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robertogreco : philipkdick   10

Reading generously
"Last weekend, I read a number of Mark Fisher’s pieces after the sad news of his death. Simon Reynolds wrote a very moving remembrance. [ ] I’ve also been thinking about this pair of tweets from James Butler:

[ ]

“Just echoing friends on here, but: if you think someone’s work is great - if it’s meaningful or important to you - tell them.”  “And I wish, sometimes, we could read people in life with the charity, generosity and clear perspective we do in death.” 

Here’s a pretty classic Fisher bit on the the contrast between the obsolescence of technology with the relative lack of obsolescence in music trends [ ]: "While 20th Century experimental culture was seized by a recombinatorial delirium, which made it feel as if newness was infinitely available, the 21st Century is oppressed by a crushing sense of finitude and exhaustion. It doesn’t feel like the future. Or, alternatively, it doesn’t feel as if the 21st Century has started yet. We remain trapped in the 20th century, just as Sapphire and Steel were incarcerated in their roadside café.…there’s an increasing sense that culture has lost the ability to grasp and articulate the present. Or it could be that, in one very important sense, there is no present to grasp and articulate any more.”

It never ever hurts to read more generously. I am feeling that sense of being "trapped in the 20th century" intensifying. And yet, I can't go back to a time when those PKD paperbacks were on so many friends' shelves. Anyway, if culture isn't pushing forward, I guess that means looking left and right instead of straight ahead. Just don't stop looking."
joannemcneil  markfisher  howeread  reading  2017  jamesbutler  finitude  exhaustion  obsolescence  technology  philipkdick  oppression  present  generosity  k-punk 
january 2017 by robertogreco
Into the Beast – Versions
"“I couldn’t care less about empathy,” said Natalie Jeremijenko. “I don’t see VR as a prosthetic for empathy. I refuse that. I think it’s bullshit.”

Few people have been working at the intersections between art, technology, and animals for as long as Jeremijenko, whose eccentric, restlessly interdisciplinary energy has produced an impressive array of bizarre projects. In 2009, she set up an installation along the East River in which participants could send a text message to a fish and receive a response recording its overall health and wellbeing; at Socrates Sculpture Park in Queens, a place where many of her ideas have been realized, she built a “Salamander Superhighway” across the road that would tweet whenever salamanders migrated through it, since salamanders, in her view, represent a better potential source of ethical meat than Google’s artificial burger; more recently, she enlisted kids from New York’s PS 153 to use “Feral Robot Dogs”—some of them disturbingly repurposed AIBOs—to sniff out soil contaminants in their local community.

In 2004, Jeremijenko was already thinking about what VR could do to connect humans and animals. But she wasn’t thinking about empathy, which she views as an “atomizing, individuating phenomenon” that should never be instrumentalized. Instead, she asked a counterintuitive question: what might VR be able to do to improve the material lives of animals themselves?

Inspired by the canard digérateur—or “digesting duck”—invented by Jacques de Vaucanson in 1739, Jeremijenko created a fleet of duck and geese robots that could be operated by people wearing VR goggles (with beaks attached). After enlisting local kids from an LA public school, she encouraged them to drive their ersatz waterfowls directly into contact with real-life counterparts. The real ducks and geese never mistook the robots for other real ducks and geese. But the drivers could engage in rudimentary communication with them, learning quickly that a straight neck would be interpreted as aggressive behavior, a craned neck “would allow for a closer approach.” And they would see their interactions firsthand.

“I didn’t build a 3D environment, because we were in one,” she said. “I was actually using a physical avatar in physical space. But it constituted a critique of what it is we do with VR: whether it should be this closed world, fantastical, or whether it should allow us to understand the actual world.”

In one case, the project actually led to environmental change—or at least potential environmental change. After one mecha-goose found a nest full of smashed eggs, she and her team investigated and discovered the root cause: the park authorities had been using petrochemical fertilizers that had compromised the eggs’ structural integrity. They weren’t able to fix the situation, but they did discover a situation that might not have been discovered, precisely because they had been seeing things from a more gooselike POV. The project demonstrated one of Jeremijenko’s central theses in utter clarity: if and when VR and animals come together, the only worthwhile byproduct ought to be actual, material change. Anything else is mere escapism.

