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.

Showing posts with label Ray Kurzweil. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ray Kurzweil. Show all posts

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Global Transhumanist Technocracy 1.0

Protests over the coronavirus lockdowns are becoming more intense, especially in the United States, as the impending related economic collapse comes into sharper focus. In Michigan, USA armed protesters entered the State Capitol building on 30 April 2020. Views are divided on these protests. Critics on social media showered  protesters with withering, politicized contempt; for example:
"All I see is a bunch of retarded right wingers and neo nazis getting Covid!"
"Why didnt one of this idiot fire a shot on the floor by accident and that will shut these fucker up. Imagine how the swat will get their asses."
".....morons, illiterates and animals, WITH WEAPONS. A person's true nature is always exposed in a crisis situation. I don't know about you, but I fear for our future."
"Bro if I was the governor I would have riot police push these fuckers outta the building"
The next uproar in the state of Michigan revolved around Karl Manke, a barber in Owosso, who reopened his shop, surrounded by supporters. When the police came to shut down the shop, an armed militia mobilized to block the police. A Circuit Court judge subsequently refused to uphold the Governor's order to shut down the shop.

Protesters argue with police inside Michigan Capitol building (30 April 2020). Video Source: Youtube.

Karl Manke, Barber, Interview (9 May 2020). Video Source: Youtube.

Militia DEFENDS Shop Owners In Michigan! - DEMANDS Police Stand DOWN! (12 May 2020). Video Source: Youtube.

In Seattle, Washington, USA, police officer Greg Anderson refused to arrest citizens for walking down the streets and other pandemic protocol violations. The father of three was subsequently put on leave, then fired for refusing to take down his Instagram message to other police officers (below). A family friend set up a Go Fund Me campaign on 11 May 2020. The crowdfund has raised almost half a million US dollars. The initial goal was USD $50,000.

These Tyrants Just Fired The Best Officer In The Nation. This Just Proves Cops Are Tyrannical (11 May 2020). Video Source: Youtube.

The Go Fund Me campaign for Officer Greg Anderson, Port of Seattle Police.

In Sacramento, California, a Marine veteran, Dr. Cordie Lee Williams, who is based in San Diego and Los Angeles, chastised police who were guarding the State Capitol building until the police stood down.

California Police STAND DOWN After Marine Vet Challenges Their Integrity (3 May 2020). Video Source: Youtube.

My friend and reader, -C., who is based in Switzerland, sent me the following worldwide protest video. Canadian friends, -H. and -J. forwarded me the document which is below that and asked me to post it.

Lockdown Protests - The Great Awakening WorldWide (Huge Compilation Mai 2020) (3 May 2020). Video Source: Youtube.

Global Transhumanist Technocracy 1.0

NATO Dark Hand On Trump And CoronaVirus Now Evident (13 May 2020). Video Source: Youtube.

There are two theories evolving in the alt media about nCov now, and neither focuses on public health. Both theories assume that the pandemic is really about the development of new weaponry and the introduction of new technology. One view, developed by George Webb, Dr. Paul Cottrell, Dr. Judy Mikovits and others, focuses on the big business of vaccines, as a front end activity for bioweapons development and espionage.

Judy Mikovits - Paul Cottrell Interview Summary By George Webb (15 May 2020). Video Source: Youtube.

The second view, developed by Aaron and Melissa Dykes at Truthstream Media, among other members of the alt media, such as James Corbett and James Evan Pilato, is that we are witnessing the initial launch of the brain-body-machine interface. I find the second view convincing.

THE PURPOSE OF DISRUPTION (15 May 2020). Video Source: Bitchute.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

What's Left Over? The New World Emperor

"The work of Geert Vanhoovels comprises assemblings, ‘monotube sculptures’, digital images and ‘art & strategy projects’. His conceptual ‘Transhuman Generation Art’ is associated with philosophic aspects related to transhumanism." Image Source: Art People Gallery.

Yesterday morning, I had a taste of the new paranoia. I walked outside my house and overhead, a series of planes were flying as they released striking contrails, one after the other, sequentially and in parallel lines, over about four hours. They were not originating from, nor flying to, the area of the sky where the two closest major airports are located in Ottawa and Montreal. That is, they were not following the paths always followed by passenger jets. Rather, they flew between these cities, meaning that the planes flew from rural airfields, from a location about 60 miles west of Montreal, to another location, 60 to 80 miles east or northeast of Ottawa.

