MonthMarch 2006

The Sudden Stardom of the Third-World City

The Sudden Stardom of the Third-World City (via Abstract Dynamics).

TK writes:

This brings us to the most perverse suspicion of all. Perhaps the Third-World city is more than simply the source of the things that will define the future, but actually is the future of the western city. Perhaps some of those tourists who look to the Third World for an image of their own past are reflecting uneasily on how all the basic realities of the Third-World city are already becoming more pronounced in their own cities: vast gulfs between sectors of the population across which almost no sympathetic intelligence can flow, gleaming gated communities, parallel economies and legal systems, growing numbers of people who have almost no desire or ability to participate in official systems, innovations in residential housing involving corrugated iron and tarpaulin. Is it going too far to suggest that our sudden interest in books and films about the Third-World city stems from the sense that they may provide effective preparation for our future survival in London, New York or Paris?

I hadn’t really thought of it quite like this, but yes I think some of my own interest in 3rd world megalopolises is in gaining some insight about what the future may look like for all of us.

See also: Feral Cities, Grim Meathook Future, Biopunk: the biotechnology black market, and Adam Greenfield’s Design Engaged 2005 presentation (does anyone have better notes for this?).

The Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Characters

An extensive site site tracking the religious affiliations of comic book characters. Examples:

Superman: Methodist
Spider-Man: Protestant
Batman: Episcopalian/Catholic (lapsed)
Wonder Woman: Greco-Roman Classical Religion
Captain America: Protestant
The Hulk: Non-Religious
The Thing: Jewish
Daredevil: Catholic
Wolverine: former atheist
Elektra: Greek Orthodox

The Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Characters.

(via Growabrain).

Voodoo Magic May Be Stumped by Bird Flu

ABC News:

Along the back roads of Abomey, bird flu is more than just a public health hazard. It threatens a way of life that has survived for centuries: voodoo.

And despite chasing evil spirits, people here are at a loss as to how to counter the potential devastation of a deadly virus.

Abomey, once as famous as Timbuktu, is known for two things: the birthplace of the African slave trade and of voodoo.

ABC News: Voodoo Magic May Be Stumped by Bird Flu.

How the world is conspiring to shower you with blessings

Future Hi has an excerpt from Rob Brezsny’s Pronoia:

Thousands of things go right for you every day, beginning the moment you wake up. Th rough some magic you don?t fully understand, you?re still breathing and your heart is beating, even though you?ve been unconscious for many hours. The air is a mix of gases that?s just right for your body?s needs, as it was before you fell asleep.

Future Hi: Secrets of Pronoia

2012 poll results

Here are the results from the 2012 poll. Now that the synchronicity buzz has worn off, I’m less convinced anything out of the ordinary will happen in 2012. But it’s still fun to speculate.

What do you think will happen in 2012?

Nothing (25%)
All of the above (10%)
Catastrophic climate change (10%)
Alien/interdimensional/god contact (9%)
Other catastrophe (6%)
Quantum computing (5%)
Nuclear holocaust (5%)
Human cloning break through (5%)
Other scientific break through (5%)
Time travel (2%)
Teleportation (2%)
Apocalyptic disease outbreak or bioterrorism (2%)
True AI (2%)
Affordable consumer space travel (1%)
Telepathy drug (0%)
Brain back-ups (0%)
Catastrophic water shortage (0%)
Humans attain immortality (0%)
Matter Fax (0%)

134 total votes

New Alan Moore Interview

Most of the interview is just Alan Moore complaining about DC (justifiably, but it’s still boring). But there’s some good stuff, like this from the end:

Well… that was the bit where, I could get behind what he does to Evey – this is probably telling far too much about me – I could get behind that far more than I could get behind killing people. Because it seemed to me that even though, yes, he was actually torturing Evey, this was in his own mad way, an attempt to heal her. An attempt to push her to a point where she has to wake up to herself as an individual with its own will and own wants and destiny that is not just part of the carpeting of the world, but is a person, is a fully human being. And yes, he does use rather extreme methods. I suppose what I was doing was if I were to actually go-around and imprison all the people that I wanted to mentally and spiritually set free, and subject them to torture for a couple of months, I’d probably get locked up, wouldn’t I? Nobody would understand that one. Whereas, if I put it in a comic then I can to some degree take the reader vicariously through the same experiences and give them the same revelations without risking a jail sentence which is one of the delights of fiction.