For the team behind In the Eyes of the Animal, escapism is the entire point. The project is premised on the idea that a blissful, peacefully psychedelic sensory experience can expand our vision—our moral vision—beyond the scope of the human. “Somehow it creates a cocoon,” Steel said. “It gives you this kind of isolation, in a similar kind of way that you get when you’re walking through the woods and you’ve got no mobile signal. It gives you space to think. It taps into the tranquil state of mind that you can get floating on the surface of water, or sitting on a mountain and looking at the view. That sense of presence.”

Jeremijenko would call bullshit. And in a lot of ways, she has a point, even though In the Eyes of the Animal has the advantage of being much more aesthetically and emotionally arresting than a VR-controlled duck sim in which you look for signs of petrochemical toxicity. Jeremijenko maintains that nothing good will happen from the perspective of environmental health if we let VR transport us to “nature” in the traditional sense: a space pristine, unpolluted, unaffected by our presence. VR could be an agent of real change in what she calls the “environmental commons”—a way of seeing how our animal neighbors actually live, not necessarily through their eyes but at the level of habitat. It could also be a dangerously effective way to ignore that commons: a way to strap on the headset and return to Xanadu while the world silently turns to waste."

"Major new technologies of representation have a tendency to advertise themselves as ways of bringing us into closer contact with “nature”. They also have a tendency to do precisely the opposite. When the aquarium took Britain by storm in the 1850s, it was promoted as a glass box that could bring people into a completely new relationship with the inaccessible ocean depths; it also became a way of framing those depths, making them artificial, subjecting them to editorial control. One of the very first motion pictures was Eadweard Muybridge’s Horse in Motion, which revealed new truths about animal movement; another was Edison’s electrocuted elephant, which proved in the most darkly literal way that technology could destroy animals by making them into spectacles. Nature TV from the David Attenborough 1980s to now has been defined by its gradual, insistent movement toward intimacy: where we once observed them from a reserved distance, we now find ourselves among them, in their lives, in the fray. It has also been adept at hiding its own mediation, at pretending to be a form of closeness when it is really anything but.

We already know what some animal-centric VR experiences are going to look like, and others are pretty easy to imagine. Sir Attenborough himself has already collaborated on VR nature films, insisting that “you actually really are there—inside a rainforest, diving in the ocean or exploring a pyramid, wherever you want to go.” Apps like Ocean Rift unironically use the word “safari” to encapsulate the experience of coming that much closer to exotic creatures. These experiences still place us outside the animal, albeit an inch away. More will come, though, that attempt to place us “inside,” leveraging the power of empathy that seems to be the medium’s unique ethical promise. Much more than Jeremijenko, I’m inclined to think that a piece of software that takes a stab at interspecies empathy could form the basis for material change. I can imagine seeing from the eyes of an orca at SeaWorld. I can imagine feeling a rage that lingers.

At the same time, In the Eyes of the Animal, Jeremijenko’s VR waterfowl, and Theriomorphous Cyborg share one thing in common that should serve as a warning to the creators and consumers of empathy apps in general: all three envision “VR” as a means to “AR,” the self-enclosed app as a means to a more layered, more nuanced understanding of the world—or worlds—in which we live. Perhaps this ought to be the ethical litmus test for empathy apps: what they ask us to do with the experience we’ve had as soon as we take off the headset and return to the world. What they ask us to remember. What they ask us not to forget."
vr  virtualreality  empathy  nataliejeremijenko  via:anne  multispecies  ethics  mattmargini  escapism  pov  jakobvonuexküll  simoneferracina  philipkdick  rickdeckard  nonnydelapeña  border  borders  us  mexico  wilburmercer  richardfeynman  barneysteel 
march 2016 by robertogreco
The True Literature of California is Science Fiction
[Also posted here: ]

"Kim Stanley Robinson is the author of many works of science fiction, including The Three Californias, a trilogy of novels about southern California; the Mars Trilogy; 2312, a novel about climate change; and his most recent novel, Shaman.