Chemtrails are not my thing. I have not gone down that rabbit hole, nor entertained those conspiracy theories. Nor do I write about climate change on this blog because it is such a politicized issue.

Plane Overhead, Eastern Ontario May 2, 2020 (3 May 2020). Video Source: Youtube.

This display was blatant and unusual. The day started with a clear blue sky. After four hours of this phenomenon, the sky became white and congested. These are the oddities behind the current situation.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Prepare for the Saudi Singularity

I have published a new post (here) at Vocal Media, which argues that the upheavals in Saudi Arabia are symptomatic of a massive shift from economies based on oil, to economies based on the next stage of technology.

I argue that events in Riyadh's Ritz-Carlton suggest that the Singularity is coming, but not the way we expected. The Singularity will be commandeered by the Saudis, meaning that the dominant cultural tone of the Singularity will not be California Silicon Valley culture, or Asian culture, or German Tech-Kultur, or even Silicon Britain - or other global cultures you might expect.

Rather, the Singularity will be dominated by Wahhabist Islam.

The situation is far more complex than I have outlined in that Vocal piece; for more details, see James Corbett's summaries below. I don't always agree with Corbett's interpretations and opinions, but he has put together a decent overview of the situation, albeit from an alt-media perspective. He includes reasons why the Crown Prince may not succeed in commandeering the Singularity, much less Saudi Arabia.

Regardless, Corbett recognizes the basic new truth of our lives: Data is the New Oil. Erected before us like an unavoidable totem, this truth is not just economic or technological. Despite the scientific bent of technology, I maintain that the primary impact of this truth will be cultural and especially religious. We are at the exact moment that will determine which culture dominates and shapes the post-carbon era of the Singularity, related technocratic governments, and their official religions.

The Saudi Purge is a Global Crisis (17 November 2017). Video Source: Youtube.

Why Big Oil Conquered The World (6 October 2017). Video Source: Youtube

How Big Oil Conquered the World (27 December 2015). Video Source: Youtube.

Data is the New Oil (24 November 2017). Video Source: Youtube

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Saturation Point

Image Source: Business2Community.

Singularity experts regard ageing as a complex set of biological mechanisms which can be decoded, rebooted with stem cells, rejigged genetically, medicated, contained, redirected and even reversed. This is a literal-minded over-rationalization. Gurus like Ray Kurzweil set a date for the onset of the Singularity (the year 2045!), the way wild-eyed prophets used to arrive out of the desert to predict the end of the world. The end of the world was often a year that was almost, but not quite, over the horizon.

Perhaps ageing can be conquered by downloading human consciousness into a computer, or eased by engaging with the arts and material culture. However you choose to attack the problem, once you are out of the goldilocks zone of ages 18 to 35 - the period when the world weighs your juvenile potential and considers you to be naturally synchronized with material dynamics - the ageing process asks you one simple question about psychological agility: how much change can you take? Can you bear the emotional burden of the Singularity? What is your saturation point?

In Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy, the scientific unlocking of ageing biology and related diseases is fairly easily accomplished. The real challenge comes when the ultra-aged face prolonged mental distress as their brains are expected to survive beyond a normal human lifespan. After the Singularity, Robinson predicted, the eternally young will go mad. Only the most resilient will learn how to survive, and the results will not be pretty.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Space Farming: Little Green Tendrils of Chaos

You can take it with you: Nigella damascena, a type of buttercup, germinated in a lab on the International Space Station. Image Source: Wiki.

When we depart for the Final Frontier, we will have to become very good at farming in zero gravity and on other worlds. Anyone who has tried the most basic seed planting and coaxed a plant to maturity under ideal earthly conditions may start to appreciate what a daunting task that is. Even in today's era of Frankenfoods, plants don't care what humans think they should be or do. If you try to force plants or their environment to run counter to the laws they expect to follow, they simply die. If scientists are able to force plants in the short term via genetic modification to satisfy artificial human fads and demands, there will always be a correction in the environment, somewhere, that will decimate the plan. Period. For thousands of years, people have tried to play god with plants. Even when they achieve some success, that never become god. Biology will never be fully instrumentalized by humans, and it's a good thing too. It is that scary unknown factor in agriculture which brings a host of problems to space colonization.

