3 Jan 19 08:56
    <scribbled by jonl Thu 3 Jan 19 10:47>
  
inkwell.vue.506 : State of the World 2019
permalink #46 of 220: Jake Dunagan (jdunagan) Thu 3 Jan 19 09:38
    
Aloha y'all, like a good futurist, I'm late to the party. Thanks Jon
and Bruce for letting me muddy the waters here. Howdy James and
Tiffany and WELL folks, and glad to be part of this always
stimulating conversation. 

I always assign the SOTW as one of the pre-readings for my strategic
foresight classes, so now my students can learn to be skeptical of
their professor before they step into the classroom. 

Bruce checking in from Ibiza is my jumping off point. My favorite
Orson Welles film, and required viewing for the 21st century IMO, is
'F for Fake'. Most of the film takes place in Ibiza in the 70s,
following two purveyors of fakes/ hoaxes, Elmyr de Hory and Clifford
Irving. One of the main takaways from the film is the fact that
experts are necessary for the success of a fake. That idea has now
become quaint as expertise is treated with scorn and suspicion.
George Wallace's "pointy headed-professors" line now metastasized
through New's York's version of George Wallace-- T***p. So, reality
is thoroughly negotiable, and experts can't be trusted. Fakes are
different now. They are not subversive, they are oppressive,
dangerous, violent, stupid. 

As a purveyor of experiential futures, where me and my
collaborators, especially Stuart Candy, have used many hoax devices
(not ATHF in Boston, but you know..) to get people to take
alternative futures seriously, I have had many ethical misgiving
about how design fiction, artifacts from the future, experiential
futures get deployed. As Bruce said not long ago, design fiction has
been weaponized. 

There is a profound difference between the Yes Men and Alex Jones.
No fan of the Yes Men has gone to a pizza parlor with an AK, but it
gets harder to use design fiction and artifacts from the future in a
naive way. This is our theater of operations now, and we have to
adjust. 

Fakes are only going to get worse, with deep fakes taking hold (in
porn first, of course). 2019 is training camp for deep fakes, 2020
will be the regular season. 

Check out my IFTF colleague Sam Woolley's work, as well as that of
Steve Duncombe at NYU, for two different angles on disinformation
and how we use spectacle and performance for "good."

I've been working with the Austin Civic Innovation Office and the US
Conference of Mayors over the last year (creating artifacts from the
future with 18 US Mayors, in fact). So the discussions on local
government and where power lies in the future is an important part
of my work and my thinking about the state of the world in 2019. 

I often start workshops by asking participants two questions: what
keeps you up at night? and what gets you out of bed in the morning?
So, I'll end this post with my own answers:

What keeps me up at night? The perturbations of complex society are
swinging more widely than ever, with no anchor to hold them steady.
In complex systems, when the perturbations get too large, the system
either transforms to a new phase, or it collapses. My fear, of
course, is collapse. And in the U.S. that means a very agitated,
well armed group of people taking their shit out on each other. 

What gets me up in the morning? The vacuum of leadership at the
global and national levels opens up an opportunity for local and
city-level power. After working with mayors of both parties, in
every region of the country, at different scales of size, I have
GREAT faith in city leaders right now, and can see a path forward
for global, cosmopolitan networks to get positive things done. 

More later on social invention, high wyrdness, and how we might move
forward. 
  
inkwell.vue.506 : State of the World 2019
permalink #47 of 220: Craig Maudlin (clm) Thu 3 Jan 19 10:43
    
Yes please, Jake.

Responding to Paula's <44>:

> that technology will not change human nature

Cranky perhaps, but we (obviously) need reminding. I think one reason
is the need to shift agency -- it's a mental optimization needed for
thought.  We need to think in terms of "What Technology Wants" because
we can't process the causal interrelationships fast enough.

One result is that we don't realize that autonomy is usually just a
form of delegation. (My self-driving car isn't really having the
vacation it wanted)
  
inkwell.vue.506 : State of the World 2019
permalink #48 of 220: Matthew Battles (jonl) Thu 3 Jan 19 10:48
    
Via email from Matthew Battles:

I'm curious to dig into the New Dark a bit more. I confess that I
haven't started James's book yet—I look forward to it—but I do note
a little gap, a swerve, between a formula like "The New Dark" and
"The New Dark *Age*. The latter evokes, for me, a Petrarchan
historicity we might well do away with, or anyway regard side-eyed;
the former seems more like a force stealing across the face of the
thing we used to call "the world." 

I read "New Dark" and I think of the teeming obscurities of objects
limned by the speculative materialists; I think of the faceless
demonology of Eugene Thacker; I think of Latour's recent typology of
worldlessness, with us never-have-been-moderns caught in transit
between a World we never truly held and a Planet that doesn't want
us any more. And of course, I think of Dark Mountain, whose
proponents as early as 2009 were rejecting the sparkle of
Bright-Green optimism for the teeth-gnashing joy of peri-apocalyptic
separatism. 

The Dark Mountain folks were buying used caravans and heading for
the downs long before the punctuated nomadism described here. What's
different in this New Dark? other than naming less a commitment than
a condition.
  
inkwell.vue.506 : State of the World 2019
permalink #49 of 220: Jamais Cascio (jonl) Thu 3 Jan 19 12:03
    
Via email from our friend and colleague, Jamais Cascio:

Hey there, futuregang

I’ve been flirting around this collective of thinkers for awhile
now, like some Earth-grazing asteroid on an obscenely elliptical
orbit. Feels like I’ve been at the apogee of that orbit lately — I
can fully-sympathize with that writing block you described, <jonl>.
I know that some of it comes from spending too much time looking at
what’s happening in the present day to think about what could come
next. Gaze too long into the abyss, etc., except these days the
abyss gets your metadata, too.