Robinson is one of California's best-known and well-loved, living science fiction writers. A prolific writer, author of two trilogies and several other novels, he is one of the few science fiction novelists who still dares envision utopia—not the static and socially constrained utopias of Thomas More or Edward Bellamy, but dynamic, complex, multicultural societies that always have to struggle for and reflect on their own futures.

Robinson earned a Ph.D. from UC San Diego, where he worked with the legendary postmodern literary scholar Fredric Jameson and wrote his dissertation on science fiction writer Philip K. Dick. He cares deeply about California and is actively involved with the Sierra Nevada Research Institute at UC Merced and the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination at UC San Diego.

Robinson is also a generous conversationalist. When not holed up at home in Davis, California, working on his next book, he can often be found out in the world these days talking about climate change and political change, and thinking out loud with scientists, activists, writers, and readers about the future.

We spent a leisurely afternoon conversing with him at his garden writing table in Davis. This interview was originally published on Boom: A Journal of California and was conducted by Boom's editors."

"So, Pacific Edge was my attempt, a first attempt, and I think it's still a nice vision of what Southern California could be. That coastal plain is so nice. From Santa Barbara to San Diego is the most gorgeous Mediterranean environment. And we've completely screwed it. To me now, it's kind of a nightmare. When I go down there it creeps me out. I hope to spend more of my life in San Diego, which is one of my favorite places. But I'll probably stick to west of the coast highway and stay on the beach as much as I can. I'll deal, but we can do so much better."

"Do you love where you were when you were growing up? Well, yes—especially if you had good parents, a happy childhood, a beach. But I've found you can actually outlive nostalgia itself. I didn't know you could do that, but I have."

"I like thinking California is one place. It's big. It's various. It's an entire country. It's an entire planet."

"California is a terraformed space."

"California could maybe handle sea level rise better than a lot of other places. Its coastline is not a drowned coastline like the East Coast, so although the Delta would be in big trouble, most of the California coastline is steep enough to take a lot of the projected sea level rise—although the beaches will be in trouble. Right here we're about fifty feet above sea level. So the maximum sea level rise projected for the next couple centuries would remain a ways over there to the south."

"I've run into young environmental philosophers who say, "Be realistic, Stan. We're headed for a five-degree rise in temperature; we have to adapt." But this I think is a pseudo-realism. Think about mass extinction: how do you adapt to that? It would drive us down; we might not go extinct too, but we would suffer so badly. No. We need mitigation. We need to fight the political fight. We need a carbon tax; we need everything except giving up. To say we've lost the battle already is just another science fiction story. It's saying that we will lose. But beyond 2013, nothing has happened yet. Path dependency is not the same as inevitability.

People are way too chicken when faced with the supposed massive entrenchment of capitalism. It's just a system of laws, and we change laws all the time."

"My story here is that from the very start science and capitalism were very tightly bound together, like conjoined twins, but were not at all the same, and indeed were even opposed systems of thinking and organization. They were born around the same time, yes; but if you regard them as identical, you're making a very bad mistake. Capitalism's effect on humanity is not at all what science's effect is on humanity. If you say science is nothing but instrumentality and capitalism's technical wing, then you're saying we're doomed. Those are the two most powerful social forces on the planet, and now it's come to a situation of science versus capitalism. It's a titanic battle. One is positive and the other negative.

We need to do everything we can to create democratic, environmental, utopian science, because meanwhile there is this economic power structure that benefits the few, not very different from feudalism, while wrecking the biosphere. This is just a folk tale, of course, like a play with sock puppets, like Punch and Judy. But I think it describes the situation fairly well."

"I think we're a working utopian project in progress, between the landscape and the fact that California has an international culture, with all our many languages. It's got the UC system and the Cal State system, the whole master plan, all the colleges together, and Silicon Valley, and Hollywood. It's some kind of miraculous conjunction. But conjunctions don't last for long. And history may pass us by eventually, but for now it's a miraculous conjunction of all of these forces.

