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robertogreco : pessimism   42

Kolakowski on conservatism
"A Conservative Believes:

1. That in human life there never have been and never will be improvements that are not paid for with deteriorations and evils; thus, in considering each project of reform and amelioration, its price has to be assessed. Put another way, innumerable evils are compatible (i.e. we can suffer them comprehensively and simultaneously); but many goods limit or cancel each other, and therefore we will never enjoy them fully at the same time. A society in which there is no equality and no liberty of any kind is perfectly possible, yet a social order combining total equality and freedom is not. The same applies to the compatibility of planning and the principle of autonomy, to security and technical progress. Put yet another way, there is no happy ending in human history.

2. That we do not know the extent to which various traditional forms of social life--families, rituals, nations, religious communities--are indispensable if life in a society is to be tolerable or even possible. There are no grounds for believing that when we destroy these forms, or brand them as irrational, we increase the chance of happiness, peace, security, or freedom. We have no certain knowledge of what might occur if, for example, the monogamous family was abrogated, or if the time-honored custom of burying the dead were to give way to the rational recycling of corpses for industrial purposes. But we would do well to expect the worst.

3. That the idee fixe of the Enlightenment--that envy, vanity, greed, and aggression are all caused by the deficiencies of social institutions and that they will be swept away once these institutions are reformed-- is not only utterly incredible and contrary to all experience, but is highly dangerous. How on earth did all these institutions arise if they were so contrary to the true nature of man? To hope that we can institutionalize brotherhood, love, and altruism is already to have a reliable blueprint for despotism.

A Liberal Believes:

1. That the ancient idea that the purpose of the State is security still remains valid. It remains valid even if the notion of "security" is expanded to include not only the protection of persons and property by means of the law, but also various provisions of insurance: that people should not starve if they are jobless; that the poor should not be condemned to die through lack of medical help; that children should have free access to education--all these are also part of security. Yet security should never be confused with liberty. The State does not guarantee freedom by action and by regulating various areas of life, but by doing nothing. In fact security can be expanded only at the expense of liberty. In any event, to make people happy is not the function of the State.

2. That human communities are threatened not only by stagnation but also by degradation when they are so organized that there is no longer room for individual initiative and inventiveness. The collective suicide of mankind is conceivable, but a permanent human ant-heap is not, for the simple reason that we are not ants.

3. That it is highly improbable that a society in which all forms of competitiveness have been done away with would continue to have the necessary stimuli for creativity and progress. More equaliity is not an end in itself, but only a means. In other words, there is no point to the struggle for more equality if it results only in the leveling down off those who are better off, and not in the raising up of the underprivileged. Perfect equality is a self-defeating ideal.

A Socialist Believes:

1. That societies in which the pursuit of profit is the sole regulator of the productive system are threatened with as grievous--perhaps more grievous--catastrophes as are societies in which the profit motive has been entirely eliminated from the production-regulating forces. There are good reasons why freedom of economic activity should be limited for the sake of security, and why money should not automatically produce more money. But the limitation of freedom should be called precisely that, and should not be called a higher form of freedom.

2. That it is absurd and hypocritical to conclude that, simply because a perfect, conflictless society is impossible, every existing form of inequality is inevitable and all ways of profit-making justified. The kind of conservative anthropological pessimism which led to the astonishing belief that a progressive income tax was an inhuman abomination is just as suspect as the kind of historical optimism on which the Gulag Archipelago was based.

3. That the tendency to subject the economy to important social controls should be encouraged, even though the price to be paid is an increase in bureaucracy. Such controls, however, must be exercised within representative democracy. Thus it is essential to plan institutions that counteract the menace to freedom which is produced by the growth of these very controls.

So far as I can see, this set of regulative ideas is not self-contradictory. And therefore it is possible to be a conservative-liberal-socialist. This is equivalent to saying that those three particular designations are no longer mutually exclusive options."

[via: http://blog.ayjay.org/against-consequentialism/ ]
politics  via:ayjay  conservatism  liberalism  security  socialism  society  philosophy  enlightenment  envy  vanity  greed  aggression  brotherhood  love  altruism  despotism  happiness  peace  freedom  humans  economics  bureaucracy  democracy  pessimism  conflict  leszekkolakowski 
november 2017 by robertogreco
Ellen Ullman: Life in Code: "A Personal History of Technology" | Talks at Google - YouTube
"The last twenty years have brought us the rise of the internet, the development of artificial intelligence, the ubiquity of once unimaginably powerful computers, and the thorough transformation of our economy and society. Through it all, Ellen Ullman lived and worked inside that rising culture of technology, and in Life in Code she tells the continuing story of the changes it wrought with a unique, expert perspective.

When Ellen Ullman moved to San Francisco in the early 1970s and went on to become a computer programmer, she was joining a small, idealistic, and almost exclusively male cadre that aspired to genuinely change the world. In 1997 Ullman wrote Close to the Machine, the now classic and still definitive account of life as a coder at the birth of what would be a sweeping technological, cultural, and financial revolution.

Twenty years later, the story Ullman recounts is neither one of unbridled triumph nor a nostalgic denial of progress. It is necessarily the story of digital technology’s loss of innocence as it entered the cultural mainstream, and it is a personal reckoning with all that has changed, and so much that hasn’t. Life in Code is an essential text toward our understanding of the last twenty years—and the next twenty."
ellenullman  bias  algorithms  2017  technology  sexism  racism  age  ageism  society  exclusion  perspective  families  parenting  mothers  programming  coding  humans  humanism  google  larrypage  discrimination  self-drivingcars  machinelearning  ai  artificialintelligence  literacy  reading  howweread  humanities  education  publicschools  schools  publicgood  libertarianism  siliconvalley  generations  future  pessimism  optimism  hardfun  kevinkelly  computing 
october 2017 by robertogreco
Apocalypse, Now - On The Media - WNYC
"Science fiction has always been an outlet for our greatest anxieties. This week, we delve into how the genre is exploring the reality of climate change. Plus: new words to describe the indescribable.

1. Jeff VanderMeer @jeffvandermeer, author of the Southern Reach Trilogy and Borne, on writing about the relationships between people and nature.

2. Claire Vaye Watkins @clairevaye talks about Gold Fame Citrus, her work of speculative fiction in which an enormous sand dune threatens to engulf the southwest. 

3. Kim Stanley Robinson discusses his latest work, New York 2140. The seas have risen 50 feet and lower Manhattan is submerged. And yet, there's hope.

4. British writer Robert Macfarlane @RobGMacfarlane on new language for our changing world.

Throughout the show: listeners offer their own new vocabulary for the Anthropocene era. Many thanks to everyone who left us voice memos!"
robertmacfarlane  kimstanleyrobinson  clairevayewatkins  jeffvandermeer  sciencefiction  scifi  speculativefiction  anthropocene  humans  nature  multispecies  language  tolisten  economics  finance  cli-fi  climatechange  utopia  names  naming  silence  pessimism  optimism  hope  dystopia  anthopocene  deserts  natue  change  earth 
july 2017 by robertogreco
The Limits of “Grit” - The New Yorker
"For children, the situation has grown worse as we’ve slackened our efforts to fight poverty. In 1966, when Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty initiatives were a major national priority, the poverty rate among American children was eighteen per cent. Now it is twenty-two per cent. If we suffer from a grit deficiency in this country, it shows up in our unwillingness to face what is obviously true—that poverty is the real cause of failing schools.

In this context, grit appears as a new hope. As the federal programs stalled, psychologists, neuroscientists, pediatricians, education reformers, and journalists began looking at the lives of children in a different way. Their central finding: non-cognitive skills play just as great a role as talent and native intelligence (I.Q.) in the academic and social success of children, and maybe even a greater role. In brief, we are obsessed with talent, but we should also be obsessed with effort. Duckworth is both benefitting from this line of thought and expanding it herself. The finding about non-cognitive skills is being treated as a revelation, and maybe it should be; among other things, it opens possible avenues for action. Could cultivating grit and other character traits be the cure, the silver bullet that ends low performance?"



