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Posts Tagged ‘futurology

[BLOG] Some Saturday links

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  • Architectuul takes a look at different retrofuture imaginings from the 20th century of what architecture might look like in the 21st century.
  • Bad Astronomer Phil Plait notes the mysteries surrounding a sudden recent eruption of Sagittarius A*.
  • Centauri Dreams considers what the James Webb Space Telescope might be able to pick up from TRAPPIST-1.
  • Henry Farrell at Crooked Timber considers Ossian’s Ride, a SF novel by Fred Hoyle imagining a progressive Ireland leapfrogging ahead of Britain, and how this scenario is being realized now.
  • D-Brief looks at what a glitch in the spin rate of the Vela pulsar reveals about these bodies.
  • Dangerous Minds looks at how Rock Hudson came to star in the SF film Seconds.
  • Bruce Dorminey notes a new NASA Kepler study suggesting (very) broadly Earth-like worlds might orbit as many as one in six Sun-like stars.
  • Gizmodo links</u. to a study suggesting the oddly fuzzy core of Jupiter might be a consequences of an ancient collision with a massive protoplanet.
  • Imageo notes that July broke all sorts of climate records.
  • Joe. My. God. notes that the Trump administration has exempted Bibles from the new China tariffs.
  • Language Hat considers, after the space of a decade, why people might say a language is so foreign as to be Greek.
  • Robert Farley links at Lawyers, Guns and Money to an analysis of what major battle fleets around the world would have looked like in 1950 absent a Second World War.
  • The LRB Blog notes how the UK Conservative government’s turn towards repressive law-and-order measures will please Faragists.
  • The Map Room Blog shares maps indicating the scale of the American opioid crisis.
  • Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution links to one of his columns noting how two decades of nil economic growth has harmed Italy.
  • Peter Watts at his blog has a critical take on the Chinese SF movie The Wandering Earth.
  • The NYR Daily looks at how things are becoming quite bad for Kashmiris.
  • The Planetary Society Blog looks at how the OSIRIS-REx team is looking for sample sites on asteroid Bennu.
  • Starts With A Bang’s Ethan Siegel notes the evidence from our solar system’s moons that two planets can indeed stably share the same orbit.
  • Towleroad notes how a successful campaign has helped London fetish bar Backstreet survive gentrification.
  • Arnold Zwicky shares some gorgeous blue and black flowers in the Gamble Garden of Palo Alto, and meditations on said.

[REVIEW] Arthur. C. Clarke’s July 20, 2019: Life in the 21st Century

I had been passingly aware of Arthur C Clarke’s 1986 book Arthur. C. Clarke’s July 20, 2019: Life in the 21st Century for some time. This book was one of his many books in his later career where Clarke played the futurologist, pointing his audiences towards the possibilities of the future. It was only when I saw this winter a copy in near-mint condition in The Junction‘s Pandemonium that I took particular note: The date of the title was closing. Surely it merited some exploration. Sadly, when I popped into Pandemonium I was told that someone had bought that copy just a few minutes before my arrival. Off to Amazon I went.

Arthur C. Clarke's July 20, 2019: Life in the 21st Century #books #hardcover #arthurcclarke #sciencefiction #futurology #future #retrofuture

The significance of the title July 20, 2019 comes of course from this date being the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on the Moon. It does indeed begin with an imagined address to the reader by the Arthur C. Clarke of 2019 himself, a resident of Clavius City, a base in the Moon’s Clavius Crater home to a only a thousand people. From that lofty perspective, Clarke sets out from this lofty perspective the framework for these great changes in humanity. The subsequent chapters, written with a wide variety of collaborators, go on to look at different areas of the human future: education, health, robotics, space and transportation, sex and work, crime and war, all get explored in turn.

The one overriding theme that July 20, 2019 gets perfectly right is the extent to which what we in actual 2019 would call Big Data is transformative. The new generation of computers and associated technologies that were only beginning to emerge in 1986, capable not only of collecting vast amounts of data but of drawing meaningful conclusions from these, would make many things possible. It would become possible, for instance, for modern medicine to provide finely tailored recommendations as to what patients should do to enjoy the best possible health, to finally make psychiatry a science wit effective interventions to deal with the ills of the human mind.

It would allow people to become life-long students, to continue to expand their skills and to learn more about the world.

It would allow people to enjoy all kinds of popular culture, for sports enhanced by bioengineering to new distribution methods for shows and for altogether new cultural forms scarcely imagined.