On 12 March 2015, NASA confirmed via Hubble's observations that Jupiter's moon Ganymede has a huge water ocean under an ice crust, which could mean that it harbours life. Image Souce: Sci Tech Daily.

Experts claim that the only way for humanity to survive over the long term is that we clear that hurdle in the future. According to Stephen Hawking, whatever problems we may have down here on earth, a bigger one trumps them all. Our future lies in the stars, he argues, and humanity must eventually abandon this planet or face extinction. Does God play dice he asks, paraphrasing Einstein? Yes, He does, Hawking argues, asserting that there is an underlying range of chaotic variability, an unpredictability, to everything. Hawking contradicts Einstein's insistence that there had to be an underlying order in everything which we could not yet grasp. Despite Hawking's faith that the future cannot be predicted, he is certain humankind must go through a cataclysmic bottleneck, a test of survival, a possible extinction event. Over the next thousand years, space exploration must be our inevitable future. There is no wiggle room on this, he concludes, due to global warming, nuclear annihilation, or a genetically-engineered virus.

Cultural expectations of transcendent Singularity (which include a faith in space colonization) continue the very mechanistic mentality, a 19th century positivism, which quantum physicists criticize. Humans-as-machines is a very popular idea now, and culturally speaking, it is big, but not that deep. Humans are now addicted to, and obsessed by, their species' new computing power. Pause to observe the stunning fact that 40 per cent of the world's population got a new heroin habit over the past 20 years that was socially acceptable, economically profitable (if also economically tumultuous), politically unstable, and governmentally dubious. Then imagine that the most hard core tech addicts insist that we must lose ourselves in the addiction, becoming more and more like the technological objects of our adoration.

In fact, successful space exploration might be achieved only by an antithetical stance, a renewal of the organic, in a move that counters the seductive, semi-sexual love affair with computer gadgetry. In this post, I noted how popular ideas in the 1920s and 1930s shaped scientists' early conceptions of dark matter. In cultural terms, today's Singularity and quantum aficionados are 1920s' and 1930s' revivalists.

That is the kind of point that confirms that culture and science are not contending opposites; instead, they make an unexpected pair of yoked oxen. How scientists interpret and conceptualize their findings is heavily influenced by their cultural values, about which they are rarely objective or intensively schooled. This is why science fiction author Charlie Stross argued that space colonization is not a story about extending technology, despite all the technical trappings of the exercise. It is a story, as Frank Herbert knew well, about our relationship with the environment. And that relationship, given our psychology, almost always is expressed mystically and philosophically through the expansion and transformation of religion; Stross pondered some of this:
I'm going to take it as read that the idea of space colonization isn't unfamiliar; domed cities on Mars, orbiting cylindrical space habitats a la J. D. Bernal or Gerard K. O'Neill, that sort of thing. Generation ships that take hundreds of years to ferry colonists out to other star systems where — as we are now discovering — there are profusions of planets to explore. And I don't want to spend much time talking about the unspoken ideological underpinnings of the urge to space colonization, other than to point out that they're there, that the case for space colonization isn't usually presented as an economic enterprise so much as a quasi-religious one. "We can't afford to keep all our eggs in one basket" isn't so much a justification as an appeal to sentimentality.
A response to that post, quoted at the Daily Galaxy, dismissed these culturally-derived warnings because transhumanists believe we will meld with machines and morph into something non-human, or superhuman, or post-human:
[Stross doesn't take] into account the possibility of post-Singularity, Drexlerian, Kardashev Type II civilizations. Essentially, we're talking about post-scarcity civilizations with access to molecular assembling nanotechnology, radically advanced materials, artificial superintelligence, and access to most of the energy available in the solar system. "Stross also too easily dismisses how machine intelligences, uploaded entities and AGI will impact on how space could be colonized. He speculates about biological humans being sent from solar system to solar system, and complains of the psychological and social hardships that could be inflicted on an individual or crew. He even speculates about the presence of extraterrestrial pathogens that undoubtedly awaits our daring explorers. This is a highly unlikely scenario. Biological humans will have no role to play in space. Instead, this work will be done by robots and quite possibly cyborgs.
That is such a 2000s' thing to say. Super-this, nano-that.  In 2005, Ray Kurzweil maintained in The Singularity is Near that we could interface with our technology, the way computers interface with each other, and in so doing we could transcend our biology. It was a fashionable, and now dated, thing to assume. The post-Singularity hypothesis tells you more about 2005 than it does about 2500.