"Now, there’s something very odd about this list. There’s nothing in it about honesty or courage; nothing about integrity, kindliness, responsibility for others. The list is innocent of ethics, any notion of moral development, any mention of the behaviors by which character has traditionally been marked. Levin, Randolph, and Duckworth would seem to be preparing children for personal success only—doing well at school, getting into college, getting a job, especially a corporate job where such docility as is suggested by these approved traits (gratitude?) would be much appreciated by managers. Putting it politically, the “character” inculcated in students by Levin, Randolph, and Duckworth is perfectly suited to producing corporate drones in a capitalist economy. Putting it morally and existentially, the list is timid and empty. The creativity and wildness that were once our grace to imagine as part of human existence would be extinguished by strict adherence to these instrumentalist guidelines."



"Not just Duckworth’s research but the entire process feels tautological: we will decide what elements of “character” are essential to success, and we will inculcate these attributes in children, measuring and grading the children accordingly, and shutting down, as collateral damage, many other attributes of character and many children as well. Among other things, we will give up the sentimental notion that one of the cardinal functions of education is to bring out the individual nature of every child.

Can so narrow an ideal of character flourish in a society as abundantly and variously gifted as our own? Duckworth’s view of life is devoted exclusively to doing, at the expense of being. She seems indifferent to originality or creativity or even simple thoughtfulness. We must all gear up, for grit is a cause, an imp of force. “At various points, in big ways and small, we get knocked down. If we stay down, grit loses. If we get up, grit prevails.” Through much of “Grit,” she gives the impression that quitting any activity before achieving mastery is a cop-out. (“How many of us vow to knit sweaters for all our friends but only manage half a sleeve before putting down the needles? Ditto for home vegetable gardens, compost bins, and diets.”) But what is the value of these projects? Surely some things are more worth pursuing than others. If grit mania really flowers, one can imagine a mass of grimly determined people exhausting themselves and everyone around them with obsessional devotion to semi-worthless tasks—a race of American squares, anxious, compulsive, and constrained. They can never try hard enough.

Duckworth’s single-mindedness could pose something of a danger to the literal-minded. Young people who stick to their obsessions could wind up out on a limb, without a market for their skills. Spelling ability is nice, if somewhat less useful than, say, the ability to make a mixed drink—a Negroni, a Tom Collins. But what do you do with it? Are the thirteen-year-old champion spellers going to go through life spelling out difficult words to astonished listeners? I realize, of course, that persistence in childhood may pay off years later in some unrelated activity. But I’m an owlish enough parent to insist that the champion spellers might have spent their time reading something good—or interacting with other kids. And what if a child has only moderate talent for her particular passion? Mike Egan, a former member of the United States Marine Band, wrote a letter to the Times Book Review in response to Judith Shulevitz’s review of Duckworth’s book. “Anyone who would tell a child that the only thing standing between him or her and world-class achievement is sufficient work,” Egan wrote, “ought to be jailed for child abuse.”

Duckworth not only ignores the actual market for skills and talents, she barely acknowledges that success has more than a casual relation to family income. After all, few of us can stick to a passion year after year that doesn’t pay off—not without serious support. Speaking for myself, the most important element in my social capital as an upper-middle-class New York guy was, indeed, capital—my parents carried me for a number of years as I fumbled my way to a career as a journalist and critic. Did I have grit? I suppose so, but their support made persistence possible.

After many examples of success, Duckworth announces a theory: “Talent x effort = skill. Skill x effort = achievement.” It’s hardly E=mc2. It’s hardly a theory at all—it’s more like a pop way of formalizing commonplace observation and single-mindedness. Compare Duckworth’s book in this respect with Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers.” Gladwell also traced the backgrounds of extraordinarily accomplished people—the computer geniuses Bill Gates and Bill Joy, business tycoons, top lawyers in New York, and so on. And Gladwell discovered that, yes, his world-beaters devoted years to learning and to practice: ten thousand hours, he says, is the rough amount of time it takes for talented people to become masters.

Yet, if perseverance is central to Gladwell’s outliers, it’s hardly the sole reason for their success. Family background, opportunity, culture, landing at the right place at the right time, the over-all state of the economy—all these elements, operating at once, allow some talented people to do much better than other talented people. Gladwell provides the history and context of successful lives. Duckworth—indifferent to class, race, history, society, culture—strips success of its human reality, and her single-minded theory may explain very little. Is there any good football team, for instance, that doesn’t believe in endless practice, endurance, overcoming pain and exhaustion? All professional football teams train hard, so grit can’t be the necessary explanation for the Seahawks’ success. Pete Carroll and his coaches must be bringing other qualities, other strategies, to the field. Observing those special qualities is where actual understanding might begin."
grit  2016  angeladuckworth  race  class  luck  perseverance  daviddenby  education  mastery  practice  kipp  character  classism  elitism  obsessions  malcolmgladwell  serendipity  mikeegan  judithshulevitz  capital  privilege  success  effort  talent  skill  achievement  history  culture  society  edreform  nep  pisa  testing  standardizedtesting  nclb  rttt  socialscience  paultough  children  schools  poverty  eq  neuroscience  jackshonkoff  martinseligman  learnedoptimism  depression  pessimism  optimism  davelevin  dominicrandolph  honesty  courage  integrity  kindliness  kindness  samuelabrams 
june 2016 by robertogreco
No one cares about your jetpack: on optimism in futurism - Dangerous to those who profit from the way things areDangerous to those who profit from the way things are
"This review [http://paleofuture.gizmodo.com/tomorrowland-is-like-watching-a-jetpack-eat-itself-1706822006 ] of Disney’s Tomorrowland (and others like it that I have read) got me thinking about something I was asked at the Design In Action summit last week in Edinburgh. I was there participating in the “Once Upon a Future” event, where I read a story called “The Dreams in the Bitch House.” It’s about a tech sorority at a small New England university. And programmable matter.

After I did my keynote and read my story, I did a Q&A. After a few questions, someone in the audience asked: “Why so negative?”

I get this question a lot. I’ve been involved in a couple of “optimistic” science fiction anthologies, namely Shine (edited by Jetse de Vries) and Hieroglyph (edited by Kathryn Cramer and Ed Finn). But people don’t invite me to these because I’m an optimistic person. In fact, it’s usually quite the opposite. Evidence:

[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=InDOzrtS42M ]

When I was trained as a futurist (I have a Master’s in the subject), I was taught to see the whole scope of a problem. That’s at the root of design thinking. The old joke about designers is that when someone asks how many designers you need to change a lightbulb, the designer asks “Does it need to be a lightbulb?” Because really, what the room needs is a window. When people talk about innovation, that’s what they mean. A re-framing of the issue that helps you see the whole problem and approach it from another angle.

America’s problem is not that it needs more jetpacks. Jetpacks are not innovation. Jetpacks are a fetish object for retrofuturist otaku who jerked off to Judy Jetson, or maybe Jennifer Connelly’s character in The Rocketeer. “We were promised jetpacks!” they whine. Yeah, dude, but what you got was Agent Orange. Imagine a Segway that could kill you and set your house on fire. That’s what a jetpack is.

Jetpacks solve exactly one problem: rapid transit. And you know what would help with that? Better transit. Better telepresence. Better work-life balance. Are jetpacks an innovative solution to the problem of transit? Nope. But they sure look great with your midlife crisis.

But railing against jetpacks isn’t an answer to the question. Why so negative? Three reasons:

1) We have more data than we used to, and we’re obtaining more all the time.

Why don’t we fantasize about life in space like we used to? Because we know it’s really fucking difficult and dangerous. Why don’t we research things like food pills any more? Because we know eating fibre helps prevent colon cancer. We know those things because we’ve done the science. The data is there, and for every piece of technology we use, we accumulate more. It’s hard to argue with that vast wealth of data. At least, it’s hard to do so without looking like some whackjob climate change denier.