Part 1 .

Part 2 .

On attention, myware, and the precience of Headmap

I remain skeptical of whether we’re truly entering some sort of post-capitalist “attention economy.” But I’m a techie, not an economist, so I’ll leave that discussion to people better suited for it for the time being.

Regardless, attention is the new technological frontier. Reading through notes from ETech 2006, as well as other recent blogosphere activity re: glocalization, everyware, myware, etc. I was left with a feeling I’d heard rather a lot of it before. It’s pretty impressive how far ahead of their time Headmap were in when they published their manifesto in 1999. I’ve only read the Headmap Redux, available here. It had some early ideas about the stuff that’s shaping our current reality.

Here’s one particularly relevant bit:

As far as I can tell I’m a pattern following animal. There are whole years of my life that I cannot clearly remember. Sometimes in an effort to recover those years, and in the absence of a journal or diary to remind me, I grab a pile of bank statement from that year and study them to see roughly where I was and what I was doing. Usually mind numbing patterns emerge. Same Safeway, same day, every two weeks, roughly the same amount spent. Same ATM every friday night roughly the same amount. Every two weeks a meal at one of a small number of revisited restaurants. Every month rent cheque, haircut, some aberrant item like clothing or travel. If I continue long enough the pattern breaks up temporarily as I move to another city and then quickly settles down again. If I had my grocery receipts I’d find roughly the same food items recurring for months at a time. If I could trace my movements I’d find myself taking similar routes over and over again to get to the same set of destinations.

Show people their patterns in a way that might be directly useful and interesting to them, even suggest changes in behaviour and be able to measure and show direct changes in mood resulting.

Sounds a lot like what Attention Trust is up to.

They also warned us, in this blog post, of a potential dark side I’ve not yet seen discussed elsewhere:

on the darker side quantifying attention leads to being paid in attention units rather than hours, and more pay for longer periods of continuous attention ..and variable rates depending on where your attention is focused at any given moment

[call centres pretty much there already]

(Update: I remembered that this idea is also present in Snow Crash, the character who works for the federal government has her attention tracked constantly)

Africa’s new ocean

Der Spiegel reports:

Normally new rivers, seas and mountains are born in slow motion. The Afar Triangle near the Horn of Africa is another story. A new ocean is forming there with staggering speed — at least by geological standards. Africa will eventually lose its horn.

Der Spiegel Africa’s New Ocean: A Continent Splits Apart

(via Abstract Dynamics).

Cubicles: The great mistake

From Fortune magazine:

Robert Oppenheimer agonized over building the A-bomb. Alfred Nobel got queasy about creating dynamite. Robert Propst invented nothing so destructive. Yet before he died in 2000, he lamented his unwitting contribution to what he called “monolithic insanity.”

Propst is the father of the cubicle. More than 30 years after he unleashed it on the world, we are still trying to get out of the box. The cubicle has been called many things in its long and terrible reign. But what it has lacked in beauty and amenity, it has made up for in crabgrass-like persistence.

Fortune: Cubicles: The great mistake

(via Robot Wisdom).

I’ve someone managed to avoid sitting in a cube at my new job. I’m enjoying it while it lasts.

V for Vendetta is the most dangerous film of the year

From CHUD:

If you’re an idiot or a fascist, that is. Remember that when people begin complaining about this film, and try to figure out which of the two categories they fit in. Or maybe they’ll fit in both! […]

It’s shocking that a film like V For Vendetta, in which the hero can be described in no other terms but terrorist, has been made by a major movie studio, which is itself a part of a major, world-dominating corporation. Either the folks at Warner Bros and Time-Warner weren’t paying a lot of attention or they just don’t think that a movie will make any bit of difference at this point. I couldn’t disagree more, and I have to tell you that if I was still actively working as a political organizer I would be standing outside theaters showing V and handing out anti-Bush and anti-Iraq War pamphlets to exiting moviegoers. Sure, this film is about a fictional fascist state that denies its people basic liberties and makes them live in fear, and sure it’s set in the London of the future, but there’s no hiding the fact that the film’s timeline is one that begins today.

CHUD: V for Vendetta is the most dangerous film of the year

(via Post Atomic).

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