More, this Big Data would enable all sorts of innovations in the physical sciences, in the manufacture of all sorts of robots capable of acts of great precision and in the development of new swift vehicles to travel the skies and the oceans and in new sorts of pleasure.

All of the chapters are informative, but not that many were outstanding. I did particularly like one built around a criminal investigation looking at the relationship of a smart home with its owner. (I, for one, take care to always be polite to my Google Home Minis.) I was also caught up by the drama of an imagined Third World War, fought almost bloodlessly with precise smart weapons along the inner German frontier, ending mildly enough with a loss by East Germany of Schwerin as West Germany gave up the Fulda Gap.

It is not that there were many things that were outright wrong. (I remain convinced that we were biased by the geopolitics-driven space race of the 1960s towards thinking crewed space travel would be easier and would come about earlier than we should have expected in the technologically primitive and poor world of the mid-20th century; the 2020s might well be a good time for a durable resurgence.) The overall contours of the world depicted, generally speaking, are ones that people in actual 2019 would be able to recognize as something mostly like their own.

The big problem with July 20, 2019 is that it does not quite take account of people. Who was it who said that science fiction was a literature of ideas if not a literature of literature, of heady concepts but not so much about people or societies? The geopolitics of this imagined Third World War are uninspiring, reflecting Clarke’s 2001 or 2010, the colossi of the United States and the Soviet Union dominating to the exclusion of anyone else. We have fought multiple wars with smart weapons, and we know that even if these smart weapons actually are as good as we’d like them to be they are fired by governments acting with imperfect knowledge at targets in societies made up of innumerable human beings. This imagined near-total stability, in retrospect, is a failure.

Beyond this, I do not think that Clarke quite recognized how the impact of Big Data would change the quality of human lives. If people are to become life-long patients, life-long students, constantly being engaged in a stressful world full of challenges and stimuli barely imagined to the people of 1986, what would the impact of this be? Looking back, I think that we can see the people of Clarke’s imagined 2019 would be desperately grinding, perhaps just as we are in our post-Cold War globalized era. Clarke, though, did not seem to get this.

July 20, 2019 is a good book. I quite enjoyed going through it, taking a look at what one of the great science fiction writers imagined our world might come to be. I just think that the gaps and failed predictions are as interesting as the successes. These all are the sorts of factors that people aspiring to predict the future should look to learn from.

Written by Randy McDonald

July 20, 2019 at 11:58 pm

[NEWS] Five links about Canada and the future: Olympics, politics, demographics, Elizabeth II

  • The Conversation suggests that blaming the 1976 Montréal Olympics for the reluctance of Canada to host an Olympics should stop.
  • Is it possible that a Conservative majority government could be plausibly achieved by a breakthrough in Québec? Phiippe J. Fournier at MacLean’s considers.
  • A Conservative majority government, again, is perfectly imaginable. MacLean’s reports.
  • Don Pittis at CBC notes how worker shortages in Canada are leading to rising wages, in at least some areas.
  • What will happen, in Canada and elsewhere, when Queen Elizabeth II dies? MacLean’s speculates.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 26, 2019 at 11:45 pm