2) Less optimistic futures have the power to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.

When people ask me, “Why can’t you be more positive?” what I hear is, “Why can’t you tell me a story that conforms to my narrative and comforts me?” Because discomfiting futures have real power. As Alf Rehn notes:
What we need, then, is more uncommon futurism. A futurism that cares not a whit about what’s hot right now, who remain stoically unimpressed by drones and wearable IT, and who instead take it as their job to shock and awe CEOs with visions as radical as those of the futurists of yore. We need futurism that is less interested in agreeing with contemporary futurists and their ongoing circle-jerk, and who takes pride in offending and disgusting those futurists who would like to protect the status quo.


The truth is that the horrible dystopia you’re reading about is already happening to someone else, somewhere else. What makes people nervous is the idea that it could happen to them. That’s why I have to keep sharing it.

3) The most harmful idea in this world is that change is impossible.

Octavia E. Butler said it best: “The only lasting truth / is Change.” And yet, we act like change is impossible. Whether we’re frustrated by policy gridlock, or rolling our eyes at Hollywood reboots, or taking our spouses on the same goddamn date we have for for twenty years, we act as though everything will remain the same, forever and ever, amen. But look around you. Twenty years ago, thinks were very different. Even five years ago, they were different. Look at social progress like gay marriage. Look at the rise of solar power. Look at the shrinking of the ice caps. Things do change, they are changing, and they will change. And not all of those changes will be positive. Not all of them will be negative, either. But change does occur. Rather than thinking of change as a positive or a negative, as utopian or dystopian, just recognize that it’s going to happen and prepare yourself. Futurists don’t predict the future. We see multiple outcomes and help you prepare for them.

In the end, the lacklustre performance of Tomorrowland at the box office has nothing to do with whether optimism is alive or dead. It has to do with changing demographics among moviegoers who know how to spot an Ayn Rand bedtime story when they see one. There are whole generations of moviegoers for whom jetpacks don’t mean shit, whose first memories of NASA are the Challenger disaster. And you know what? Those same generations believe in driverless cars, solar energy, smart cities, AR contacts, and vat-grown meat. They saw the election of America’s first black president, and they witnessed a wave of violence against young black men. They don’t want the depiction of an “optimistic” future. They want a future where their concerns are taken seriously and humanely, with compassion and intelligence and validation. And that’s way harder than optimism."
culture  future  futurism  discourse  madelineashby  2015  tomorrowland  alfrehn  dystopia  octaviabutler  optimism  pessimism  realism  demographics  aynrand  race  establishment  privilege  drones  wearables  power  innovation  jetpacks  telepresence  transit  transportation  work  labor  scifi  sciencefiction  systemsthinking  data  retrofuturism  climatechange  space  food  science  technology  change  truth  socialprogress  progress  solar  solarpower  validation  compassion  canon  work-lifebalance 
june 2015 by robertogreco
Transcendental Rites - The Baffler
"JS: […] Many younger persons today who haven’t traveled far enough into the professional middle class to be saddled with its go-along/get-along mode of resignation are aroused with half-articulate and semi-organized fervor over the crimes of their government. They’re struggling to connect the up-close realities of police misconduct with the world-historical bullshit peddled by the secret intelligence agencies. What can the next generation learn about the moral imagination from the writers discussed in your book?

EM: I hope you’re right about younger persons, and, if so, they seem to me to be facing structural problems in world society that are almost as intractable as the ones that people faced in the Cold War. It’s not exactly easy to deal with a world where governments and corporations seem to share the idea that if something is technically possible (information gathering via spying or torture, for example), then they ought to go ahead and do it. Governments used to think that way about bombs, and now they think that way about “enhanced interrogation techniques” and data-gathering. Maybe the only thing I would feel comfortable saying about the relation between moral imagination and political reality is something like this: When you think mostly in terms of partisan politics—our side versus their side—then you inevitably start worrying about whether an action or attitude helps your side or the other side, and you lose sight of what your real goal is, which (I hope anyway) has something to do with a social world that might be fit for free and responsible persons to live in. But if you think about politics as a way of putting your moral intelligence into effect, then you make it harder for other people to obfuscate the issue in order to serve their own immoral purposes.

It seems to me that in recent years the people who have done the most to make some worthwhile change possible have been the truth-tellers, those who said things that did themselves no good—they’re going to be on the run from the authorities more or less forever—but that they couldn’t stop themselves from saying because of a moral, rather than a partisan, motive. There’s a pretty clear contrast between such truth-tellers and the Nobel Prize–winning president who campaigned on a platform of moral action and then decided it was safest to forget about it. Parables about this kind of thing run through the book, and some of them complicate the whole issue. Norman Mailer, for example, was always committed, in what seems to me a thoroughly admirable way, to the democratic left, very much like Dwight Macdonald, but Mailer got himself tangled up in the idea that his own personal mythology and vision mattered more than what happened to other people. Macdonald never made that mistake, but Macdonald paid a price for seeing things as clearly as he did: he spent many years in something like passivity and despair, which didn’t do him any good, and certainly didn’t do any good for the kind of society he wanted.

Auden once said something to a friend that I think may get to the heart of both the difficulty and hopefulness of all this. He said (I’m paraphrasing from memory), “Americans get very angry when you tell them there are no answers, but in a crisis, they look forward, unlike Europeans, who look backward.”"

[via: http://ayjay.tumblr.com/post/118020300148/it-seems-to-me-that-in-recent-years-the-people-who ]
johnsummers  edwardmendelson  2015  academia  citizenship  history  humanities  alfredkazin  normanmailer  lioneltrilling  dwightmacdonald  optimism  pessimism  us  europe  future  past  society  truth  morality  patisanships  barackobama  mythology  personalmythology  truthtelling 
may 2015 by robertogreco
Eduardo Galeano: 'My great fear is that we are all suffering from amnesia' | Books | The Guardian
"Most mornings it's the same. At the breakfast table Uruguayan-born author, Eduardo Galeano, 72, and his wife, Helena Villagra, discuss their dreams from the night before. "Mine are always stupid," says Galeano. "Usually I don't remember them and when I do, they are about silly things like missing planes and bureaucratic troubles. But my wife has these beautiful dreams."

One night she dreamt they were at an airport where all the passengers were carrying the pillows they had slept on the night before. Before they could board officials would run their pillows into a machine that would extract the dreams from the night before and make sure there was nothing subversive in them. When she told him he was embarrassed about the banality of his own. "It's shaming, really."

There is not much magical about Galeano's realism. But there is nothing shaming in it either. This septuagenarian journalist turned author has become the poet laureate of the anti-globalisation movement by adding a laconic, poetic voice to non-fiction. When the late Hugo Chávez pressed a copy of Galeano's 1971 book Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent into the hands of Barack Obama before the world's press in 2009, it leapt from 54,295th on Amazon's rankings to second in just a day. When Galeano's impending journey to Chicago was announced at a reading in March by Arundhati Roy, the crowd cheered. When Galeano came in May it was sold out, as was most of his tour.

"There is a tradition that sees journalism as the dark side of literature, with book writing at its zenith," he told the Spanish newspaper El Pais recently. "I don't agree. I think that all written work constitutes literature, even graffiti. I have been writing books for many years now, but I trained as a journalist, and the stamp is still on me. I am grateful to journalism for waking me up to the realities of the world."

Those realities appear bleak. "This world is not democratic at all," he says. "The most powerful institutions, the IMF [International Monetary Fund] and the World Bank, belong to three or four countries. The others are watching. The world is organised by the war economy and the war culture."

And yet there is nothing in either Galeano's work or his demeanour that smacks of despair or even melancholy. While in Spain during the youth uprisings of the indignados two years ago, he met some young protesters at Madrid's Puerta del Sol. Galeano took heart from the demonstrations. "These were young people who believed in what they were doing," he said. "It's not easy to find that in political fields. I'm really grateful for them."

