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robertogreco : posterity   10

William Gibson on Watches | WatchPaper
“William Gibson is famously credited with predicting the internet. Early works like Neuromancer, Count Zero, and Mona Lisa Overdrive established him as a major voice in science fiction and the worlds he created still serve as a template for how popular culture views the future. If you’ve seen The Matrix or read any cyberpunk, you’ve seen William Gibson’s influence at work. Equally important, but perhaps less famous are his essays, collected recently in Distrust That Particular Flavour. Highly perceptive and suggestive, they span a range of topics from Singapore’s totalitarianism and Tokyo’s futurism, to the Web and technology’s effect on us all. The volume also contains his glosses on those essays, which were written over a span of 30 years. Brief afterwords, they are his reflections on the content, and on the person who wrote that content at a point and time, and what’s happened since. In his 1997 essay, “My Obsession”, William Gibson chronicled his interest in watches for Wired magazine. [See “My Obsession” https://www.wired.com/1999/01/ebay/ ] The essay is as much about the advent of the internet and sites like eBay as it is about watches, and his afterword to the essay reflects:
People who’ve read this piece often assume that I subsequently became a collector of watches. I didn’t, at least not in my own view. Collections of things, and their collectors, have generally tended to give me the willies. I sometimes, usually only temporarily, accumulate things in some one category, but the real pursuit is in the learning curve. The dive into esoterica. The quest for expertise. This one lasted, in its purest form, for five or six years. None of the eBay purchases documented [in the essay] proved to be “keepers.” Not even close.

Undaunted by his placing this interest squarely in the past, something he got over, I wanted to find out what had survived, physically or intellectually, of his obsession. It turns out, quite a lot. We corresponded via email and William Gibson shared his thoughts on collecting, how he got started, what “keepers” remain in his collection and why. We also talked about the Apple watch and what it means for traditional horology.”

...

"If “old” people, as you mentioned in our recent discussion, are concerned that what they’ve collected will be unwanted, how is that anxiety being manifested? Some watch brands like Patek Philippe use durability, inheritance and legacy as their explicit identity.

I was thinking of someone with dozens of rare military watches. Even if they have children, will the children want their watches? It could be difficult finding the right museum to donate them to, in order to keep the collection intact. I think Patek’s appeal to inheritance and legacy still has some basis, though the wristwatch itself has become a piece of archaic (though still functional) jewelry. You don’t absolutely need one. You do, probably, absolutely need your smartphone, and it also tells the time. Eventually, I assume, virtually everything will also tell the time.

Is there something authentic in collecting we as humans are striving for? What does the impulse represent for you?

I actively enjoy having fewer, preferably better things. So I never deliberately accumulated watches, except as the temporary by-product of a learning curve, as I searched for my own understanding of watches, and for the ones I’d turn out to particularly like. I wanted an education, rather than a collection. But there’s always a residuum: the keepers. (And editing is as satisfying as acquiring, for me.)

Do you think there’s anything intrinsic to watches (their aesthetics, engineering etc.) that make them especially susceptible to our interest?

Mechanical timekeeping devices were among our first complex machines, and became our first ubiquitous complex machines, and the first to be miniaturized. Mechanical wristwatches were utterly commonplace for less than a century. Today, there’s no specific need for a mechanical watch, unless you’re worried about timekeeping in the wake of an Electromagnetic Pulse attack. So we have heritage devices, increasingly archaic in the singularity of their function, their lack of connectivity. But it was exactly that lack that once made them heroic: they kept telling accurate time, regardless of what was going on around them. They were accurate because they were unconnected, unitary.

How do you think the notion of collecting has changed since your preoccupation with watches played itself out? Scarcity (but not true rarity) barely exists any more.

The Internet makes it increasingly easy to assemble a big pile of any category of objects, but has also rationalized the market in every sort of rarity. There’s more stuff, and fewer random treasures. When I discovered military watches, I could see that that was already happening to them, but that there was still a window for informed acquisition. That’s mostly closed now. The world’s attic is now that much more thoroughly sorted and priced!"
watches  williamgibson  ebay  horology  fashion  collecting  collections  learning  howwelearn  2015  esoterica  research  researching  deepdives  expertise  obsessions  cv  immersion  posterity  legacy  analog  mechanical  durability  longevity  inheritance  jewelery  smartphones  understanding  education  self-directed  self-directedlearning  timekeeping  connectivity  scarcity  objects  possessions  ownership  quality  internet  web  online  wristwatches  things  applewatch  pebble  pebblewatch  smartwatches 
9 weeks ago by robertogreco
A Doll Cabinet in Iowa / Snarkmarket
"To know the future … that’s the dream, right? But it’s a dream that makes sense only if the future is merely revealed, rather than being constructed bit by bit from the traces of the present, which we still have the ability to shape. Let me argue instead for seeking future history — the ability to consider the present through the lens of the future, to find imminent anachronisms hidden in plain sight. What do we take for granted today that will come to seem remarkable tomorrow? What will the history books say about us?