So I love California. Often when I go abroad and I'm asked where I'm from, I say California rather than America. California is an integral space that I admire. And we're doing amazing things politically. I like the way the state is trending more left than the rest of America. And San Francisco is the great city of the world. I love San Francisco. I think of myself as living in its provinces—and provincials, of course, are often the ones who are proudest of the capital. And many of my San Francisco friends exhibit a civic pride that is intense, and I think justified.

So there's something going on here in California. I do think it's somewhat accidental; so to an extent, it's pride in an accident, or maybe you could say in a collective, in our particular history. So there's no one thing or one person or group that can say, ah, we did it! It just kind of happened to us, in that several generations kept bashing away, and here we are. But when you have that feeling and it goes on, and continues to win elections and create environmental regulations, the clean air, the clean water, saving the Sierra, saving the coast: it's all kind of beautiful. Maybe the state itself is doing it. Maybe this landscape itself is doing it."
kimstanleyrobinson  california  sandiego  scifi  sciencefiction  2014  interviews  literature  landscape  raybradbury  robertheinlein  ursulaleguin  philipkdick  frankherbert  jackvance  poulanderson  robinsonjeffers  ecotopia  ernestcallenbach  history  climatechange  capitalism  environment  globalwarming  politics  change  nostalgia  johnmuir  law  legal  policy  santabarbara  orangecounty  sanfrancisco  utopia  diversity  jonchristensen  jangoggans  ursulakheise 
january 2014 by robertogreco On my mind
"When we go through our reasons for why we teach a discipline, we'd better have more substantial reasons than "It'll be beneficial in the future" or "You need it to get into a good college" or "It teaches thinking skills" or "Shut up and eat your broccoli". I recognize that historically, traditionally, math was sold to students in all of those ways, and with varying degrees of success. But educational history and tradition are proving poor guides to our current situation. The questions that our students will have to face are, fundamentally, unlike any ones previous generations have had to:

• What happens if/when the climate changes dramatically?

• What happens if there are no more "good jobs" for most people?

• What happens if the dystopian visions elaborated by William Gibson, Aldous Huxley, Philip K. Dick, Ray Bradbury, and many others, start to become real?

• More optimistically, what do students need to know/be able to do/figure out to be engaged, thoughtful, intelligent citizens of the world they will inherit?"
via:carwaiseto  education  teaching  math  mathematics  whyweteach  bigquestions  cv  purpose  learning  problemsolving  criticalthinking  mathinisolation  williamgibson  society  dystopia  aldoushuxley  philipkdick  raybradbury  mikethayer  2013 
february 2013 by robertogreco
Warren Ellis » How To See The Future [What? Not yet bookmarked?] [Purposely tagged 'boredome'.]
"Can you even consider being part of a culture that could go to space and then stopped?

If the future is dead, then today we must summon it and learn how to see it properly.

[more examples]

We live in the future. We live in the Science Fiction Condition, where we can see under atoms and across the world and across the methane lakes of Titan. …

Understand that our present time is the furthest thing from banality. Reality as we know it is exploding with novelty every day.

To be a futurist, in pursuit of improving reality, is not to have your face continually turned upstream, waiting for the future to come. To improve reality is to clearly see where you are, and then wonder how to make that better.

Act like you live in the Science Fiction Condition. Act like you can do magic and hold séances for the future and build a brightness control for the sky.

Act like you live in a place where you could walk into space if you wanted. Think big. And then make it better."