I do most of my futures work with the Institute for the Future (much
of it with/for Jake), and over my decade+ there I’ve been cast as
the in-house Dark Futures specialist. The one they turn to for the
awful implications. The Eeyore that lets everyone else be someone on
the Tigger-Owl spectrum. It was fun, at first; now it’s just
exhausting. I spent much of this past Fall working on a deep,
detailed look at the future of the global environment for a big IFTF
client project, and by the end of it, I was ready to give up.

Some of it also comes from the realization that the social
(/political/technological/etc.) dynamics that the "clear-eyed
optimists" of the late 1990s/early-mid 2000s embraced as the
revolutions that will make the planet function properly — openness,
“bottom-up” collaborative movements, democracy, networks — have by
and large been captured by the people and ideologies that privilege
winning in the short-term over flourishing in the long-term.
Frankly, those people and ideologies seem to do a better job using
those tools than we ever did. It’s almost like that moment in a
movie when our hero does a heel-turn and we realize that they’ve
been working with the bad guys… except if we’d been paying
attention, we would have seen that all along.

But (barring an asteroid, an escaped Ebola-Smallpox cocktail, or
Great Dying-sized planetary methane burp) this isn’t a movie with a
distinct ending. We’re living in the perpetual stinger. So we must
persist. We have to muddle our way.

I know that my entry here is more of a mental purge than a
conversation point, so let me just ask a question. In the context of
muddling through, of just dealing with it, what are you four seeing
as positive harbingers? I gave a talk for the World Bank’s Global
Risks conference a couple of years ago, and I finished by saying
that the role of the futurist is often less Cassandra than Pandora.
We talk about the horrors and pains, but we still need to be able to
reveal hope at the bottom of the jar.

What’s at the bottom of your jars?
  
inkwell.vue.506 : State of the World 2019
permalink #50 of 220: James Bridle (stml) Thu 3 Jan 19 12:10
    
To speak to Matthew Battles' question (hi!), I have a bad tendency
to name things "new" and encapsulate them in aesthetics and ages...
I agree with you entirely about the necessity of escaping the grip
of successionism and suchlike. In fact, I'll just go ahead and quote
Karen Barad, from her totally excellent 'Troubling Time(s)': "Any
suggestion that the notion of the linearity of time is unsalvageable
and ought to be replaced with a new, arguably superior, notion of
time would be ironic, since it would be to fall into the logic of
progress and supersessionism." and I reference that because her
thoughts on what this New Dark looks and feels like come back to me
all the time: 

"... it is possible to do a diffraction experiment in both space and
time at once, whereupon a single particle will coexist in a
superposition of multiple places and times (Diffraction of Matter
Waves). In this case of spacetime diffraction, a diffraction pattern
can be accounted for by taking account of all possible histories
(configurings of spacetime), understanding that each such
possibility coexists with all others. In particular, then, in its
four-dimensional (relativistic spacetime) QFT elaboration, the
probability that a particle that starts here-now will wind up
there-then entails taking account of all possible histories, or
rather, spacetimemattering configurings. Crucially, these
‘possibilities’ are not to be thought of in the usual way: the
diffraction pattern is not a manifestation of an uncertainty in our
knowledge – it is not that each history is merely possible, until we
know more and then ultimately only one will be actualized – the
superposition marks ontology indeterminacy (not epistemological
uncertainty) and the diffraction pattern indicates that each history
coexists with the others."

ONTOLOGICAL INDETERMINACY NOT EPISTEMOLOGICAL UNCERTAINTY would have
been a better, but less catchy book title.

* Read the whole thing:
https://www.dropbox.com/s/oz8hjbj06y2nrxi/Barad_troubling_time%28s%29.pdf?dl=1


And bringing myself back to Barad makes me think differently and
possibly clearly about the question of aesthetics raised earlier...
I want to make another go of it... starting with Solarpunk and all
the beautiful stories and shapes its generating, particularly with
regard to myth-making and the possibilities of fantasy.

* This is a good intro to Solarpunk as well as the criticisms
attendant on it:
http://culturesofenergy.com/157-solarpunk-feat-rhys-williams/

(As the guest on the podcast points out, the IPCC reports are the
biggest pieces of solarpunk fantasy out there, given that we don't
currently actually have any of the technologies (such as large-scale
carbon capture) required to keep warming down to basically liveable
levels.)

Solarpunk is a good antithesis to Dark Mountain futures (as much as
I love them too), as it raises the possibility of a "good
anthropocene" - not morally good, but non-miserable. It's a start.
So yeah, how about https://goodanthropocenes.net/

I'd also like to state, from the discussion so far, that the
thinking, caring, doing, and organising of "what next" isn't likely
to and probably shouldn't come from anyone in this room. I've been
watching and am more than inspired by the presentations from the
recent Code Ecologies conference organised by the School for Poetic
Computation in New York. If you're jaded and appalled by tech, you
should watch this:

* http://sfpc.io/codeecologies/
* Full stream: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BsN_2oYnbLo

(And if anyone knows about or wants to build similar structures in
Southeast Europe, wave).
  

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