Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

A Future in Glass

Image Source: Corning via Waylou.

Corning has put out a corporate video (here and here) envisioning a future filled with its glass products (Hat tip: Dump.com via @LillyLyle).  Like my recent comments on Audi commercials that suggest the future is here, or almost here, these products are paired with values associated with the rise of the tech-oriented social classes.  It's a vision of ease, convenience, accessibility, cleanliness - and streamlined wealth:
Can you imagine organizing your daily schedule with a few touches on your bathroom mirror? Chatting with far-away relatives through interactive video on your kitchen counter? Reading a classic novel on a whisper-thin piece of flexible glass?
Corning is not only imagining those scenarios – the company is engaged in research that could bring them alive in the not-too-distant future. You can get a glimpse of Corning’s vision in the new video, “A Day Made of Glass.”
Corning Chairman and CEO Wendell Weeks says Corning’s vision for the future includes a world in which myriad ordinary surfaces transform “from one-dimensional utility into sophisticated electronic devices.” ...
Glass is the essential enabling material of this new world. “This is a visual world – so transparency is a must,” explains Wendell. But that’s just the beginning. Ubiquitous displays require materials that are flexible, durable, stable under the toughest of environmental conditions, and have a cool, touch-friendly aesthetic. And not just any glass will do. This world requires materials that are strong, yet thin and lightweight; that can enable complex electronic circuits and nano functionality; that can scale for very large applications, and that are also environmentally friendly. ...
Does the world showcased in “A Day Made of Glass” seem like something out of a fantasy movie? Jim Clappin, president of Corning Glass Technologies, reminds us that, just a decade ago, pay phones, VCRs, and film cameras were also commonplace. Today, we’re accustomed to movies streaming on demand to a 60-inch television hanging on the wall and to video calls on notebook computers, essentially for free.
“The consumer trend driving our vision for tomorrow is very clear,” Jim says. “We all want to be connected with what we want…when we want…anywhere…and with great ease. Corning’s innovations in glass will enable this journey to continue.”
See the video and popular reactions to it below the jump.  The reactions remind me of one of my earlier posts, in which I talked about an unanticipated anti-tech backlash in the future.

Corning: A Day Made of Glass. Video Source: Youtube.

While this video is very impressive, I notice the Youtube commenters are skeptical.  You might say that Youtubers are typically hard to impress.  This is what they are saying:

-there's no way you can keep all of that glass clean

-I really appreciate all the technology and I surround myself with a lot of it, but as I grow older, I feel myself longing for the slower simpler things like a cabin in the woods near a small lake with trails made of pine needles and not too far from the nearest mom & pop grocery store and maybe a diner . With winters that are mild and short. Where the air is crisp and clean and the water is crystal clear. Actually it's a lot like the places I loved when I was a kid. Go figure.

-And Big Brother hiding behind a glass... awful

-Wonder what kind of signs the bums on the corner would be holding up? Will squeegee for beer?

-This seems cool and all, but I could not imagine a world like that... It would be helpful, sure, but in reality how well would it work? Smudges and broken glass would be a given, and I'd rather have a real book in my hand over a piece of glass any day of the week.

-I would never get to work on time with that much morning distraction.

-well, one thing is for sure, people will be fat.

-It looks like that progress in future is only limited to electronic and IT? Cars still goes on engine with internal combustion, cloths is still the same, food also... :)

-you would get sooo tired of all that glass

-I think I'll buy stock in Windex.

-This reminds me of the New York World's Fair which was an attempt to demonstrate that the needs of the population will be met by industry, not government. All of our needs will be addressed and taken care of by the pursuit of business of it's objectives. The technology to make "Tomorrowland" at Disneyland existed at the time, but that is not how things materialized, The same is true of the New York World's Fair of 1939. Whatever happened to Tomorrow?

-who's gonna be able to afford all that stuff when gas is 22.00 a gallon?

-What a nice way to life. If you're rich....

-Today's forecast is calling for hail...EVERYBODY RUN, AHHHHHHHHHH!!

-I still want some curtains over my bedroom windows, thanks.

-Cool but scary. Sometimes information overload can cause stress. This video portrays a perfect world, but as we all know it can't be so. What happens to the imperfections?!

-Who's going to throw the first brick?

-Please instruct me on how to drive to my office, car. I don't remember because I have become completely reliant on technology.

-What I find intriguing is that all the devices recognize who's looking at it. I would happily have an rfid chip implanted under my skin if it enabled my devices to remember me...and having a centralized store that kept all my information and had it tagged against my "id". The systems displayed seem to follow the perfect scenario of technology (cloud) working together right and looking at the recent past, & style of items in the commercial I see Apple being potential takers of this...it's so them

-Can't wait until future electricity bills!!!!!!!

-I'm imagining me owning an iPad the size of my bedroom wall (iWall?) Scary but irresistable, such is the human dilemma...

-what about getting back to NATURE? to trees, clean water and air? what about being in touch with oneself and ones family? these are much more important than becoming isolated. we are not build to live in a glass house. it looks good but is extremely deceiving. there is no happiness in greater technology but more enslavement. if any of these technologies fail we feel useless and disconnected.is that what you people want???


-˙uʍop ǝpısdn plɹoʍ ǝloɥʍ ʎɯ pǝuɹnʇ oǝpıʌ sıɥʇ

-Lord have mercy - what decadence. I comfort myself in the fact that to every action there's a reaction and that I will always have my free will. Ummmh.. yes - these clinical and sterile homes are not meant for humans to live in. Where's the warmth, the nature, the slight imperfections... the things that define human? This is alien.

