The Continuation of History: Future Societies in Fiction

solarpunks:

The following essay, originally written in 2001 for the literary magazine BigCityLit, examines Ms. Le Guin’s novel The Dispossessed in conjunction with Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy. The ideas expressed and implied in these works continue to be highly relevant for activists wishing to find a path toward a better world.

History has proven it hasn’t ended. The concept should have been too laughable to even been contemplated; the very fact that ever shriller cacophonies of propaganda are hurled at us ought to prove the point, if it needed to be proved at all.No matter how many times Margaret Thatcher’s “There is no alternative” is pompously declared; no matter how many times Francis Fukuyama is invoked to declare the end of history — a quote sure to be one of the 21st century’s reliable laugh lines — much of the world persists in refusing its assigned role. Unless we’re paying close attention, most of this is yet under the radar, save for the occasional spectacle when the World Bank or International Monetary Fund or a hemispheric “free trade” conference convenes, and we are shown a backdrop of protesters while a befuddled television talking head scratches his head and says “I don’t get it.” If the talking head is planning on a nice career as a media personality, he’d better not get it.

There is a subset of the “no alternative” grouping. Well, yes, maybe capitalism isn’t all wonderful, but look at how socialism failed. Actually, “socialism” did not fail; one distorted version did. The story of how that distortion, solidifying the incredible twists and turns taken by one country weighed down by the horrors of its absolutist history and further bent out of recognition by a single-minded dictator, is fascinating for those with much patience. That country, if we care to be precise, was never close to achieving socialism. Nonetheless, that country, which also faced relentless pressures from the West, including an invasion by 14 countries as soon as they could stop fighting World War I, had its uses. Western anti-Marxists didn’t want people to think there could be an alternative to capitalism. They still don’t.

We’ve begun the 21st century. Stalinism is dead. It will remain dead. Still, the desire for a better life remains. But what? It’s too easy to say “we don’t know.”

The Continuation of History: Future Societies in Fiction

Time to do something dumb: EXPRESS PARANOIA.

oldmanwritesincloud:

So here’s the thing that makes this whole “HA HA RUSSIAN TUMBLR BOTS” even dumber: They didn’t spread anything novel, rather act as an echo chamber for things desired to be expressed all the more. They were less disinformation or chaos spreading bots, and more reblogs with slightly edited social commentary or social discourse.

Posited as referenced evidence:

When Ars briefly went through some of the old posts saved on the Internet Archive, it seemed that relatively few posts were directly pertinent to the presidential campaign. Many of the posts, for instance, touched on black-oriented social justice topics. We did find one post that specifically advocated in favor of Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders. 

Combined with that, this makes even less sense. A tumblr post isn’t the same as a fake news post unless it carries direct misinformation for the purpose of emotional reactions to non-existent problems. But that isn’t what happened. All of these blogs were mostly dedicated to heavily tagged social issues in America. While some of the listed ones could be accused of being communist, they definitely weren’t pro-Putin, and even fewer of the mere 84 total revealed accounts went anywhere close to the point of encouraging people not to vote against Trump in the election. Unlike many of the Facebook Russian bots that produced massive misinformation campaigns, none of the Tumblr ones seemed to have attempted to reach such massively deceptive levels.

What they did do, however, is establish an apparent connection between social discourse and social unrest and the ability to label and discredit such online social media displays as something stemming only from Anti-American Foreign Powers and something to be censored/policed as dangerous by American authorities and corporations.

And that, regardless of who created those accounts and for what reason, is far more terrifying.

It didn’t undermine America. It undermined the ability to express about America. 

#Have You Now Or Have You Ever Been A Bot?

“This origin story underlines how agriculture made cities possible, by providing enough food to feed a settled crowd on a…

iamdanw:

“This origin story underlines how agriculture made cities possible, by providing enough food to feed a settled crowd on a regular basis. Cities can’t work without farms, nor without watersheds that provide their water. So as central as cities are to modern civilisation, they are only one aspect of a system.”

Empty half the Earth of its humans. It’s the only way to save the planet | Kim Stanley Robinson

Invisible, targeted infrared light can fool facial recognition software into thinking anyone is anyone else

mostlysignssomeportents:

A group of Chinese computer scientists from academia and industry have published a paper documenting a tool for fooling facial recognition software by shining hat-brim-mounted infrared LEDs on the user’s face, projecting CCTV-visible, human-eye-invisible shapes designed to fool the face recognition software.

The tactic lets the attacker specify which face the categorizer should “see” – the researchers were able to trick the software into recognizing arbitrary faces as belonging to the musician Moby, the Korean politician Hoi-Chang and others.

Their experiment draws on the body of work on adversarial examples: blind spots in machine-learning models that can be systematically discovered and exploited to confuse these classifiers.