[BLOG] Some Tuesday links

  • Anthro{dendum} features an essay examining trauma and resiliency as encountered in ethnographic fieldwork.
  • Architectuul highlights a new project seeking to promote historic churches built in the United Kingdom in the 20th century.
  • Bad Astronomy’s Phil Plait examines Ahuna Mons, a muddy and icy volcano on Ceres, and looks at the nebula Westerhout 40.
  • Centauri Dreams notes the recent mass release of data from a SETI project, and notes the discovery of two vaguely Earth-like worlds orbiting the very dim Teegarden’s Star, just 12 light-years away.
  • Chris Bertram at Crooked Timber notes that having universities as a safe space for trans people does not infringe upon academic freedom.
  • The Crux looks at the phenomenon of microsleep.
  • D-Brief notes evidence that the Milky Way Galaxy was warped a billion years ago by a collision with dark matter-heavy dwarf galaxy Antlia 2, and notes a robotic fish powered by a blood analogue.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes that India plans on building its own space station.
  • Earther notes the recording of the song of the endangered North Pacific right whale.
  • The Everyday Sociology Blog looks at the role of emotional labour in leisure activities.
  • Far Outliers looks at how Japan prepared for the Battle of the Leyte Gulf in 1944.
  • Gizmodo looks at astronomers’ analysis of B14-65666, an ancient galactic collision thirteen billion light-years away, and notes that the European Space Agency has a planned comet interception mission.
  • io9 notes how the plan for Star Trek in the near future is to not only have more Star Trek, but to have many different kinds of Star Trek for different audiences.
  • Joe. My. God. notes the observation of Pete Buttigieg that the US has probably already had a gay president.
  • JSTOR Daily looks at the many ways in which the rhetoric of Celtic identity has been used, and notes that the archerfish uses water ejected from its eyes to hunt.
  • Language Hat looks at why Chinese is such a hard language to learn for second-language learners, and looks at the Suso monastery in Spain, which played a key role in the coalescence of the Spanish language.
  • Language Log looks at the complexities of katakana.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes the death of deposed Egypt president Mohammed Morsi looks like a slow-motion assassination, and notes collapse of industrial jobs in the Ohio town of Lordstown, as indicative of broader trends.
  • The LRB Blog looks at the death of Mohamed Morsi.
  • The Map Rom Blog shares a new British Antarctic Survey map of Greenland and the European Arctic.
  • Marginal Revolution notes how non-religious people are becoming much more common in the Middle East, and makes the point that the laying of cable for the transatlantic telegraph is noteworthy technologically.
  • Noah Smith at Noahpionion takes the idea of the Middle East going through its own version of the Thirty Years War seriously. What does this imply?
  • The NYR Daily takes a look at a Lebanon balanced somehow on the edge, and looks at the concentration camp system of the United States.
  • The Planetary Society Blog explains what people should expect from LightSail 2, noting that the LightSail 2 has launched.
  • Personal Reflections’ Jim Belshaw points readers to his stories on Australian spy Harry Freame.
  • Rocky Planet explains, in the year of the Apollo 50th anniversary, why the Moon matters.
  • Drew Rowsome reviews, and praises, South African film Kanarie, a gay romp in the apartheid era.
  • The Russian Demographics Blog links to a paper examining the relationship between childcare and fertility in Belgium, and looks at the nature of statistical data from Turkmenistan.
  • The Strange Maps Blog shares a map highlighting different famous people in the United States.
  • Starts With A Bang’s Ethan Siegel explains why different galaxies have different amounts of dark matter, and shares proof that the Apollo moon landings actually did happen.
  • Towleroad notes the new evidence that poppers, in fact, are not addictive.
  • Window on Eurasia warns about the parlous state of the Volga River.
  • Arnold Zwicky takes an extended look at the mid-20th century gay poet Frank O’Hara.

[NEWS] 15 links about Canada and Canadian politics (#cdnpoli)

  • Scott Gilmore at MacLean’s notes how, in the United States, Canada as a model is a common idea among Democrats.
  • David Camfield argues at The Conversation that the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike offers lessons for Canadians now.
  • Le Devoir notes the recent argument of now-Québec premier François Legault that a Québec that was, like Ontario, a relatively wealthy province would be a Québec that would have fewer tensions with the rest of Canada. Is this plausible?
  • Éric Grenier notes at CBC that, in Ontario, Andrew Scheer’s federal conservatives will need to draw voters from beyond Ford Nation.
  • MacLean’s hosts the arguments of Frank Graves and Michael Valpy that Canadian politicians are not paying nearly the amount of attention to economic inequality that Canadians think they should.
  • MacLean’s makes the point that Conrad Black seems to see much to like in Donald Trump.
  • Ontario and the Canadian government are fighting over funding for the proposed Ontario Line, the Canadian government insisting it needs more information about the route. The Toronto Star reports.
  • Facebook, it turns out, chose not to pay proper attention to sending officials to testify at a Canada government inquiry into fake news. Maclean’s reports.
  • Justin Trudeau, speaking recently in Toronto, credited immigration for the success of the tech sector of Canada. CBC reports.
  • Foreign workers turn out to play a critical role in staffing the lobster plants in the Acadian fishing village of Meteghan, in Nova Scotia. CBC reports.
  • Canada and the United States are again disputing the claims of Canada to sovereignty over the Northwest Passage. Global News reports.
  • MacLean’s interviews Northwest Territories premier Bob McLeod, who dreams of a massive development of Arctic Canada, including a goal of a million residents for his territory.
  • Enzo DiMatteo suggests at NOW Toronto that the growing unpopularity of Doing Ford in Ontario might hurt the federal Conservatives badly.
  • Could the Green Party go mainstream across Canada? The Conversation considers.
  • The Conversation reports on what the national fervour over the Toronto Raptors represents, including the growing diversity of the population of Canada and the global spread of basketball.