One of them asked him how long he thought their struggle could continue. "Don't worry," Galeano replied. "It's like making love. It's infinite while it's alive. It doesn't matter if it lasts for one minute. Because in the moment it is happening, one minute can feel like more than one year."

Galeano talks like this a lot – not in riddles, exactly, but enigmatically and playfully, using time as his foil. When I ask him whether he is optimistic about the state of the world, he says: "It depends on when you ask me during the day. From 8am until noon I am pessimistic. Then from 1pm until 4 I feel optimistic." I met him in a hotel lobby in downtown Chicago at 5pm, sitting with a large glass of wine, looking quite happy.

His world view is not complicated – military and economic interests are destroying the world, amassing increasing power in the hands of the wealthy and crushing the poor. Given the broad historical sweep of his work, examples from the 15th century and beyond are not uncommon. He understands the present situation not as a new development, but a continuum on a planet permanently plagued by conquest and resistance. "History never really says goodbye," he says. "History says, see you later."

He is anything but simplistic. A strident critic of Obama's foreign policy who lived in exile from Uruguay for over a decade during the 70s and 80s, he nonetheless enjoyed the symbolic resonance of Obama's election with few illusions. "I was very happy when he was elected, because this is a country with a fresh tradition of racism." He tells the story of how the Pentagon in 1942 ordered that no black people's blood be used for transfusions for whites. "In history that is nothing. 70 years is like a minute. So in such a country Obama's victory was worth celebrating."

All of these qualities – the enigmatic, the playful, the historical and the realist – blend in his latest book, Children of the Days, in which he crafts a historical vignette for each day of the year. The aim is to reveal moments from the past while contextualising them in the present, weaving in and out of centuries to illustrate the continuities. What he achieves is a kind of epigrammatic excavation, uprooting stories that have been mislaid or misappropriated, and presenting them in their full glory, horror or absurdity.

His entry for 1 July, for example, is entitled: One Terrorist Fewer. It reads simply. "In the year 2008, the government of the United States decided to erase Nelson Mandela's name from its list of dangerous terrorists. The most revered African in the world had featured on that sinister roll for 60 years." He named 12 October Discovery, and starts with the line: "In 1492 the natives discovered they were Indians, they discovered they lived in America."

Meanwhile 10 December is called Blessed War and is dedicated to Obama's receipt of the Nobel prize, when Obama said there are "times when nations will find the use of force not only necessary, but morally justified." Galeano writes: "Four and a half centuries before, when the Nobel prize did not exist and evil resided in countries not with oil but with gold and silver, Spanish jurist Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda also defended war as 'not only necessary but morally justified'."

And so he flits from past to present and back again, making connections with a wry and scathing wit. His desire, he says, is to refurbish what he calls the "human rainbow. It is much more beautiful than the rainbow in the sky," he insists. "But our militarism, machismo, racism all blinds us to it. There are so many ways of becoming blind. We are blind to small things and small people."

And the most likely route to becoming blind, he believes, is not losing our sight but our memory. "My great fear is that we are all suffering from amnesia. I wrote to recover the memory of the human rainbow, which is in danger of being mutilated."

By way of example he cites Robert Carter III – of whom I had not heard – who was the only one of the US's founding fathers to free his slaves. "For having committed this unforgivable sin he was condemned to historical oblivion."

Who, I ask, is responsible for this forgetfulness? "It's not a person," he explains. "It's a system of power that is always deciding in the name of humanity who deserves to be remembered and who deserves to be forgotten … We are much more than we are told. We are much more beautiful.""
eduardogaleano  garyyounge  2013  memory  amnesia  latinamerica  history  dreams  globalization  journalism  writing  literature  realism  reality  despair  melancholy  activism  revolution  resistance  protest  pessimism  optimism  economics  foreignpolicy  us  uruguay  racism  politics  military  war  peace  context  present  past  nelsonmandela  terrorism  christophercolombus  humanism  humanity  compassion  machismo  collectivememory  small  canon  collectiveamnesia  robertcarteriii  forgetfulness  power  beauty 
april 2015 by robertogreco
Liberalism and its discontents – Zizek
"Here we encounter the basic paradox of liberalism. An anti-ideological and anti-utopian stance is inscribed into the very heart of the liberal vision: liberalism conceives itself as a “politics of lesser evil,” its ambition is to bring about the “least evil society possible,” thus preventing greater evil, since it considers any attempt directly to impose a positive Good as the ultimate source of all evil.

Winston Churchill’s quip about democracy being the worst of all political systems, with the exception of all the other, holds even better for liberalism. Such a view is sustained by a profound pessimism about human nature: man is egotistic and envious animal, if one builds a political system which appeals to his goodness and altruism, the result will be the worst kind terror (recall that both Jacobins and Stalinists presupposed human virtue).

The liberal critique of the “tyranny of the Good” comes at a price: the more its program permeates society, the more it turns into its opposite. The claim to want nothing but the lesser evil, once asserted as the principle of the new global order, gradually takes on the very features of the enemy it claims to oppose. In fact, the global liberal order clearly presents itself as the best of all possible worlds: its modest rejection of utopias ends with imposing its own market-liberal utopia which will become reality when we subject ourselves to the mechanisms of the market and universal human rights."
politics  liberalism  zizek  2012  winstonchurchill  democracy  evil  society  humannature  tyrannyofthegood  goodness  altruism  jacobins  stalinists  virtue  humans  humanvirtue  utopia  anti-utopianism  pessimism  humanrights  capitalism  via:ayjay 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Cornel West: “He posed as a progressive and turned out to be counterfeit. We ended up with a Wall Street presidency, a drone presidency” - Salon.com
"TF: So that’s my first question, it’s a lot of ground to cover but how do you feel things have worked out since then, both with the economy and with this president? That was a huge turning point, that moment in 2008, and my own feeling is that we didn’t turn.

CW: No, the thing is he posed as a progressive and turned out to be counterfeit. We ended up with a Wall Street presidency, a drone presidency, a national security presidency. The torturers go free. The Wall Street executives go free. The war crimes in the Middle East, especially now in Gaza, the war criminals go free. And yet, you know, he acted as if he was both a progressive and as if he was concerned about the issues of serious injustice and inequality and it turned out that he’s just another neoliberal centrist with a smile and with a nice rhetorical flair. And that’s a very sad moment in the history of the nation because we are—we’re an empire in decline. Our culture is in increasing decay. Our school systems are in deep trouble. Our political system is dysfunctional. Our leaders are more and more bought off with legalized bribery and normalized corruption in Congress and too much of our civil life. You would think that we needed somebody—a Lincoln-like figure who could revive some democratic spirit and democratic possibility.

TF: That’s exactly what everyone was saying at the time.

CW: That’s right. That’s true. It was like, “We finally got somebody who can help us turn the corner.” And he posed as if he was a kind of Lincoln.

TF: Yeah. That’s what everyone was saying.

CW: And we ended up with a brown-faced Clinton. Another opportunist. Another neoliberal opportunist. It’s like, “Oh, no, don’t tell me that!” I tell you this, because I got hit hard years ago, but everywhere I go now, it’s “Brother West, I see what you were saying. Brother West, you were right. Your language was harsh and it was difficult to take, but you turned out to be absolutely right.” And, of course with Ferguson, you get it reconfirmed even among the people within his own circle now, you see. It’s a sad thing. It’s like you’re looking for John Coltrane and you get Kenny G in brown skin.



"TF: What on earth ails the man? Why can’t he fight the Republicans? Why does he need to seek a grand bargain?

