MonthMarch 2011

Map of the History of Fantasy and Science Fiction, From Gilgamesh to Battlestar Gallactica

Fantasy and science fiction history

Full sized image

Amazing map of the history of science fiction, from its fantasy origins in Gilgamesh to modern mainstream television with stops along the way for gothic novels, Frankenstein, H.G. Wells, Olaf Stapledon, cyberpunk and so much more.

This comes from the Mapping Science website, but I haven’t been able to find an entry for it there.

(I saw this all over the place, but special thanks to Ian for finally getting me to take a look)

Grant Morrison’s Book on Super Heroes Gets a Title, Release Date

According to Amazon.com, Grant Morrison’s forthcoming book on super heroes will be called Supergods: What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and a Sun God from Smallville Can Teach Us About Being Human. It’s scheduled for July 19, 2011. Here’s the description:

The first superhero comic ever published, Action Comics #1 in 1938, introduced the world to something both unprecedented and profoundly familiar: Superman, a caped god for the modern age. In a matter of years, the skies of the imaginary world were filled with strange mutants, aliens, and vigilantes: Batman, Wonder Woman, the Fantastic Four, Captain Marvel, Iron Man, and the X-Men—the list of names is as familiar as our own. In less than a century they’ve gone from not existing at all to being everywhere we look: on our movie and television screens, in our videogames and dreams. But why?

For Grant Morrison, possibly the greatest of contemporary superhero storytellers, these heroes are not simply characters but powerful archetypes whose ongoing, decades-spanning story arcs reflect and predict the course of human existence: Through them, we tell the story of ourselves. In this exhilarating book, Morrison draws on history, art, mythology, and his own astonishing journeys through this alternate universe to provide the first true chronicle of the superhero—why they matter, why they will always be with us, and what they tell us about who we are.

It’s now available for pre-order. No cover art yet, though.

(Thanks Ian!)

Typewriters Catching on with Young People

typewriter

I can see the appeal:

“I’m in love with all of them,” said Louis Smith, 28, a lanky drummer from Williamsburg. Five minutes later, he had bought a dark blue 1968 Smith Corona Galaxie II for $150. “It’s about permanence, not being able to hit delete,” he explained. “You have to have some conviction in your thoughts. And that’s my whole philosophy of typewriters.”

Whether he knew it or not, Mr. Smith had joined a growing movement. Manual typewriters aren’t going gently into the good night of the digital era. The machines have been attracting fresh converts, many too young to be nostalgic for spooled ribbons, ink-smudged fingers and corrective fluid. And unlike the typists of yore, these folks aren’t clacking away in solitude. [...]

That doesn’t make them Luddites. For many younger typewriter users, the old technology rests comfortably beside the new. Matt Cidoni, 16, of East Brunswick, N.J., keeps a picture of his favorite machine, a Royal No. 10, on his iPod Touch so he can show it off to friends. Online, he is a proud member of the “typosphere,” a global community of typewriter geeks. Like many of them, he enjoys “typecasting,” or tapping out typewritten messages, which he scans and posts to his Web site, Adventures in Typewriterdom. One of his favorite typecasting blogs, Strikethru, is run by a Microsoft employee. In Mr. Cidoni’s world view, there’s nothing technologically inconsistent about such things.

New York Times: Click, Clack, Ding! Sigh …

Atemporality keeps everything from dying.

See also: The Guy I Almost Was.

(Via William Gibson, who writes: “Get one now. You saw what happened with mechanical watches.”)

Robots, Automation and the Future of Work

This is a presentation by Marshall Brain, founder of How Stuff Works. He’s written more extensively on the subject in an essay called Robotic Nation, which I haven’t read yet.

I think Brain might be overestimating the ability of machine-vision and natural language processing to supplant human intelligence, but the general trend towards fewer and fewer jobs is real one that I’ve written about a lot lately.

(via Justin Pickard)

Damon Lindelof: LOST in One Tweet

As you know, I’m no fan of the ending of LOST. But I was still pleased by Damon Lindelof’s participation in this Twitter meme.

#lostinonetweet

Damaged people crash on damaged island. People fix each other, then island. All consumed in bright light. Yay! (or Boo!) #LOSTINONETWEET

The Most Anxiety-Producing Jobs Are Those In Which the Workers Have Little Control Over Their Day to Day Activities

Salon interviewed Taylor Clark, author of Nerve: Poise Under Pressure, Serenity Under Stress, and the Brave New Science of Fear and Cool:

In your research, which jobs did you find to be the most stressful?