A few months ago, my friends Andy, Amanda, and Amy, and I decided to build a weekend around these questions. And now I’m seeing future history everywhere.

Like all right-thinking people, I’ve been infected with Hamilton fever. The theme of the show that resonates most loudly is the obsession of all the central characters with their place in history. After one recent replay of the score, I found myself tearfully re-reading Washington’s farewell address, a message sent across the ages, to us. Of course, nearly every Presidential farewell has that time-capsule quality — it’s the last best chance for a President to spin his legacy. But fast-forward through more recent ones, and Washington’s stands out all the more. Other Presidents are aware of the watchful eyes of history, but they spend most of their parting speeches dwelling on the recent past — what they saw, what they did, why they did it. Consequently, moments in these speeches can seem parochial or short-sighted, just decades later. “There hasn’t been a failure of an insured bank in nearly 9 years,” Truman says. “The Persian Gulf is no longer a war zone,” Reagan says. We’re “on track to be debt-free by the end of the decade,” Clinton says.

Washington, though, scours his Presidency for lessons that would reverberate across centuries: Cherish your union, he tells us. “It is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquility at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very liberty which you so highly prize.”

It’s not just lofty Presidential speeches; tiny gestures can mark a break with the past. When Tom Vilsack ascended to the Iowa governor’s mansion, his wife Christie broke slightly with tradition: she elected to have her doll identified by her own name in the cabinet. “I’ve never called myself ‘Mrs. Tom Vilsack,’ ever,” she said. Iowa’s next first lady echoed Christie Vilsack’s choice; her doll is called “Mrs. Mari Culver.”

In 2012, Christie Vilsack tried to change another longstanding Iowa tradition: she ran for Congress. Not only had a woman never been governor of Iowa in 2012, no woman had ever represented the state in either the House or the Senate. “We really have a wonderful history,” the state’s Democratic Party chair said when Vilsack announced her exploratory committee. “With this one problem.”

Vilsack’s run failed; she was defeated by Steve King in 2012. But then something happened, just last year. A streak unbroken since Iowa entered the union in 1846 — nearly 170 years in which a long succession of men exclusively represented Iowa in Congress — ended. Joni Ernst, the daughter of the same Mrs. Mari Culver whose doll sits in a cabinet in the Iowa statehouse, became Iowa’s first ever Congresswoman.

For a weekend in Baltimore in April, we’re going to look for moments like this, and scour our own experiences for ideas and lessons that will endure. We’ll make a time capsule, and we’ll end with a prom; we couldn’t think of two better ways to bring a far-seeing lens to the present. It will be massive fun and I hope you join us if you can. But most of all, I want to know: What do you see around you today that will come to seem remarkable?"
mattthompson  2016  future  history  anachronisms  futurehistory  futurehistoryfestival  events  perspective  legacy  posterity  georgewashington  iowa  change 
february 2016 by robertogreco
thinking / about dongles | cooper-hewitt labs
"Think of everything you’ve ever known about formal design and aesthetics multiplied by automated manufacturing and distributed openly available databases of designs (and gotchas) and then multiplied again by the steady, plodding march of technology.

And there’s the rub: The VGA dongle is made even more fascinating in that light. All VGA dongles are the same at one end. The end with the VGA adapter. The end with the weight of a black hole that the computer industry despite all their best efforts, and advances, can’t seem to escape.

In fairness we might just barely be starting to see a world beyond VGA in that fewer and fewer devices are using it as their default input standard but I suspect it will still be another five (probably ten) years before it will be unnecessary to ask whether there’s a VGA-to-whatever adapter.

And that’s the other end of the adapter. That whole other world of trying to improve or re-imagine video display. That whole other world of computers and other…"
computers  computing  history  googleartproject  storytelling  posterity  change  vga  dongles  context  museums  design  cooper-hewitt  2013  aaronstraupcope 
january 2013 by robertogreco
Time & Eternity
"We eat Wonder Bread which is styrofoam injected with some chemicals that are supposed to be nutritive. We do not even know how to drink. In other words, living, we live in the abstract, not in the concrete. We work for money, not for wealth. We look forward to the future, and do not know how to enjoy today. Now you see is the meaning of eternal life. When Jesus said "Before Abraham was," he didn't say "I was," he said "I am." And to come to this, to know that you are and there is no time except the present. And then suddenly, you see, you attain a sense of reality. You have to find it now. And so really, the aim of education is to teach people to live in the present, to be all here. As it is, our educational system is pretty abstract. It neglects the absolutely fundamentals of life, teaching us all to be bureaucrats, bankers clerks, accountants and insurance salesmen; all cerebral.