CW: I think Obama, his modus operandi going all the way back to when he was head of the [Harvard] Law Review, first editor of the Law Review and didn’t have a piece in the Law Review. He was chosen because he always occupied the middle ground. He doesn’t realize that a great leader, a statesperson, doesn’t just occupy middle ground. They occupy higher ground or the moral ground or even sometimes the holy ground. But the middle ground is not the place to go if you’re going to show courage and vision. And I think that’s his modus operandi. He always moves to the middle ground. It turned out that historically, this was not a moment for a middle-ground politician. We needed a high-ground statesperson and it’s clear now he’s not the one.

And so what did he do? Every time you’re headed toward middle ground what do you do? You go straight to the establishment and reassure them that you’re not too radical, and try to convince them that you are very much one of them so you end up with a John Brennan, architect of torture [as CIA Director]. Torturers go free but they’re real patriots so we can let them go free. The rule of law doesn’t mean anything."



TF: One last thing, where are we going from here? What comes next?

CW: I think a post-Obama America is an America in post-traumatic depression. Because the levels of disillusionment are so deep. Thank God for the new wave of young and prophetic leadership, as with Rev. William Barber, Philip Agnew, and others. But look who’s around the presidential corner. Oh my God, here comes another neo-liberal opportunist par excellence. Hillary herself is coming around the corner. It’s much worse. And you say, “My God, we are an empire in decline.” A culture in decay with a political system that’s dysfunctional, youth who are yearning for something better but our system doesn’t provide them democratic venues, and so all we have are just voices in the wilderness and certain truth-tellers just trying to keep alive some memories of when we had some serious, serious movements and leaders.

TF: One last thought, I was talking to a friend recently and we were saying, if things go the way they look like they’re going to go and Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee and then wins a second term, the next time there’ll be a chance for a liberal, progressive president is 2024.

CW: It’d be about over then, brother. I think at that point—Hillary Clinton is an extension of Obama’s Wall Street presidency, drone presidency, national surveillance, national security presidency. She’d be more hawkish than he is, and yet she’s got that strange smile that somehow titillates liberals and neo-liberals and scares Republicans. But at that point it’s even too hard to contemplate.

TF:I know, I always like to leave things on a pessimistic note. I’m sorry. It’s just my nature.

CW: It’s not pessimistic, brother, because this is the blues. We are blues people. The blues aren’t pessimistic. We’re prisoners of hope but we tell the truth and the truth is dark. That’s different."
cornelwest  barackobama  progressivism  liberalism  billclinton  hillaryclinton  us  thomasfrank  2008  2014  blues  hope  pessimism  optimism  alsharpton  democrats  neoliberalism  militaryindustrialcomplex  security  surveillance  drones  war  inequality  ferguson  class  race  statusquo  politics  policy 
august 2014 by robertogreco
The future of ed tech is here, it’s just not evenly distributed — Futures Exchange — Medium
"Using design fiction to cut through the relentless TEDTalk-like optimism of ed tech marketing"



"People talk about the future of technology in education as though it’s right around the corner, but for most of us we get to that corner and see it disappearing around the next. This innovation-obsessed cycle continues as we are endlessly dissatisfied with how little difference these promises make to the people implicated in these futures. These products and practices, cloaked in the latest buzzwords and jargon, often trickle down to non-western geographic regions after they’ve been tried and rejected, yet still adopted as the new and advanced “western” methodology that will solve the “problem” of education.

In an attempt to cut through the relentless TED Talk-like optimism of ed tech marketing, this year at the HASTAC conference in Peru we presented a series of fictional case studies. These four design fiction based personas aimed to illustrate the possible impact on society and education, in both positive and negative ways, of not just emerging technologies but also global social and economic trends. They give brief snapshots of the lives of individuals in imagined futures from different geographic, ethnic, economic, and cultural backgrounds, illustrating how each of them might interface and interact with the different technologies."

[See also: http://www.hastac.org/blogs/savasavasava/2014/06/19/hastac-2014-future-ed-tech-here-it%E2%80%99s-just-not-evenly-distributed
Wayback: https://web.archive.org/web/20150630153225/http://www.hastac.org/blogs/savasavasava/2014/06/19/hastac-2014-future-ed-tech-here-it%E2%80%99s-just-not-evenly-distributed ]
savasahelisingh  timmaughan  designfiction  edtech  technology  education  dystopia  marketing  optimism  pessimism  2014  williamgibson  speculativefiction  futures  future  innovation  buzzwords  hastac  casestudies 
june 2014 by robertogreco
Wed 8.14.13 | Memory and the Radical Imagination | Against the Grain: A Program about Politics, Society and Ideas
"Global capitalism, far from being only an economic phenomenon, affects and influences how we think, including what and how we think about the past. Max Haiven reveals how neoliberal-era initiatives frame human cooperation and collective action; he also emphasizes the importance of what he calls "commoning memory.""
capitalism  memory  economics  maxhaiven  neoliberalism  cooperation  collective  collectiveaction  collectivism  commoningmemory  2013  history  radicalimagination  radicalism  well-being  labor  work  commodification  colonization  conviviality  biopoliticalproduction  via:caseygollan  walterbenjamin  communism  politics  utopia  possibility  past  present  future  humans  human  optimism  society  imagination  complexity  unfinished  pessimism  fascism  courage  1968  patriarchy  socialmovements  revolution  change  activism  utopiandream  struggle 
august 2013 by robertogreco
Procrastination is Not Laziness
"It turns out procrastination is not typically a function of laziness, apathy or work ethic as it is often regarded to be. It’s a neurotic self-defense behavior that develops to protect a person’s sense of self-worth.

You see, procrastinators tend to be people who have, for whatever reason, developed to perceive an unusually strong association between their performance and their value as a person. This makes failure or criticism disproportionately painful, which leads naturally to hesitancy when it comes to the prospect of doing anything that reflects their ability — which is pretty much everything."



"Because it is rewarding on the short term, procrastination eventually takes on the form of an addiction to the temporary relief from these deep-rooted fears. Procrastinators get an extremely gratifying “hit” whenever they decide to let themselves off the hook for the rest of the day, only to wake up to a more tightly squeezed day with even less confidence.

Once a pattern of procrastination is established, it can be perpetuated for reasons other than the fear of failure. For example, if you know you have a track record of taking weeks to finally do something that might only take two hours if you weren’t averse to it, you begin to see every non-simple task as a potentially endless struggle. So a modest list of 10-12 medium-complexity to-do’s might represent to you an insurmountable amount of work, so it feels hopeless just to start one little part of one task. This hones a hair-trigger overwhelm response, and life gets really difficult really easily."

[via: http://scudmissile.tumblr.com/post/58089113745/procrastination-is-not-typically-a-function-of ]
procrastination  psychology  motivation  identity  perfectionism  2011  risk  uncertainty  behavior  complexity  productivity  pessimism  neurosis  laziness 
august 2013 by robertogreco
"Envisioning a Sustainable World" by Donella H. Meadows [.pdf]
"Vision is the most vital step in the policy process. If we don’t know where we want to go, it makes little difference that we make great progress. Yet vision is not only missing almost entirely from policy discussions; it is missing from our whole culture. We talk about our fears, frustrations, and doubts endlessly, but we talk only rarely and with embarrassment about our dreams. Environmentalists have been especially ineffective in creating any shared vision of the world they are working toward -- a sustainable world in which people live within nature in a way that meets human needs while not degrading natural systems. Hardly anyone can imagine that world, especially not as a world they’d actively like to live in. The process of building a responsible vision of a sustainable world is not a rational one. It comes from values, not logic. Envisioning is a skill that can be developed, like any other human skill. This paper indicates how."



"Beyond that we could occasionally take the social risk of displaying not our skepticism but our deepest desires. We could declare ourselves in favor of a sustainable, just, secure, efficient, sufficient world (and you can add any other "value word" you like to that list), even at the expense of being called idealistic. We could describe that world, as far as we can see it, and ask others to develop the description further. We could give as much credit to the times when we exceed our expectations as to the times when we fall short. We could let disappointments be learning experiences, rather than fuel for pessimism."



