Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The present is really of no width whatever

"One of the economic units of this society is being 'in the know' or being able to convince people that you are 'in the know' ... there is always the suggestion there that there's not actually a know and the whole thing may be kind of mutually agreed upon snake oil." -- William Gibson

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Saturday, August 21, 2010

"Because after all a drained swimming pool can be filled." -- J.G. Ballard

“Sacrifice is nothing other than the production of sacred things.” -- Georges Bataille

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Transcendent City

"The concept of a future sustainable city is developed for a society that is currently not responding effectively to environmental dangers. "Transcendence" in this case referring to a point when artificial intelligence has reached or surpassed that of the human."

THE TRANSCENDENT CITY from Richard Hardy on Vimeo.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Technology and the novel, from Blake to Ballard

"Where the liberal-humanist sensibility has always held the literary work to be a form of self-expression, a meticulous sculpting of the thoughts and feelings of an isolated individual who has mastered his or her poetic craft, a technologically savvy sensibility might see it completely differently: as a set of transmissions, filtered through subjects whom technology and the live word have ruptured, broken open, made receptive. I know which side I'm on: the more books I write, the more convinced I become that what we encounter in a novel is not selves, but networks; that what we hear in poems is (to use the language of communications technology) not signal but noise. The German poet Rilke had a word for it: Geräusch, the crackle of the universe, angels dancing in the static." -- Tom McCarthy

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Subjective Validation

"Remember, your capacity to fool yourself is greater than the abilities of any conjurer, and conjurers come in many guises.

You are a creature impelled to hope, yearning for answers. As you attempt to make sense of the world you focus on what falls into place and neglect that which doesn’t fit, and there is so much in life which does not fit.

When you see a set of horoscopes, read all of them.

When someone claims they can see into your heart, realize all our hearts are much the same."

Friday, June 25, 2010

Rich-Guy Ghetto Cults

Interview with Bruce Sterling

"I'd also like to point out that large financial centers in certain cities around the planet are certainly going to kill millions of us by destroying our social safety networks in the name of their imaginary financial efficiency. You're a thousand times more likely to die because of what some urban banker did in 2008 than from what some Afghan-based terrorist did in 2001. *Financiers live in small, panicky urban cloisters, severely detached from the rest of mankind. They are living today in rich-guy ghetto cults. They are truly dangerous to our well-being, and they are getting worse and more extremist, not better and more reasonable. You're not gonna realize this havoc till you see your elderly Mom coughing in an emergency ward, but she's going there for a reason." -- Bruce Sterling

Monday, June 21, 2010

Tom Waits Interviews Himself

Q: What’s wrong with the world?
A: We are buried beneath the weight of information, which is being confused with knowledge; quantity is being confused with abundance and wealth with happiness. Leona Helmsley’s dog made $12 million last year… and Dean McLaine, a farmer in Ohio, made $30,000. It’s just a gigantic version of the madness that grows in every one of our brains. We are monkeys with money and guns.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Predictably Irrational

This guy, Dan Ariely, having survived third-degree burns over seventy percent of his body and a contaminated blood transfusion that left him with liver disease, endured the medication that would eventually save his life but cause him to suffer debilitating side effects by conditioning his irrational self to associate taking the medication with his favourite past-time -- watching movies. Incredible story. And his message is important: "man the rational animal" is a misnomer. We would do better to acknowledge how predictably irrational we are, and use that to our advantage.

In this CBC Quirks and Quarks interview, June 5: The Upside of Irrationality, Ariely addresses human empathy when it comes to large scale crisis and the 'identifiable victim effect'. Stalin said "One death is a tragedy, a million is a statistic." Mother Teresa said, "If I look at the masses, I will never act. If I look at the one, I will". One child falls down a well and there is more news coverage in forty hours than Rwanda and Darfur put together. Big, statistical problems mute us. When people 'feel' sympathy for a victim they care and are willing to take action. But when people have to 'think' about a crisis they are far less willing to do so.

Climate change. How do we get people to care about a crisis that is more abstract, less immediate, and in the long-term future? Lame attempts at eliciting sympathy for polar bears or displaced Northern coastal communities? The problem is far more crucial than this. Ariely suggests "reward substitution" to get people to do things for global warming AS IF they care. Playing to the irrational ego toward a rational end. I suspect 'game design' may become important in this respect -- marketers and large corporations designing recreational or consumer driven activity that draws on cognitive surplus, immediately satisfies the irrational, selfish ego, yet somehow contributes to effecting change and benefiting society.

Responsive Cities

Ben Cerveny from Stamen on how urban scale computational infrastructure could transform everyday life in the city. The city, as a social environment, is a medium of collaborative performance through which the individual writes desire with the 'handles' of mobile, ubiquitous computing. One important point he raises towards the end is the convergence of 'code' and 'law' in the provisioning of services in public space. Provisioning is scarier than surveillance. It is one thing to have a law against playing your boombox in the park after curfew -- a 'soft law' that can be broken despite the surveillance technology to dissuade one from doing so -- and 'hard code' that, for example, would give permissions to technological services to only certain individuals at certain times.