[Video now here: ]
boredom  boredome  spacetravel  jgballard  philipkdick  takealookaroundyou  appreciation  science  sciencefictioncondition  rearviewmirror  space  nasa  voyager  voyager1  vintage  vintagespace  magic  weliveinamazingtimes  perspective  atemporality  iphone  googlegloves  googleglass  manufacturednormalcy  venkateshrao  reality  marshallmcluhan  noticing  hereandnow  now  lookaround  futurism  sciencefiction  2012  scifi  technology  future  warrenellis 
september 2012 by robertogreco
How to Build a Universe That Doesn't Fall Apart Two Days Later
"I have a secret love of chaos. There should be more of it. Do not believe—and I am dead serious when I say this—do not assume that order and stability are always good, in a society or in a universe. The old, the ossified, must always give way to new life and the birth of new things. Before the new things can be born the old must perish. This is a dangerous realization, because it tells us that we must eventually part with much of what is familiar to us. And that hurts. But that is part of the script of life. Unless we can psychologically accommodate change, we ourselves begin to die, inwardly. What I am saying is that objects, customs, habits, and ways of life must perish so that the authentic human being can live. And it is the authentic human being who matters most, the viable, elastic organism which can bounce back, absorb, and deal with the new."
writing  philosophy  philipkdick  chaos  unschooling  deschooling  objects  anarchism  anarchy  literature  culture  society  messiness  change  adaptability  science  scifi  sciencefiction  religion  1978  life  human  humans 
december 2011 by robertogreco
My romance with ADHD meds. - By Joshua Foer - Slate Magazine
"I felt less like myself. Though I could put more words to the page per hour on Adderall, I had a nagging suspicion that I was thinking w/ blinders on…"

"There's also the risk that Adderall can work too well…Paul Erdös, who famously opined that "a mathematician is a device for turning coffee into theorems," began taking Benzedrine in his late 50s & credited drug w/ extending his productivity long past expiration date of colleagues. But he eventually became psychologically dependent. In 1979, a friend offered Erdös $500 to kick his Benzedrine habit for a month. Erdös met the challenge, but his productivity plummeted so drastically that he decided to go back…After a 1987 Atlantic profile discussed his love affair w/ psychostimulants, [he] wrote the author a rueful note. "You shouldn't have mentioned the stuff about Benzedrine. It's not that you got it wrong. It's just that I don't want kids who are thinking about going into math to think that they have to take drugs to succeed.""
paulerdos  drugs  adhd  productivity  psychology  writing  adderall  add  benzedrine  psychostimulants  concentration  philipkdick  grahamgreene  jackkerouac 
february 2011 by robertogreco
List of fictional books - Wikipedia
"A fictional book is a non-existent book created specifically for (i.e. within) a work of fiction. This is not a list of works of fiction (i.e., actual novels, mysteries, etc), but rather imaginary books that do not actually exist.

Uses: Such a book may (1) provide the basis of the novel's plot, (2) add verisimilitude by supplying plausible background, or (3) act as a common thread in a series of books or the works of a particular writer or canon of work. A fictional book may also (4) be used as a conceit to illustrate a story within a story, or (5) be essentially a joke title, thus helping to establish the humorous or satirical tone of the work. (Fictional books used as hoaxes or as purported support for actual research are usually referred to as false documents.)"
borges  umbertoeco  michaelchabon  italocalvino  neilgaiman  philipkdick  aldoushuxley  johnirving  kafka  georgeorwell  orhanpamuk  thomaspynchon  vonnegut  wikipedia  writing  fiction  lists  literature  books  meta  invention  verisimilitude  kurtvonnegut 
august 2010 by robertogreco
LRB · Stephen Burt: Kick over the Scenery
"Our faith in supposed meritocracy that so often rewards wealth & connections, dependence on non-renewable resources, reliance for moral guidance on intuitions that may come from mere habit/genes: all hypocrisies of modern life dramatised in science ficti
philipkdick  scifi  sciencefiction  literature 
july 2008 by robertogreco
Kevin Kelly -- The Technium - Humanity's Identity Crises
"Who am I? Can there be more than one species of human? Can a robot be a child of God? Is slavery among intelligent machines acceptable? Should we extend the circle of empathy beyond animals and living things to made things? If it hurts, is it real?"
reality  robots  philipkdick  identity  humanity  humans  kevinkelly  philosophy  futurism  future  empathy  compassion  technology 
march 2008 by robertogreco

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