Part of that hypothesis suggests that our addiction to computers is reaching blind adoration, and extends to the assumption that they are, or will be, smarter than we are. We love them so, such that we will either join with them (a typical, unreflective psycho-sexual assumption), and/or they will out-survive us. This is exactly the kind of thing an addict would say about his or her drug: it's stronger than I am; it's destroying me in the long term; but I love it anyway in the short term because it enhances my capabilities. The Daily Galaxy:
In a futuristic mode similar to Hawking, both Steven Dick, chief NASA historian and Carnegie-Mellon robotics pundit, Hans Moravec, believe that human biological evolution is but a passing phase: the future of mankind will be as vastly evolved sentient machines capable of self-replicating and exploring the farthest reaches of the Universe programmed with instructions on how to recreate earth life and humans to target stars. Dick believes that if there is a flaw in the logic of the Fermi Paradox, and extraterrestrials are a natural outcome of cosmic evolution, then cultural evolution may have resulted in a post-biological universe in which machines are the predominant intelligence.
There is so much blind confidence in the secular window dressing around science and technology, that there is no warning that Millennial technological prophets employ the language of cult leaders. They speak the high-priestly language of a sacred mentality with religious fervour, and remain unaware of what they are actually doing, because they are scientists. They predict the future, while in the same breath admit that science tells them that the future cannot be predicted.

Eco horror from John Wyndham: alien trees might be triffid-like on planets in binary, two-sun systems. Image Source: Passenger Films.

Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction #1.

Image Source.
Will the techno-rapture break down over space farming, when the plants remind us about our bottom line dependence on the environment? That is the final cultural pre-condition. We breathe air. We drink water. And despite our love affair with our shiny tools, we need the other earthly organisms which have evolved alongside us. What will the galaxy gurus do when the plants refuse to grow, or start to die, or grow tendrils 12 feet long so that they can snag and eat the colonists?

What if, in the wilds of space, space colonies and spaceships, plants can survive better than we can, arise to occupy a superior evolutionary niche to do so, and eventually overthrow and destroy us? They are only tamed here on earth because terran conditions allow us to be dominant. Space colony die-hards forget that humans evolved to a dominant position out of, and within, this earthly ecosystem, and no other. Once humankind leaves this planet with other terran species, to interact in long-haul spacecraft and space colony ecosystems, there are no guarantees that humans will dominate those systems. Even with humans supported by the technology they developed, plants may not remain their silent slaves. And this is before animal husbandry comes into the mix.

In a related vein, Mars One - the plan to send colonists on a one way trip to Mars by 2027, aka the final apex of reality television - came under harsh criticism this week. Their candidate selection practices and media entertainment fund-raising took a bashing. Critics dismiss Mars One as a pyramid scheme, even though that is only symptomatic of a more pressing problem. The reason private companies are taking over space exploration is because of politics. For years in the United States, a bizarre scenario has unfolded in which global warming has been pitted politically against space explorationObama's government slashed NASA's budget and money for other Big Science projects, which meant that other countries are now challenging or outcompeting America in these fields. Under these conditions, private companies will merge commercial capitalism with space aspirations and exploration technology. This week, Mars One's technological feasibility critics came through the loudest because a 2014 MIT study declared that Mars One's colonists' first wheat crop would blow their life support systems.

An independent MIT study from October 2014 concluded that the maturation of Mars One colonists' wheat crops would blow their life support systems by creating an overabundance of oxygen. Image Source: Extreme Tech.

Agriculture adds an element of the universe's chaos into any plan for survival in space and space colonies. This is the chaos whose metrics physicists like Hawking constantly seek and which eludes them. This is the chaos which makes them admit that they cannot predict the future, right at the moment when technology dangles a future in front of them that they want to believe (rather than prove). This agricultural element of the unseen, of perceptual error, of the unknowable, confirms that space farming would constantly remind us of our essential humanity, right when space exploration threatened to dehumanize its technologists and engineers. It is organic chaos, culminating in our unpredictable relationship with the unwieldy environment and other organisms which may have the last laugh, which reminds us how fragile we are and that we must colonize the stars with humility. Luke, the hero of the original Star Wars trilogy, was raised as a farmer. It's no wonder why George Lucas did that. This is why, this week, the Mars One project came under fire around the question at the heart of all human civilizations: not media, not money, but agriculture.