-with all the touch sensitive public glass, the spread of germs would be insane.

-Yeah, so all this looks pretty, but it's not exactly a huge conceptual innovation - we saw all this in "Minority Report." And even without the whole "seeing the future" stuff, that wasn't a future I wanted to live in - it was covered with ads that invaded your personal information by linking with you (or in this commercial, the device in your pocket) to know your name, shopping history, etc. and pressuring you to buy more crap. And I don't want a TV on every surface in my house! Too plugged-in.


-in the future...everything will be a touchscreen, no more advances on technology will be needed because everything will be a screen, and we will be whole.

-These are really cool ideas, and it's an exciting view of the future, but is it really so great to be connected all the time? The bathroom is one place where I am available to no one, and I intend to keep it that way! If applications continue in their current trend, then 50% of the time, all of those devices will be pestering their users about new e-mails and messages. What's the purpose of going home if you're at still work virtually?

-Thats cool and all, but I think the majority of us in the future will be impressed with some half way decent food for the day and some makeshift shelter over our heads.

-A bus stop.....yeah I'll get right on rubbing my hands all over that.

-A lot of this will be done with projection. Also, where were the cameras hiding?

-Certainly, the lifestyle can be almost achieved by present technologies. However, it costs quite a lot of money!

-i want to live in a stone cavern..

-A Day Made of Glass=A Day Made Possible by Mining. All the high tech glass in the video began at a mine. Touch screen display glass is made with mostly with silica and limestone. LCD screens are made of liquid crystals made with Indium tin oxide and magnesium oxide. Not to mention the chips in the high tech gadgets used include several minerals such copper, gold, silver, graphite, lithium, titanium, and rare earth minerals.

-Doesn't look like a very appealing day to me. As a friend commented, "...poeple routinely walked past each other without even being aware anyone else was there, and that the only human contacts were momentary interruptions in interactions with gizmos or info". Not the kind of world I'm interested in pursuing, Corning.

-The future is boring

-Not cooking with Corning ware and not a piece of Steuben crystal in sight for decorating? The new age producers didn't notice that? I am born of (old) Corning stock, and it was the FIRST thing I noticed in this video.

In response to this wall of skepticism, there is a counter-criticism against America:
-It hurts to feel what the spirit of highest rated comments is about, and how many look afraid of the technology. Assuming most of English-speaking posters are US visitors, it looks like America in general is not only unready, but doesn't even want this kind of future. And this is pretty much in line with recent article in Times about decline of America. Sad.

But really, beating on America is a shortcut to thinking.  And it misses the point that tech exhaustion is a genuine and valid potential future phenomenon that none of these companies are considering.  

On top of that, some of these comments got me thinking about the tremendous need for resources to make all these tech gadgets.  The virtual world is still, as the Corning ad shows, intensely physical.  And it's tech's physicality, not its virtuality, that is radically changing the look and construction of all interiors and exteriors.  Building, work and home designs are now environments set up for optimal tech use, and the humans are increasingly incidental.  Will we become as dependent upon the resources needed to construct these tech-ridden environments as we are now upon oil?  And where are most of these resources located?  A cursory search of 'Corning contracts' brings up the following item of information from International Business Times via Benzinga. From a March 7 exclusive Benzinga report reproduced by the IB Times:
With the price of rare-earth metals on the rise -- over 28% since three months ago -- Benzinga was interested in finding out if companies were hedging against skyrocketing prices. China sits atop half of the world's rare-earth metal deposits, and it is tightening its exports of these metals.

Reuters reports that, after rare-earth shipments from China began to stall, Japanese trading houses scrambled to secure new sources of the precious metal. According to Reuters, diplomatic tensions could be at the heart of the problem.

With these recent developments, Benzinga wanted to know how companies that actually buy rare-earth metals for their products were reacting to the rise in price and demand. We were able to talk to Corning (NYSE: GLW) and Molycorp (NYSE: MCP) on the matter.

We noticed this development after reading a mention in the Wall Street Journal regarding a transaction at Corning to protect itself against future, higher prices in rare earth metals. The Wall Street Journal reported that Corning utilizes platinum and rhodium to line the melting tanks that it uses to make glass for television sets and other consumer electronics. It has stockpiled $2 billion in metals, mostly platinum and rhodium, said company Treasurer Mark Rogus. Rhodium, which isn't traded on a commodities exchange, has fluctuated between $2,300 and $2,925 an ounce since early last year, he said. Most importantly, to reduce the risk of higher prices, Corning entered into contracts that paid around $2,300 an ounce for rhodium and between $1,400 and $1,600 an ounce for platinum.

This morning, we spoke with Corning's Business Operations about the possible hedging against the rising price of rare-earth metals. He said that Corning is not big enough to move the market and that the company is simply negotiating rare earth contracts as standard fare, rather than trading the future price of rare earth metals through speculative positions. Corning explained that the Wall Street Journal mention used the term "hedging" inappropriately, as the transaction was far less speculative and much more a part of standard operating procedure for monthly operations at the company.


  1. Grow the hell up. You know the video is supposed to look perfect, right? Otherwise they wouldn't have bothered to make it. This is the future - go with it or get out of the way. You complain about this making us over-reliant upon technology and yet YOU'RE the one who spends hours and hours writing a useless blog giving your nobody opinion. Hypocrite much?!

  2. Anon, I wasn't talking about my personal opinion about tech. I was suggesting that there might be an unanticipated anti-tech backlash from people. There seem to be signs of that on message boards. This is the one thing about the shiny future that the experts are not talking about - the possibility that some people (not me personally) might reject it.