The gadget used in their attack is not readily distinguishable from a regular ball-cap, and the attack only needs a single photo of the person to be impersonated in order to set up the correct light patterns. It worked with a 70% success rate used in a “white-box” attack (where the classifier is well understood), and they believe they could migrate this to a “black-box” attack (where the classifier’s workings are a secret) using a technique called “Particle Swarm Optimization.”

https://boingboing.net/2018/03/26/the-threaten-from-infrared.html

“The establishment of the Chancery of Westminster in the 1430’s set standard spellings for official state documents. In…

allthingslinguistic:

“The establishment of the Chancery of Westminster in the 1430’s set standard spellings for official state documents. In particular, the use of ‘I’ in preference to ‘ich’ and a variety of other usages of the first person pronoun. The spelling of other words such as ‘land’ (the ‘lond’ of Chaucer) also became standardized in the modern form, alongside words like 'such,’ 'right,’ 'not,’ 'but,’ 'these,’ 'shall,’ 'should,’ and 'could’. The influence of Chancery Standard was keenly felt in the quest to develop Standard English. The East Midlands dialect had gained cultural dominance over the other dialects and flowed in through the political, commercial and cultural 'triangle’ that joined London, Oxford and Cambridge. However, the advent of the printing press and mass publication necessitated further developments in the standardization process. The Chancery clerks had adopted the East Midland variants, and this naturally rubbed off on the London print houses. Some choices made by printers seem to have been quite arbitrary, however. For example, the adoption of the Northern dialect form 'they,’ 'their’ and 'them’ for plural and possessive pronouns, when the more common Southern dialect favoured 'hi,’ 'hir’ and 'hem’ (although this may have been simply to create a clear distinction with singular pronouns such as 'he,’ 'her’ and 'him’). …Early proof readers must have had a near-impossible task, as books often contained multiple variations of spellings of the same word. Particular confusion centred on the use of double vowels and consonants; for example, 'booke’ and 'boke’ and 'fellow,’ 'felow’ and 'felowe’. …Punctuation was another area in which usage and forms gradually became more standardized through printed language. Full stops became common at the end of sentences, and the convention of using capital letters for proper nouns and at the beginning of sentences became commonplace.”

— “The Story of English: How an Obscure
Dialect Became the World’s Most-Spoken Language” (via mostly-history)

“The establishment of the Chancery of Westminster in the 1430’s set standard spellings for official state documents. In…

allthingslinguistic:

“The establishment of the Chancery of Westminster in the 1430’s set standard spellings for official state documents. In particular, the use of ‘I’ in preference to ‘ich’ and a variety of other usages of the first person pronoun. The spelling of other words such as ‘land’ (the 'lond’ of Chaucer) also became standardized in the modern form, alongside words like 'such,’ 'right,’ 'not,’ 'but,’ 'these,’ 'shall,’ 'should,’ and 'could’. The influence of Chancery Standard was keenly felt in the quest to develop Standard English. The East Midlands dialect had gained cultural dominance over the other dialects and flowed in through the political, commercial and cultural 'triangle’ that joined London, Oxford and Cambridge. However, the advent of the printing press and mass publication necessitated further developments in the standardization process. The Chancery clerks had adopted the East Midland variants, and this naturally rubbed off on the London print houses. Some choices made by printers seem to have been quite arbitrary, however. For example, the adoption of the Northern dialect form 'they,’ 'their’ and 'them’ for plural and possessive pronouns, when the more common Southern dialect favoured 'hi,’ 'hir’ and 'hem’ (although this may have been simply to create a clear distinction with singular pronouns such as 'he,’ 'her’ and 'him’). …Early proof readers must have had a near-impossible task, as books often contained multiple variations of spellings of the same word. Particular confusion centred on the use of double vowels and consonants; for example, 'booke’ and 'boke’ and 'fellow,’ 'felow’ and 'felowe’. …Punctuation was another area in which usage and forms gradually became more standardized through printed language. Full stops became common at the end of sentences, and the convention of using capital letters for proper nouns and at the beginning of sentences became commonplace.”

— “The Story of English: How an Obscure
Dialect Became the World’s Most-Spoken Language” (via mostly-history)

African tools push back the origins of human technological innovation

Not all researchers supported the view that modernity arose outside of Africa. Writing at the turn of the millennium, archaeologists Sally McBrearty and Allison Brooks complained that this view was Eurocentric and brought about by a profound under-appreciation of the depth and complexity of the African archaeological record. They argued that components of the “human revolution” were to be found in the African Middle Stone Age some 280,000-50,000 years ago. Now, two decades later, Brooks and her colleagues have presented well-dated evidence from the Olorgesailie Basin in Kenya that places the evolution of some of these behaviours much further back in time. They highlight technological change at around 300,000 years ago that likely occurred in response to the effects of long-term, global environmental and climatic change.

via https://phys.org/news/2018–03-african-tools-human-technological.html

“I’ve often struggled to pinpoint the difference between a tool and a machine; it’s not simply a question of scale or…

deleuzenotes:

“I’ve often struggled to pinpoint the difference between a tool and a machine; it’s not simply a question of scale or complexity. Still, the tool and the machine constitute two different branches in the philosophy of technology. For instance Heidegger wrote about tools but had much less to say about machines. Deleuze, for his part, was obsessed with machines, leaving tools by the wayside. Overall, ergodic machines are interesting from a philosophical point of view, given how philosophy tends to privilege presence and being. Categories like energy, heat, power, change, motion, evolution, or process tend to get second billing in philosophy, if they’re addressed at all. To promote them to primary billing, as Foucault did, or Whitehead, or Nietzsche, is something of a radical gesture.”

Anti-Computer | Alexander R. Galloway (via notational)