"Why is it that we can share our cynicism, complaints, and frustrations without hesitation with perfect strangers, but we can't share our dreams? How did we arrive at a culture that constantly, almost automatically, ridicules visionaries? Whose idea of reality forces us to "be realistic?" When were we taught, and by whom, to suppress our visions?"



"Vision is the most vital step in the policy process. If we don’t know where we want to go, it makes little difference that we make great progress. Yet vision is not only missing almost entirely from policy discussions; it is missing from our whole culture."

[via Nicole: https://readmill.com/nicoleslaw/reads/envisioning-a-sustainable-world ]

[video: https://vimeo.com/30752926 ]
vision  donellameadows  sustainability  1994  change  pessimism  skepticism  cynicism  culture  society  optimism  tcsnmy  visionaries  policy  process  idealism  pragmatism  naïvité 
july 2013 by robertogreco
Was America’s Economic Prosperity Just a Historical Accident?
"What if everything we’ve come to think of as American is predicated on a freak coincidence of economic history? And what if that coincidence has run its course?"



“There are many ways in which you can interpret this economic model, but the most lasting—the reason, perhaps, for the public notoriety it has brought its author—has little to do with economics at all. It is the suggestion that we have not understood how lucky we have been. The whole of American cultural memory, the period since World War II, has taken place within the greatest expansion of opportunity in the history of human civilization. Perhaps it isn’t that our success is a product of the way we structured our society. The shape of our society may be far more conditional, a consequence of our success. Embedded in Gordon’s data is an inquiry into entitlement: How much do we owe, culturally and politically, to this singular experience of economic growth, and what will happen if it goes away?”



“TED’s audience is so primed for optimism about the future that Gordon… knew before he began that he’d [Gordon] lost the room.”



“Brynjolfsson let a long beat elapse. “Growth is not dead,” he said casually, and then he grinned a little bit, and the audience laughed, and the tension that had lingered after Gordon’s pessimism dissipated. Brynjolfsson had the aspirational TED inflection down cold: “Technology is not destiny,” he said. “We shape our destiny.””



"In 2007, Mexicans stopped emigrating to the United States. The change was not very big at first, and so for a few years it seemed like it might be a blip. But it wasn’t. In 2000, 770,000 Mexicans had come across the Rio Grande, but by 2007 less than 300,000 did, and by 2010, even though violence in Mexico seemed ceaseless, there were fewer than 150,000 migrants. Some think that more Mexicans are now leaving the United States than are coming to it. “We’re never going to get back to the numbers we had in the late nineties,” says Wayne Cornelius, a political scientist at UC–San Diego who has spent the past 40 years studying this cross-border movement. A small part of this story is the increase in border protection, but the dominant engine has been the economic shifts on both sides of the border—it has become easier for poor Mexicans to improve their quality of life in Mexico and harder to do so in the United States. Because migrants from a particular Mexican village often settle in the same American place, they provide a fast conduit of economic information back home: There are no jobs in construction or housing. Don’t come. The Pew Hispanic Center has traced the migration patterns to economic performance in real time: a spike of migration during 1999 and 2000, at the height of the boom; a brief downturn in border crossing after the 2001 stock-market crash followed by a plateau; then the dramatic emptying out after the housing industry gave way in 2006. We think of the desire to be American as a form of idealism, and sometimes it is. But it also has something to do with economic growth. We are a nation of immigrants to the extent that we can make immigrants rich."
cyborgs  economics  humanity  jobs  progress  sustainability  history  technosolutionism  benjaminwallace-wells  2013  robertgordon  ted  tedtalsk  optimism  pessimism  erikbrynjolfsson  labor  prosperity  wealthdistribution  industrialrevolution  capitalism  growth  demographics  immigration  migration  us  mexico  society  socialchange  upwardmobility  classmobility  future 
july 2013 by robertogreco
Departures - Ta-Nehisi Coates - The Atlantic
"I have not had any problems. At 8:45 I will board a ship. It will punch through the sky. At some point, God willing, that ship will emerge over airspace far from the beloved West Baltimore of my youth. Something is happening in this world. I think of my grandfather, lecturing from the daily newspaper, drowning in alcohol, addicted to violence. I think of my father, working all summer as a child, saving his funds for a collection of recordings that promised to teach him French. He didn't learn French, but he learned to compel his son to want to learn French. I think of my grandmother pushing up from the Eastern Shore of Maryland raising three daughters in the projects, somehow sending them all to college. 

I think of what these folks might have been had they not lived in world intolerant of black ambition. The world has changed. It has not changed totally, but it has changed significantly. When I fell out on the train, everyone on the car was white. So were all the paramedics and all the doctors and nurses. The challenge for someone trying to assess America, at this moment, is properly calibrating how far we've gone with how far we have to go. Too much optimism renders you naive; too much pessimism makes you cynical."
ta-nehisicoates  2013  progress  health  us  optimism  pessimism  naïvité  cynicism  race 
march 2013 by robertogreco
Interview: Oliver Burkeman, Author of 'The Antidote'| Prescribing A Negative Path To Happiness : NPR
"I think the premise from which I start is this idea that ... relentless positivity and optimism is exactly the same thing as happiness; that the only way to achieve anything worthy of the name of happiness is to try to make all our thoughts and feelings as positive as possible, to set incredibly ambitious goals, to visualize success, which you get in a million different self-help books. Whereas, actually, there's a lot of research now to suggest that many of these techniques are counterproductive, that saying positive affirmations to yourself in the mirror can make you feel worse and that visualizing the future can make you less likely to achieve it. And so what I wanted to do in this book was to explore what I ended up calling 'the negative path to happiness,' which involves instead turning toward uncertainty and insecurity, even pessimism, to try to find a different way that might be more durable and successful."
positive  positivethinking  pessimism  books  embarrassment  fear  selfhelp  self-help  motivationalspeakers  living  life  insecurity  uncertainty  cv  2012  happiness  oliverburkeman  positivepsychology  psychology 
november 2012 by robertogreco
A Sister’s Eulogy for Steve Jobs - NYTimes.com
"…worked at what he loved…really hard…opposite of absent-minded…never embarrassed about working hard, even if results were failures…wasn’t ashamed to admit trying…

Novelty was not…highest value. Beauty was…didn’t favor trends or gimmicks…philosophy of aesthetics…“Fashion is what seems beautiful now but looks ugly later; art can be ugly at first but it becomes beautiful later.”…willing to be misunderstood…Love was his supreme virtue, god of gods…believed love happened all the time, everywhere…never ironic, cynical, pessimistic…choices he made…designed to dissolve walls around him…humble…liked to keep learning…cultivated whimsy…had surprises tucked in all his pockets…had a lot of fun…treasured happiness…set destinations…

We all—in the end—die in medias res. In the middle of a story. Of many stories…

character is essential: What he was, was how he died…

…final words were: OH WOW. OH WOW. OH WOW."
life  death  work  happiness  stevejobs  monajobs  2011  eulogy  living  wisdom  storytelling  beauty  parenting  love  attention  failure  character  stories  fun  pessimism  cynicism  irony  virtues  art  time  timelessnessm  durability  workethic  ethics  philosophy  aesthetics 
october 2011 by robertogreco
Bought some US stocks
"What I am saying is that I believe in me, and I believe in you and I believe in elbow grease, objectivity and history. Did you see the recession coming? Did it announce itself and tell you the date it would arrive? No, it did not. Nor will recovery. So quit whining. Pessimism is for losers."<br />
<br />
[Don't really agree with much other than this line.]<br />
<br />
[via: http://daringfireball.net/linked/2011/08/07/delaney via http://www.danielmarkham.com/posts/bought-some-us-stocks ]
pessimism  optimism  belief  objectivity  history  ingenuity  workethic  hardwork  recession  finance  money  jobs  2011 
august 2011 by robertogreco
Tomgram: Rebecca Solnit, Hope for the Hell of It | TomDispatch
"Unpredictability is grounds for hope, though please don’t mistake hope for optimism. Optimism & pessimism are siblings in their certainty.  They believe they know what will happen next, with one slight difference: optimists expect everything to turn out nicely without any effort being expended toward that goal. Pessimists assume that we’re doomed & there’s nothing to do about it except try to infect everyone else with despair while there’s still time.