An earlier post on HOTTC discussed the film, Silent Running (1972), in which the 1970s' back-to-the-land movement met the 1970s' space opera. You can hear Joan Baez's performance for the film's folksy soundtrack below the jump. Will the calls for space colonization overlap with the Millennial back-to-the land movement? So far, they haven't. Below the jump, see a selection of plants which have been planted on the International Space Station, and which plants are planned for future greenhouses on the moon and Mars. Several foods have been tested on the ISS, including the first bagels in space.

"Plant growth chambers, seeds and watering devices that made up part of an experiment flown to the space station during the STS-118 space shuttle mission [in 2007]. The seeds were later returned to Earth and grown within lunar growth chambers designed by students." Image Source: NASA via Phys.org.

Friday, June 15, 2012

In Time

Image Source: 20th Century Fox via Biology of Technology.

Time is money. Benjamin Franklin's quip drives Andrew Niccol's 2011 film, In Time, in which human lifespans, hard-wired in people's arms, are traded as hard currency. While the film is an average sci-fi thriller, it is conceptually interesting from a Millennial point of view.

In this story, the Singularity, so trumpeted by today's Boomer gurus such as Michio Kaku and Ray Kurzweil, has arrived. No one ages physically past age 25, and after that, they are given one year to live. They can extend that span and live forever if they can earn, buy, beg or steal the extra time. Citizens' lifespans can be automatically increased or decreased through clasping arms or accessing time terminals.

In the film, the Singularity has created a viciously hierarchical society, with the highest ranks accessible only to those who have time to spare. Police officers are known as 'time-keepers' and geopolitical jurisdictions are called time zones. The wealthiest zone, where people live with over 100 or even 1,000 years of excess time stored in their arms, is dubbed New Greenwich. In the poorest zones, people have only a few minutes or hours available to them, and they constantly have to scrounge to gain a few more minutes of life. There is enough time in total for everyone to live a normal lifespan, but the wealthy have accumulated and stored that time, keeping it from the poor, so that the former may live forever. The film has a generational message. In New Greenwich, most people are middle-aged and elderly, although they look young. In the slums, most people are actually young, and they die young. Immortality, enabled by gadgets embedded in the body, masquerades as Darwinian capitalism.

The balance of power see-saws between haves and have-nots, hinging on a clunky Bonnie and Clyde plot that recalls the Great Depression. This 1930s' reference reflects the Great Recession and the explosion of technology in our own time, and suggests how tech is changing our society and our economy.

Above all, the movie promises that technology creates and will create ever-worsening inquality, chronic debt and inflation, a decimation of the middle classes, and a small, super-rich class. While the poor are legally free, they are bound by their lack of time. One character remarks: "The truth is, for a few to be immortal, many must die." In response, an Occupy-type rebellion disseminates millions of human life years among the temporally impoverished in the name of equality.

This film offers a pretty conventional 20th century critique of evil capitalists. Its flaw is that it never questions the high tech Singularity which enables the entire dystopia. Despite this, the film implicitly confirms a fact never discussed in the mainstream media and business papers, namely, that our current recession is causally connected to the explosion of new technologies.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Unabomber's Trojan Horse

Most of the people today who have integrated high technology into their lives without question, and indeed, may even be unwittingly enslaved by it, were born around the time the turn-of-the-Millennium's original neo-Luddite was caught and convicted in 1996. Thus, they would not necessarily grasp the fact that a brilliant young Harvard-educated mathematician foresaw their intimate attachment to high tech and violently opposed it in the name of protecting this younger generation. In the 1970s and 1980s, Ted Kaczynski veered from the then-popular back-to-the-land movement towards anti-tech terrorism. Incidentally, in his teens as a young Harvard prodigy, he had volunteered for psychological tests at the university to earn pocket money; these turned out to be traumatic mind control experiments. These experiences likely caused deep psychological damage and not unreasonably, fostered in Kaczynski a high level of paranoia and a distrust of authorities.