You might think that jobs that require the biggest amount of work or the longest hours would be the worst, but that’s not actually the case. The most anxiety-producing jobs are the ones in which the employee has very little control over what he or she does during the workday. One of the more compelling studies that I talk about in the book compares musicians in smaller, chamber groups with those that play in a larger orchestra. The former proved to be a lot less anxious than the latter because they got to decide their own schedule. Orchestral musicians tend to be at the mercy of a tyrannical conductor who decides when they play, what they play and when everyone can take a bathroom break. The notion of executive stress syndrome — the idea that bosses and corporate executives experience much higher levels of anxiety than their underlings — has proven to be total bullshit. Executives tend to have more control over what they’re doing, and they often displace their anxieties on the people that work beneath them.

So a run-of-the-mill production assistant is more stressed out than an air traffic controller?

We love to point a finger at air traffic controllers, but we may need to stop. Objectively speaking, their job has gotten more stressful in the last quarter-century. There are fewer of them employed now and they’re dealing with more traffic than at any point in the history of air travel. The difference is that Ned Reese, who headed the training for our country’s air traffic controllers for a number of years, has completely radicalized the selection process. Rather than pick people based on their physical proficiency, he began hiring controllers with a very a specific psychological makeup. We might see their work as stressful, but they tend to think of it as simply challenging.

Salon: “Nerve”: Why is America so anxious?

(via Alex Pang)

New Interview with Mathpunk Tom Henderson

Mathpunk

There’s a new interview with Tom Henderson (aka Mathpunk) on the podcast Strongly Connected Components. Tom talks about numeracy, his teaching style and whatever happened to Math for Primates.

Strongly Connected Components: Tom Henderson

My interview with Tom is here.

Cyberculture History: Internet Co-Inventor Paul Baran RIP

Paul Baran

Paul Baran, inventor of packet switching and co-founder of the Institute for the Future, is dead. If anyone could have claimed to have invented the Internet, it may have been Paul Baran. From Wired’s obit:

Baran was working at the famed RAND corporation on a “survivable”communications system in the early 1960s when he thought up one of its core concepts: breaking up a single message into smaller pieces, having them travel different, unpredictable paths to their destination, and only then putting them back together. It’s called packet switching and it’s how everything still gets gets to your e-mail inbox. [...]

Baran approached AT&T to build such a network. But the company, which at the time had the U.S. telephone monopoly and, backing Baran, could conceivably have also owned the internet, just didn’t see the possibilities.

Wired: Internet Architect Paul Baran Dies at 84

Wired 2001 interview with Baran

New York Times obit for Baran

Wikipedia: Paul Baran

Transhumanist Urbanism GURPS Supplement Co-Written by Anders Sandberg

Transhuman Space: Cities on the Edge

Transhuman Space: Cities on the Edge is a supplement for GURPS and Transhuman Space written by Waldemar Ingdahl and legendary transhumanist Anders Sandberg. It’s meant to be a legitimate piece of futurism in addition to being an RPG supplement:

Tomorrow’s towns in Transhuman Space have certainly evolved from eras past, and there’s no doubt that they’re still vibrant, exciting places. Cities on the Edge is your guide to the dangers and delights to be discovered downtown.

Written by noted transhumanist and futurist Anders Sandberg, with science journalist Waldemar Ingdahl, this gigantic guidebook includes:

  • A tour of cities in 2100, from an overview of what they are and have become, to a look at what makes the towns of tomorrow tick. Unearth the allies and enemies of urban areas. Learn how police, health, disaster management, transport, and trade in the cities of Transhuman Space work. Discover how they’re run, and what happens when it all goes wrong . . .
  • A look at the bleeding edge of advanced architecture. Ultra-modern metropolises include mile-high skyscrapers, giant arcologies, biological buildings, high-density communications, and more!
  • Insight into urban culture: gray-collar crime, animated graffiti, urban AIs, self-configuring hotels, and other elements that make downtown dynamic.
  • A huge worked example: Stockholm in 2100! Visit the capital of Sweden, where eco-engineers discuss the restoration of the Baltic in trendy bistros run by Russian refugees; surrendering your privacy is so last year; and flaunting your naked brain in public is the height of fashion.
  • A sample scenario: “In the Walls,” a murder mystery that centers on Stockholm. Whodunit, and how?

The future is a foreign country, and there’s perhaps no better place to witness the wonders of the world than by visiting the grandest of the global villages. With Cities on the Edge, you’re at the center of excitement!

(via Justin Pickard)

I’m told Sandberg has contributed to a number of RPGs over the years.

See also: Indie Game Designers Luke Crane and Jared Sorensen on Transhumanist RPG FreeMarket

BrainSwarm Week 1: General Purpose Futures Market, Skinning Real-World Objects and More

Here are the ideas that were submitted to BrainSwarm in the first week. Remember, if you if you don’t submit an idea you can still comment and vote on ideas.

general purpose futures market

Use web browser caches and DHT to lower server load

‘skin’ real-world objects

Like seti@home but with profits

Home Cooking Thing

Audio-based ‘social media’-type network

U-turn lights

Haptic feedback for spacial interfaces

And here’s one idea that’s in progress: Seattle Eso Zone 2011.

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