Hope, on the other hand, is based on uncertainty, on the much more realistic premise that we don’t know what will happen next.  The next thing up might be as terrible as a giant tsunami smashing 100 miles of coastal communities or as marvelous as a new species of butterfly being discovered…When it comes to the worst we face, nature itself has resilience, surprises, and unpredictabilities. But the real territory for hope isn’t nature; it’s the possibilities we possess for acting, changing, mattering…"
rebeccasolnit  hope  optimism  pessimism  uncertainty  pendulumswings  coalitionofimmokaleeworkers  labor  2011  resistance  firstnations  globalization  latinamerica  decolonization  anti-globalization  change 
august 2011 by robertogreco
The Coping Cop-out of Machines of Loving Grace | clusterflock
"At first the final ending lines of episode 3 were a let-down, a cop-out that left me hanging (for perhaps the same reason that Deron couldn’t get past the premise):<br />
<br />
"… But Hamilton’s ideas remain powerfully influential in our society. Above all, the idea that human beings are helpless chunks of hardware controlled by software programs written in their genetic code. The question is, have we embraced that idea because it is a comfort in a world where everything we do, either good or bad, seems to have terrible unforeseen consequences? We know that it was our actions that helped cause the horror still unfolding in the Congo. Yet we have not idea what to do about it. So instead we have embraced a fatalistic philosophy of us as helpless computing machines to both excuse and explain our political failure to change the world."<br />
<br />
But now, waking up the next morning, I can’t stop thinking about it & I’m wondering if it bothered me because it’s true & I just don’t want to accept it?"
allwathedoverbymachinesoflovinggrace  2011  clusterflock  pessimism  optimism  altruism 
june 2011 by robertogreco
Some Dark Thoughts on Happiness -- New York Magazine
"I almost became a professional philosopher," Martin Seligman says. "I had a fellowship to Oxford. I turned it down."…

"My education was Wittgensteinian," he continues. I’d heard this about Seligman too—how fascinated he was by Ludwig Wittgenstein, a famous depressive who nevertheless told his landlady as he was dying, Tell them it’s been wonderful. Seligman’s interested in many famous depressives—Lincoln, Oppenheimer. He identifies himself as a depressive, too. "But in retrospect," he continues, "I think Wittgenstein suborned three generations of philosophy, including mine, by telling us that what we wanted to do was puzzles and that somehow by solving puzzles, problems would get solved. I spent 40 years struggling out of that mode."

Seligman spent almost as long struggling out of the mode of traditional psychology… It is Seligman’s contention that psychology’s emphasis on pathology has marginalized the study of well-being."
happiness  psychology  philosophy  culture  well-being  martinseligman  wittgenstein  positivepsychology  politics  2006  chrispeterson  selfhelp  danielgilbert  shanelopez  babyboomers  malcolmgladwell  georgewbush  pathology  talben-sahar  lottery  wealth  despair  depression  maximizers  satisficers  optimism  pessimism  boomers 
march 2011 by robertogreco
Utopia - Charlie's Diary
“…we badly need more utopian speculation. The consensus future we read about in the media and that we’re driving towards is a roiling, turbulent fogbank beset by half-glimpsed demons: climate change, resource depletion, peak oil, mass extinction, collapse of the oceanic food chain, overpopulation, terrorism, foreigners who want to come here and steal our <strike>women</strike> jobs. It’s not a nice place to be; if the past is another country, the consensus view of the future currently looks like a favela with raw sewage running in the streets. Conservativism — standing on the brake pedal — is a natural reaction to this vision; but it’s a maladaptive one, because it makes it harder to respond effectively to new and unprecedented problems. We can’t stop, we can only go forward; so it is up to us to choose a direction.”