Kaczynski's story became a bizarre, real-life version of the Terminator sci-fi film franchise. In our fantasies, a neo-Luddite time-tossed nuclear family like Kyle Reese and Sarah and John Conner are heroes, misunderstood saviours who are humanity's last hope against sentient machines. But in our reality, someone who acted as these fictional heroes would is marginalized, crazy, murderous, isolated, and incarcerated.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Fountain of Youth 13: The Psychological Distress of Immortality

What Else Is There? (2012) © by oO-Rein-Oo at Deviant Art. Reproduced with kind perimission.

On January 30, novelist Jonathan Franzen expressed his worries to the Guardian that ebooks would corrode values and diminish an appreciation for paper books (thanks to -J.).  "All the real things are dying off," he sighed.  This provoked plenty of sharp criticism in the comments, for example: "Jonathan Franzen warns that people shouldn't travel by train as the greater than horse carriage speed may suffocate passengers through an involuntary inhalation of ether."

But Franzen made one thought-provoking comment that, if extrapolated, could explain why we age:
"One of the consolations of dying is that [you think], 'Well, that won't have to be my problem'," he said. "Seriously, the world is changing so quickly that if you had any more than 80 years of change I don't see how you could stand it psychologically."
This got me thinking about the primary cause of ageing.  What if the primary reason we age is not physical, as futurists such as Kurzweil would have us believe?  What if we age because our brains are hard-wired to exist for no more than 100 years at the absolute limit?  What if our brains cannot handle the psychological test of ageing, combined with historic change in our environment?  What if it's our brains that begin short-circuiting the body, forcing it to collapse and ultimately fail?  What if ageing is a measure of how we are mentally able to adapt to change, or not adapt to it?  Conversely, does that mean that the true elixir of life is a case of mind over matter?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Fountain of Youth 12: Kurzweil on Cheating the Reaper

Image Source: Dark Roasted Blend.

This is a post on why Ray Kurzweil's immortal singularity will never happen.  Kurzweil claims we will obliterate ageing via technological advances. His Boomer sensibilities seek an eternal youth in which a combination of drugs, vitamin and diet therapies and the injection of cell-repairing nanobots will obliterate not just disease, but ageing itself, thereby jolting humanity to its next transhuman evolutionary level. You can see one of his discussions on this topic below the jump.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Old New Limitless Power Source for the Future

Image by Chabacano (2008). Image Source: Wiki.

A scoop over at Ray Kurzweil's site indicates a 1960s' concept for cheap limitless power is coming back in fashion and may be technically feasible in 10 to 20 years. (Thanks to -S.) This is coming out today in a report from the International Academy of Astronautics. Amara D. Angelica reports on Space-based Solar Power, which involves placing solar collectors in Earth's orbit and then transmitting the energy wirelessly to Earth:
On Monday, the National Space Society (NSS) will present findings from an eye-opening new report by the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA). You’re hearing about this here first. (Full disclosure: I’m a member of the NSS board of directors.) ...

In 2002, Dr. Martin Hoffert, Professor Emeritus of Physics, New York University, proposed a radical solution to what appears to be a serious coming energy shortfall (Science, 2002): space solar power (SSP) — collect energy from space and transmit it wirelessly anywhere in the world.

The basic concept, invented in the late 60s by Dr. Peter Glaser of Arthur D. Little: a large platform, positioned in space in a high Earth orbit continuously collects and converts solar energy into electricity. This power is then used to drive a wireless power transmission system that transmits the solar energy to receivers on Earth. Because of its immunity to nighttime, to weather or to the changing seasons, the SPS concept. has the potential to achieve much greater energy efficiency than ground based solar power systems.

There are significant advantages to SSP compared to ground solar power, according to an NSS statement: solar energy in space is seven times greater per unit area than on the ground, and the collection of solar space energy is not disrupted by nightfall and inclement weather, avoiding the need for expensive energy storage. And it’s especially valuable for isolated areas of the world (parts of Africa and India, for example.)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Retro-Futurism 9: Looking Back at the Past, With the Past Looking Forward at Us

Villemard (1910) - En L'An 2000 - At School.