It entirely neglects our relationships to the material world."

[See also: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ERbvKrH-GC4 ]
plans  planning  symbols  words  philosophy  speed  energy  motion  hurry  attention  slow  children  sovietunion  posterity  hereandnow  present  abstraction  abstract  presence  reality  capitalism  communism  alanwatts  education  eternity  time 
september 2012 by robertogreco
Institutional memory and reverse smuggling | wrttn
"At the end of the project someone should've been commissioned to write a book, "What This Goddamn Plant Is: And, How It Works". That book is effectively being written now, only by archaeologists."
engineering  documentation  process  archeology  knowledge  via:straup  institutionalmemory  memory  legacy  tcsnmy  lcproject  2011  via:blech  scale  scaling  bureaucracy  archaeology  reversesmuggling  institutionalarchaeology  institutions  business  reverse  culture  values  posterity  corporateespionage  reversecorporateespionage  organizations  recordkeeping  companies  management  sharing  via:tealtan 
december 2011 by robertogreco
Forever / from a working library
"perhaps when it comes to our collective cultural memory, a single life is long enough: long enough, that is, for the next generation to pick up the torch.

This, I believe, is why a book feels permanent, even though enough libraries have burned over the centuries that we ought to know better. A well-made book, stored upright, in a dry, dark place, will survive a hundred years—that is, a lifetime. More if it is especially well printed, and only carefully handled, but a hundred years is a safe bet. Plenty of time to read it as a child, hold onto it through adolescence and adulthood, and then give it to your first great-grandchild. That’s as much forever as any of us can reasonably conceive. … no civilization has ever saved everything; acknowledging that fact does not obviate the need to try and save as much as we can"
culture  books  preservation  archiving  technology  memory  culturalmemory  permanence  eternity  perspective  scale  human  libraries  posterity  civilization  generations  limitations  longnow  longhere  archives  via:preoccupations 
february 2011 by robertogreco
Charlie's Diary: Designing society for posterity
"One thing I'm pretty certain of is that the protestant work ethic underlying American-style capitalism, with its added dog-eat-dog ethos, would be a recipe for disaster aboard a generation ship — regardless of whether it's run as a democracy or a dictatorship. American (or British) working hours are a bizarre cultural aberration — and a very local one. More to the point, competitive capitalism tends to reward increases in operational efficiency, but efficiency is most easily optimized by paring away at the margins — a long-term lethal threat to life in this situation. The "tragedy of the commons" has got to be engineered out aboard a generation ship, otherwise the residents will wake up one [virtual] morning to discover someone's acquired a monopoly on the oxygen supply. And that's just for starters."
society  politics  government  space  sociology  governance  us  uk  future  posterity  via:blackbeltjones  work  economics  capitalism  competition 
november 2009 by robertogreco
scraplab : fighting natural laws
"Considering these two laws together suggests to me that information follows a pattern of burst and decay. This is why your permalinks will never be permanent. This is why I have no qualms with wiping six years of my blog. This is why I don’t care if my URL shortener disappears.
via:preoccupations  forgetting  memory  linkrot  ego  ephemeral  permalinks  online  internet  tomtaylor  posterity  ephemerality 
april 2009 by robertogreco
The Long Now Blog » Blog Archive » Bruce Sterling’s Sharp Warning, 8 years later
"Eight years ago Long Now had a conference...how to build a 10,000 year library....Bruce Sterling delivered....rant...hilarious and biting. It holds up amazingly well" "main benefit I derive from reading Ruskin is the spectacle of someone very bright, very dedicated, very perceptive, very historically aware, a prophet really, a futurist seer == who is mired armpit deep in his own parochiality. And so are we...I want to describe how we might succeed where John Ruskin failed"
brucesterling  longnow  history  future  culture  2000  productivity  thinking  posterity  johnruskin 
august 2008 by robertogreco
Advice from Patton Oswalt's commencement speech given at the high school he graduated from. (kottke.org)
"Reputation, Posterity and Cool are traps. They'll drain the life from your life. Reputation, Posterity and Cool = Fear. AND There Is No Them." "Amen, brother. Although, think about all of the great art we'd be missing out on if 18yo actually took it."
kottke  schools  schooling  reputation  posterity  life  happiness  meaning  art  commencementspeeches  commencementaddresses 
july 2008 by robertogreco

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