[BLOG] Some Saturday links

  • Architectuul looks at some architecturally innovative pools.
  • Bad Astronomy’s Phil Plait looks at Wolf 359, a star made famous in Star Trek for the Starfleet battle there against the Borg but also a noteworthy red dwarf star in its own right.
  • Centauri Dreams looks at how the NASA Deep Space Atomic Clock will play a vital role in interplanetary navigation.
  • The Crux considers the “drunken monkey” thesis, the idea that drinking alcohol might have been an evolutionary asset for early hominids.
  • D-Brief reports on what may be the next step for genetic engineering beyond CRISPR.
  • Bruce Dorminey looks at how artificial intelligence may play a key role in searching for threat asteroids.
  • The Island Review shares some poetry from Roseanne Watt, inspired by the Shetlands and using its dialect.
  • Livia Gershon writes at JSTOR Daily about how YouTube, by promising to make work fun, actually also makes fun work in psychologically problematic ways.
  • Marginal Revolution notes how the relatively small Taiwan has become a financial superpower.
  • Janine di Giovanni at the NYR Daily looks back at the 2000 intervention in Sierra Leone. Why did it work?
  • Jamais Cascio at Open the Future looks back at a 2004 futurological exercise, the rather accurate Participatory Panopticon. What did he anticipate correctly? How? What does it suggest for us now to our world?
  • The Planetary Society Blog notes that LightSail 2 will launch before the end of June.
  • Starts With A Bang’s Ethan Siegel looks at how the discovery of gas between galaxies helps solve a dark matter question.
  • Strange Company shares a broad collection of links.
  • Window on Eurasia makes the obvious observation that the West prefers a North Caucasus controlled by Russia to one controlled by Islamists.
  • Arnold Zwicky takes a look at American diner culture, including American Chinese food.

[BLOG] Some Thursday links

  • Bad Astronomer Phil Plait takes a look at the German city of Nordlingen, formed in a crater created by the impact of a binary asteroid with Earth.
  • Centauri Dreams reports on the possibility that the farside of the Moon might bear the imprint of an ancient collision with a dwarf planet the size of Ceres.
  • D-Brief notes that dredging for the expansion of the port of Miami has caused terrible damage to corals there.
  • Dangerous Minds looks at the last appearances of David Bowie and Iggy Pop together on stage.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes that China is on track to launch an ambitious robotic mission to Mars in 2020.
  • Karen Sternheimer at the Everyday Sociology Blog talks about what sociological research actually is.
  • Gizmodo reports on the discovery of a torus of cool gas circling Sagittarius A* at a distance of a hundredth of a light-year.
  • io9 reports about Angola Janga, an independent graphic novel by Marcelo D’Salete showing how slaves from Africa in Brazil fought for their freedom and independence.
  • The Island Review shares some poems of Matthew Landrum, inspired by the Faroe Islands.
  • Joe. My. God. looks at how creationists are mocking flat-earthers for their lack of scientific knowledge.
  • Language Hat looks at the observations of Mary Beard that full fluency in ancient Latin is rare even for experts, for reasons I think understandable.
  • Melissa Byrnes wrote at Lawyers, Guns and Money about the meaning of 4 June 1989 in the political transitions of China and Poland.
  • Marginal Revolution notes how the New York Times has become much more aware of cutting-edge social justice in recent years.
  • The NYR Daily looks at how the memories and relics of the Sugar Land prison complex outside of Houston, Texas, are being preserved.
  • Jason C Davis at the Planetary Society Blog looks at the differences between LightSail 1 and the soon-to-be-launched LightSail 2.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer looks in detail at the high electricity prices in Argentina.
  • Peter Rukavina looks at the problems with electric vehicle promotion on PEI.
  • Starts With A Bang’s Ethan Siegel looks at when the universe will have its first black dwarf. (Not in a while.)
  • Window on Eurasia suggests that Belarusians are not as interested in becoming citizens of Russia as an Internet poll suggests.
  • Arnold Zwicky highlights a Pride Month cartoon set in Antarctica featuring the same-sex marriage of two penguins.