A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘popular culture

[URBAN NOTE] Seven Toronto links: #650Parliament, CNE, Cabbagetown, migration, TTC

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  • It has been one year since the disaster at 650 Parliament. Global News reports.
  • The Star looks at how, after the 650 Parliament disaster, St. James Town is coping with the loss of a tenth of its population, right here.
  • A community group opposed the idea of the Ontario Line running vehicles through their neighbourhood every 90 seconds. The Star reports.
  • For one man, Wayne Malley, being lost at the CNE as a child was an unforgettable adventure. The Star reports.
  • Toronto Life interviews people in Cabbagetown to see what they think about their neighbourhood’s safe injection site, here.
  • NOW Toronto interviews six Torontonian musicians who left their city in search of affordable homes elsewhere, here.
  • Global News reports on the strange story of a retired TTC streetcar found in the middle of the forest.

[BLOG] Some Sunday links

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  • Saira Mehmood blogs at {anthro}dendum about her experiences as an ethnographer in her New Orleans community.
  • Bad Astronomer Phil Plait blogs about Supernova 2016iet, a rare example of a pair-instability supernova.
  • At the Broadside Blog, Caitlin Kelly writes about the need of people to avoid isolation.
  • Centauri Dreams notes that future astronomers might be able to detect the fluorescence of life on exoplanets during flares.
  • Why, Crooked Timber asks, shouldn’t children be given the vote?
  • D-Brief notes scientists have manufactured a ring of carbon atoms.
  • JSTOR Daily looks at the complexities of #VanLife in the United States, at once a lifestyle choice in the US and a response to poverty.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money is decidedly unimpressed by the recent rewriting of the Statue of Liberty.
  • Neuroskeptic looks at how neuroimaging studies study surprisingly few left-handers, and how this is a problem.
  • The NYR Daily looks at how Big Data in China is enhancing state power, concentrating on the situation in Xinjiang.
  • Drew Rowsome looks at a new documentary on the genesis of Fiddler on the Roof, Fiddler: Miracle of Miracles.
  • Starts With A Bang’s Ethan Siegel looks at how dark matter and black holes can interact.
  • Arnold Zwicky takes a look at coded anti-black racism in the 1937 United States.

[BLOG] Some Friday links

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  • Shir Lerman Ginzburg at anthro{dendum} writes about kintsugi in her own life.
  • Bad Astronomy’s Phil Plait looks at the massive black hole, massing two billion suns, measured in the heart of NGC 3258.
  • The Broadside Blog’s Caitlin Kelly shares some photos from her Hudson River life.
  • D-Brief notes how astronomers may be able to detect the radio signals emitted from the cores of planets orbiting dead stars.
  • The Everyday Sociology Blog looks at the sociology of religion.
  • JSTOR Daily looks at how Ferdinand Magellan acted in many ways like a pirate.
  • Language Hat reports on the remarkable differences between the two dubbed French versions of The Simpsons, one in France and one in Québec.
  • Language Log reports on the Chinese placename “Xinjiang Uygur.”
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money makes the point that Joe Biden is too old, too set in his ways, to be president.
  • Molly Crabapple writes at the NYR Daily about the nature and goals of the massive protest movement in Puerto Rico.
  • Starts With A Bang’s Ethan Siegel looks even-handedly at the controversy surrounding the idea of building the Thirty Metre Telescope on top of sacred Mauna Kea.
  • Window on Eurasia looks at controversy in Russia over the representation of different Tatar populations on the Russian 2020 census.
  • Stephen Gordon at Worthwhile Canadian Initiative wonders why it was 1953 that, in Canada, saw the growth in women on the job market.

[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

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

  • Bad Astronomy’s Phil Plait looks at the extreme millisecond pulsar IGR J17062−6143.
  • Centauri Dreams looks at a proposal to intercept objects of extrasolar origin like ‘Oumuamua.
  • The Crux looks at how researchers are discovering traces of lost hominid populations in the DNA of contemporary humans.
  • D-Brief notes a crowdsourcing of a search for intermediate-mass black holes.
  • Gizmodo notes the impending production of a new working Commodore 64 clone.
  • The Island Review notes people of the Norway island of Sommarøy wish to make their island, home to the midnight sun, a #TimeFreeZone.
  • JSTOR Daily looks at the art that has been produced in the era of digital addiction.
  • Language Log looks at how, in Iran, the word “Eastoxification” has entered into usage alongside the older “Westoxification.”
  • Dave Brockington at Lawyers, Guns, and Money looks at the many likely failings of a Corbyn foreign policy for the United Kingdom.
  • The LRB Blog notes that opposition candidate Ekrem İmamoğlu has been re-elected as mayor of Istanbul.
  • The Map Room Blog links to various maps of the Moon.
  • Marginal Revolution links to a paper looking at markets in Lagos, suggesting they are self-regulating to some degree.
  • Starts With A Bang’s Ethan Siegel explains when the earliest sunrise and latest sunset of the year is, and why.
  • Towleroad shares an interview with Jack Baker and Mike McConnell, a same-sex couple married for nearly a half-century.
  • Window on Eurasia notes how the open approach of the Russian Federation to Russian diasporids is not extended to diasporas of its minority groups, particularly to Muslim ones like Circassians and Tatars.
  • Arnold Zwicky considers some Pride fashion, with and without rainbows.

[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.

[URBAN NOTE] Five links on cities; Frank Lloyd Wright, populism, Paris Syndrome, neon, Speed

  • CityLab reports on how a 3-D printer is being used to print models of some lost works of Frank Lloyd Wright, here.
  • CityLab features an interview with French geographer Christophe Guilluy, who argues that populism is driven by the anger of the people left behind by globalization outside of major urban centres.
  • BBC examines “Paris Syndrome”, the psychotic state sometimes incited by travel to a famed destination.
  • CityLab looks at the 20th century history of neon signage.
  • Nathan Smith at The Outline makes the case that Speed, 25 years old, makes an excellent case for the importance of mass transit including buses, as a mode of transit open to all.