[via: http://magicalnihilism.com/2010/12/05/work-as-if-you-lived-in-the-early-days-of-a-better-nation/ ]
future  utopia  scifi  politics  design  sciencefiction  conservatism  optimism  speculativedesign  speculation  futures  peakoil  collapse  climatechange  overpopulation  terrorism  economics  doomandgloom  pessimism  progress  designfiction 
january 2011 by robertogreco
The Dark Side of Young Adult Fiction - Room for Debate - NYTimes.com
"If you were in the market this season for a book that would appeal to a teenager, you probably noticed that the young adult sections in bookstores and on bestsellers lists were filled with titles bearing dark and scary themes.<br />
Whether it's Suzanne Collins's "The Hunger Games" trilogy or James Paterson's "Maximum Ride" series, the popularity of post-apocalyptic fiction doesn't seem to be abating.<br />
Why do bestselling young adult novels seem darker in theme now than in past years? What's behind this dystopian trend, and why is there so much demand for it?"
teaching  books  fiction  nytimes  dystopia  pessimism  scottwesterfeld  paolobacigalupi  jayparini  andrewclements  lisarowefraustino  michelleannabate  yaliterature  trends  post-apocalyptic 
december 2010 by robertogreco
Why are you so terribly disappointing? [via: http://kottke.org/10/02/everything-sucks-and-were-all-bitter]
"What happened to my bonus? What happened to my job? What happened to my country? Why can't it all go the way it's supposed to go? You mean having a kid won't solve my marriage problems? Why don't these drugs make me feel better? Where's that goddamn waiter with my salad? Have you seen the stupid weather today? Is this really all there is?
culture  politics  news  psychology  humor  pessimism  complaints  disappointment  us  society 
february 2010 by robertogreco
The WELL: Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2010
"you've treated your future as an "unpredictable lurching thing" & now you're all morose about that...your generation CREATED that situation! Ever heard of "disruptive innovation," "disintermediation," "offshoring," "small pieces loosely joined," "de-monetization," "plug & play," "the network as a platform"?...Guys w/ stacks of gold bars & working oil wells don't have stability! Much less guys like you...want some security? Demand government housing subsidies & guaranteed minimum income! They bailed out every broke mogul...might as well bail out civil population...You're Canadian always in Cali married to Briton always in Japan...you're not gonna "end up" anywhere. Forget about that...you have made your mobile bed...lie in it."..."coherent picture of your future."...imagine you're 3yo. You want to give your Dad, back in 1974, a coherent picture of 2010...something very actionable, lucid & practical...tell me what you oughta tell him about 2010, back in 1974. Use words of 1 syllable"
brucesterling  corydoctorow  2010  futurology  futurism  future  politics  business  media  environment  predictions  china  brasil  nomads  neo-nomads  technology  society  culture  commentary  google  world  life  intelligence  fear  pessimism  optimism  jonlebkowsky  jamaiscascio  brazil 
january 2010 by robertogreco
Systemic Flaws In the Reported World View - Chris Anderson
"In fact, most meta-level reporting of trends show a world that is getting better. We live longer, in cleaner environments, are healthier, and have access to goods and experiences that kings of old could never have dreamed of. If that doesn't make us happier, we really have no one to blame except ourselves. Oh, and the media lackeys who continue to feed us the litany of woes that we subconsciously crave."
chrisanderson  optimism  politics  history  analysis  future  culture  news  stateoftheworld  violence  philosophy  ideas  progress  edge  media  world  pessimism 
may 2009 by robertogreco
Rossignol » Thrilling Wonder Stories
"The rocketship wonder of earlier decades is gone, and our children write dystopias by default: a fascinating, terrifying realisation. He seemed rather earthy and upbeat, and talked of how problems mean invention, and creativity, but I couldn’t help think about a generation of kids for whom there is no bright imagined future: only Bladerunner, eco-death, the Drowned World, apocalypse. MacLeod talked about the problems for idealistic sci-fi now, and I wonder if there was something about the hip nihilism of modern fantasy, combined with relentless terror-cancer newsmedia shit, that really will stop future generations bothering to climb out of their doomed shrug." ... "The whole thing was stamped, perhaps imperceptibly to everyone else, with a motto I come back to - paraphrasing Richard Rorty - which is: “anything can be redescribed”. Sometimes, a new description is all you need."
design  archigram  architecture  fiction  simulation  speculation  jgballard  pessimism  sciencefiction  scifi  optimism  narrative  representation  writing  futurism  future  tcsnmy  dystopia  utopia  jimrossignol  wonder  children  simulations 
may 2009 by robertogreco
plsj tumblelog - Made of fail (a.k.a. no teflon for you!)
"Today is one of those days when, no matter how hard I try, I can’t help but take every negative, disappointed, hurtful and hateful comment I hear and let it override every joyous, grateful, inspiring and loving comment I hear."
perception  moods  comments  negativity  pessimism  cv 
may 2009 by robertogreco
Laurent Haug’s blog » Crisis or transition?
"crisis or transition? The numbers that make news...are pretty bad, but...the whole picture? Yes, the banks are under attack & deservedly so. Their model is based on world that does not exist anymore. Like music industry before, banks have been refusing innovation, sitting on their assets without noticing that society was changing faster than ever. Customers have changed..., employees have changed, needs have evolved... There is a price for arrogance (it cuts you from your clients), lack of agility (you can’t follow change), heritage (having an history can be bad for you. ... I understand we all have a partial view of the world...I am no exception...these are weak signals, not backed by scientific numbers, which might not weight much in the face of reimbursing 1000s of billions of screw ups. But I am asking a question: is this really the sub primes, or are we facing a peak of inadequacy between large companies & the world they live in? Is this a crisis, or a transition to a new world?"
laurenthaug  change  crisis  transition  2009  banking  finance  world  gamechanging  opportunity  optimism  pessimism  switzerland  swiss  taxes 
february 2009 by robertogreco
How are you coping with collapse-anxiety? - Boing Boing
"Like everyone, I'm starting to freak out a little about the state of the economy. Many of my good friends are out of work -- and some of them have been out of work for a longer period than I would have thought possible. It seems like every day, I pass another closed store or cafe on my way to the office. And of course, the suggestion file here at Boing Boing is full of stories of the collapsing property bubble in Dubai, the implosion of the South Chinese manufacturing cities, and a million indicators, large and small, of a crisis that is global, deep and worsening.
2009  economics  collapse  crisis  dystopia  banking  finance  corydoctorow  discussion  boingboing  fear  anxiety  society  optimism  pessimism 
february 2009 by robertogreco
The Californian Candidate? | varnelis.net
"But I want to raise another issue here, this time about change.gov? Now on the one hand, after eight years of outright lies and deceit, I relish the promise of governmental transparency. On the other hand, I wonder about the promise of participation that the site holds out. It smacks of the Californian Ideology, the idea that new technologies will bring about a libertarian democratic techno-utopia. I'm not sure that change.gov really meshes with some of the choices that Obama's made in his Cabinet. Moreover, I worry about it being smoke and mirrors. Now I can't imagine anything being even half as bad as the last eight years, but the Cabinet is hardly a model for transparency..."
kazysvarnelis  california  transparency  politics  us  barackobama  change  reform  pessimism  moreofthesame  californianideology  techno-utopia  technology  change.gov 
february 2009 by robertogreco
THE AGE OF MASS INTELLIGENCE | More Intelligent Life
"Millions more people are going to museums, literary festivals and operas; millions more watch demanding television programmes or download serious-minded podcasts. Not all these activities count as mind-stretching, of course. Some are downright fluffy. But, says Donna Renney, the chief executive of the Cheltenham Festivals, audiences increasingly want “the buzz you get from working that little bit harder”. This is a dramatic yet often unrecognised development. “When people talk and write about culture,” says Ira Glass, the creator of the riveting public-radio show “This American Life”, “it’s apocalyptic. We tell ourselves that everything is in bad shape. But the opposite is true. There’s an abundance of really interesting things going on all around us.”"
via:kottke  education  society  culture  intelligence  literacy  consumption  optimism  information  media  pessimism  sociology  trends  lookatthebrightside  books  music  opera  classical  thisamericanlife 
december 2008 by robertogreco
k-punk: Be positive... or else
"There's an interesting parallel between this necessity of positive thinking on the markets and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (recently attacked by Darian Leader in The Guardian). Cognitive Behavioural therapists draw on data which suggests that most people survive everyday life by having an inflated idea of their own abilities. "Realism" would therefore be dysfunctional (and would be likely to lead to depression), just as "positive thinking" increases people's confidence and capacities. Leader attacks Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for being a market-driven, quick-fix solution to psychological problems which require longer term (psychoanalytic) treatment, but it is the idea that positive thinking is mandatory which most closely links neoliberalism and CBT."
via:blackbeltjones  latecapitalism  markets  psychology  economics  psychoanalysis  depression  realism  inflatedopinions  bubbles  optimism  crisis  pessimism  cv  k-punk  markfisher 
october 2008 by robertogreco
Google News - "I created my fake Google News page in 2007, mostly for my own amusement. "
"...I was depressed about the state of the world and all the dismal headlines, and I wanted to be able to imagine a much better world. I made the fake site my home page, as a mini-experiment in the power of positive thinking."
google  optimism  pessimism  news  journalism  newspapers  googlenews  change  politics 
june 2008 by robertogreco
The Pinocchio Theory » Blog Archive » Hype (written before the Ohio/Texas primaries)
"probably doomed to another 4 years of nightmare, with President McCain sending more & more troops abroad...My hunch is that, come Election Day, it won’t even be close....Jerry Lewis’ maxim: “expect worst, then you will never be disappointed.”"
2008  elections  us  politics  hillaryclinton  barackobama  johnmccain  pessimism  via:preoccupations 
march 2008 by robertogreco
Cover story: 'America still works' by Michael Lind | Prospect Magazine February 2008 issue 143
"Barring catastrophes, US in 2050...more racially integrated; remain culturally/linguistically homogeneous...easily afford social security & decent healthcare....challenges-not the ones usually identified....class lines are hardening"
us  economics  pessimism  race  politics  culture  society  religion  racism  diversity  history  future  health  healthcare  immigration  latinos  demographics  census  statistics  language  spanish  secularism  trends  socialsecurity  class  doomsayers  optimism  linguistics  productivity 
january 2008 by robertogreco
Marginal Revolution: Why is the European press more pessimistic than the American press?
"Does the greater pessimism of Europeans produce more disciplined and respectful children? Or just more pessimistic newspapers? I believe the "America is due for a comeuppance" view remains very popular across the Atlantic."
europe  us  pessimism  press  media  economics  schadenfreude 
november 2007 by robertogreco
William Gibson: The Rolling Stone 40th Anniversary Interview : Rolling Stone
"...our grandchildren will find quaintest about us is that we distinguish digital from real, virtual from real. In future, that will become literally impossible...distinction between cyberspace and that which isn't is going to be unimaginable."
williamgibson  futurism  cyberspace  culture  ubicomp  pessimism  optimism  scifi  sciencefiction  science  fiction  technology  interviews  cybernetics  digitalnatives  future  nanotechnology  nuclear  environment  ubiquitous  society  biology  cyberpunk  books  gamechanging 
november 2007 by robertogreco
BLDGBLOG: Lights among the ruins
"In twenty years' time will I be out holding up some pathetic light among the ruins of a destroyed city, wondering where my wife is, dying of thirst, deaf in one ear, covered in radiation burns?

Or is that just a peculiarly American form of pessimist survivalism? Or do I just read too much Sebald?"
future  disaster  pessimism  survivalism  history  war  environment  economics  wgsebald  books  cities  society 
october 2007 by robertogreco

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