A few days ago, I picked up on an I09 review of the Millennial Web comic Tozo - The Public Servant (see my post here).  To better grasp Retro-Futurism, I want to compare Tozo to a collection of postcards from 1910, in which the French artist Villemard envisioned the year 2000. In this case, a fin-de-siècle Futurist closely resembles the work of a turn-of-the-Millennium Retro-Futurist. Villemard's collection has been making the rounds on the Web for about two years. It is housed at the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF; French National Library); but it has been carried on - among other sites - Flickr, The Pursuitist, We are Replicants, The Society Pages, The UtopianistSelectismBoing Boing, BldgBlog, and A Cultivated Mindset, (many thanks to J. for the reference).  These sites all picked up on the charm of an outdated futurist.  But they did not explain why those images resonate so much now and why they are so popular on temporally-oriented Websites like How to be a Retronaut.

 Villemard (1910) - En L'An 2000 - Chantier de construction électrique.

Two things strike me about this 1910 collection.  First, Villemard's understanding of the future shows us just how impossible it is for us to accurately predict what things will be like, even one short century from now. That means we should look at current claims, such as those from Boomer futurist Ray Kurzweil and other wild hypotheses regarding the Technological Singularity, with some skepticism.  For a recent Transhumanist critique of Millennial Futurists, go here.

Villemard (1910) - En L'An 2000 - Air Firemen.

Second, while Villemard's 1910 predictions were eerily correct in some respects and wildly off in others as far as our daily reality in 2000 went, his pictures accurately predicted the Millennial taste for Retro-Futurism.  Villemard's images closely match our illustrations of the future as we gaze back toward the past The past looks toward the future; the present looks toward the past (with an eye on the future!); and the two views overlap almost exactly.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Everything You Know is Wrong

Image Source: Free Will Astrology.

Pessimism dominates the Millennial Zeitgeist. The thrill of predicting apocalypse is everywhere, whether you are an environmental activist, a light sweet crude oil trader or a religious eschatologist. After the stock exchange, one of the areas of our culture most devoted to predicting the future is astrology. Without discussing its credibility, one can find in astrology's popularity an index of our desire to read the signs and predict what is coming. It is a gauge of our interest in knowing time that is unknowable, and of how we try to know it. 

The astrologer Rob Brezsny advocates optimism. To teach spirituality, he inverts beliefs we take for granted. A few years ago, he went out onto a freeway in California and gave away handfuls of money to passing motorists. This was his attempted karmic counter-balance to the greed of pre-Great Recession America. At the time, it looked crazy. But remember that Brezsny spends a lot of time thinking about the future. And in a way, what he did that day was a true indicator of what was coming. A Recession-ridden society is one forced to reevaluate its priorities and values, to give rather than take, to return to its roots.

Brezsny's optimism is a far cry from the bright eagerness of futurists like Ray Kurzweil, who hang their hopes on the Technological Singularity. Boomers both, still driven by the courage of their convictions as well as irrepressible confidence, it is Brezsny who appears far more attuned to the human side of massive change. One thing he argues is that we are living through the apocalypse right now. (Others think that the apocalypse has already happened and we are blindly toiling through the wreckage; in this view, World War I is often seen the turning point that changed everything.) In five years, or ten, or twenty, we will look back and say Brezsny was right, in the same way we might now say it, looking back on his antics on the motorway before the Great Recession. What does it mean if our world is on the verge of becoming 'post-apocalyptic' - and why should that be a good thing?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Night of First Ages

King Kong (2005). Image © Universal Pictures. Image Source: DVD Exchange Online.

2011 began with high hopes.  Given the early January headlines, I find myself speculating on what we can already gather from the tone of a new year.  Deaths of birds and fish across the globe fueled the apocalyptic eschatology which has become an ever-present subtext in popular discourse.  An American Congresswoman was targeted in a brutal and horrifying assassination attempt, while other people were tragically killed and injured by her side.  And Facebook has received a shot in the arm of half a billion dollars.  It is not cheerful fare. Wikipedia and NASA have marked some crucial anniversaries in the past two weeks, but those testify to the mind-boggling changes we have endured in terms of information-based and technological innovations in the past three decades. The fact that Wiki is only ten years old, yet is already a monolithic institution shows how rapid the changes are.

The anticipated Technological Singularity is narrowly defined on Wiki as an exponential acceleration of technological change past a point which we can currently comprehend. From Wiki: "Many of the most recognized writers on the singularity, such as Vernor Vinge and Ray Kurzweil, define the concept in terms of the technological creation of superintelligence, and allege that a post-singularity world would be unpredictable to humans due to an inability of human beings to imagine the intentions or capabilities of superintelligent entities."