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Archive for the ‘future’ Category

Life After People on C4

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I finished my bank holiday by watching Life After People. This is surely inspired by The World Without Us? If you didn’t catch it, don’t worry the book is much better.

From the programme I learnt that clay tablets will last longer than any modern media. Interesting if obvious when you think about it. And Ancient Roman concrete lasts better than modern concrete. They didn’t mention the fact that bronze sculpture will pretty much last forever or that copper will just patina, surprising given the potential for CGI of the Statue of Liberty.

They said that film will crumble but didn’t cover the more interesting bit that radio waves and TV broadcasts will never die.

According to the programme the things that will really last are massive stone structures like the Great Wall and, Pyramids. The Hoover Dam will make a valiant effort.

And curiously as Mark Vernon points out, there’s no mention of plastic which Weisman’s book suggests may be around for a very, very long time.

Written by Karen

May 28th, 2008 at 7:58 am

Posted in future

cities in flight

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I’ve been reading Cities in Flight by James Blish. This description of the impact of automation struck a note with me:

“like everything else in the world requiring an IQ of less than 150, it was computer-controlled. The world-wide dominance of the such machines… had been one of the chief contributors to the present and apparently permanent depression: the coming of semi-intelligent machines into business and technology had created a second Industrial Revolution, in which only the most highly creative human beings, and those most gifted at administration, found themselves with any skills to sell which were worth the world’s money to buy”

Aside from the lovely design (a book with curved corners!) I was interested in this dystopian view of a future formed (perhaps?) from the author’s familiarity with economic depression and cold-war. Novels of the future can be interesting for their views of what will continue as much as the things that will change.

Written by Karen

May 25th, 2008 at 5:49 pm

Posted in future,work

the concerns of full-grown men

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“Politics and economics are concerned with power and wealth, neither of which should be the primary, still less the exclusive, concern of full-grown men” – Arthur C Clarke, Profiles of the Future, 1984

Written by Karen

April 20th, 2008 at 10:25 am

Posted in future,quotes

economist debate: is technology simplifying our lives?

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A Economist debate from the Freedom and its Digital Discontents series:

If the promise of technology is to simplify our lives, it is failing

Dick Szafranski (of consultants Toffler Associates) focuses on paradox of choice and surplus complexity. He teeters on technological determinism throughout:

“Technology has imposed the encumbrance of over-choice on us”

John Maeda similarly ascribes motive to technology:

“Technology exists to advance and enhance our world in new ways.”

He makes curious choices of ambivalent technologies; hearing aids , Blackberrys, and cars. He also seems to imply that what we have now is technology, past tools were not technologies, and future technologies will have less problems:

“The bad rap given to technologies today will be only temporary….But we are in a transitional period where technologies are brittle not because they are failing per se – they are just new and experimental.

We voluntarily let technology enter our lives in the infantile state that it currently exists, and the challenge is to wait for it to mature to something we can all be proud of.”

Tim Ferriss makes the point that the question is phrased in the present tense (i.e. “is failing” and not “will fail”) and so votes for Szafranski.

Written by Karen

March 30th, 2008 at 8:55 am

Posted in future

polaroid v digital cameras

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FringeHog explains why Polaroids are the ‘magic cameras’:

The “Magic” of Polaroid 

Written by Karen

February 28th, 2008 at 8:11 am

Posted in future

sources of energy

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More FringeHog-ery, this time on personal energy:

“Human beings can survive for more than a month without food and for five days without water, but the average man, it is said, can’t live more than six hours without plugging in. Now fast forward to the future, say ten years from now. Imagine a world in which energy is abundant, portable and ultimately, personal. In this future electricity is disconnected from the power grid: no more sockets, no more wires.”

Now this might get me interested. I often fear I’m a bit of a luddite. I’m not interested in fancy interfaces or lots of functionality on my phone. Mostly I just want my phone to stop running out of battery.

The thing I would really like for my laptop is instant boot-up. I don’t understand why we all seems to think it is fine for the computer to putter away to itself for a few minutes before it lets you use it.

(I find the welcome message on work computers a bit menacing. “Good morning, Karen. It is 10.15am”. Why does it tell me the time? Just letting me know that it knows what time I got in?)

Now there’s some nice consequences of time to kill chatting with Chris, Vicky, Noush & Olivia (whose company I’m going to miss terribly if I get hauled down the other end of the office) but it just doesn’t seem very efficient.

I guess what I want from my gadgets is summed up by a colleague’s frequent appeal to our management to “perfect the basics before you start tacking bits on”. But there’s plenty of voices out there in “more! add more!” camp so I’ll be spending my mornings chatting for sometime to come.

Written by Karen

February 17th, 2008 at 9:36 am

Posted in future

when the apocalypse comes

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That’s always been my justification for the chickens and the manual coffee grinder.

I’ve been reading The Stand (much to Iain’s disgust) and The World Without Us (which seemed to merit less disgust) . At the same time I stumbled across the I am Legend inspired We all secretly want to eat dog food in hell which argues that we like apocalyptic movies because

“people do survive, even if they have to endure horrible things in the process”.

So maybe my current enthusiasm is just a sign that I’m stressed. It could be all down to the desire for a cosy catastrophe.

Even at the best of times good-life-ery overlaps with survivalism so it isn’t uncommon for me to be immersed in apocalypta. One minute you’re reading about making butter and then the next it’s how many guns you should keep in your bug out bag.

All this self-awareness doesn’t stop me wanting to see Life After People.

Written by Karen

February 13th, 2008 at 11:21 pm

Posted in future

my new favourite trend-forecasters

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I have no idea if their work is any good but I love The Future Laboratory’s Christmas card.

Neologisms, a cute dog and the money saved goes to a tree charity. If only those neologisms went somewhere.

Any ideas for what Synth-Ethics is?

Written by Karen

January 8th, 2008 at 5:31 am

Posted in dogs,future

futurologists’ favourite quotes

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from The Tomorrow People:

Henry Ford: ‘If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.’

Alvin Toffler, futurologist and writer: ‘The future always arrives too fast… and in the wrong order.’

Prof Alan Kay, computer scientist based at UCLA: ‘The only way you can predict the future is to build it.’

Rudyard Kipling: ‘If you can dream – and not make dreams your master.’

William Gibson: ‘The future has already happened, it just isn’t very well distributed.’

to which I would add

Albert Einstein: ‘I never think of the future – it comes soon enough.’

Written by Karen

January 6th, 2008 at 1:57 am

Posted in future

the internet is not a flying car

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The Edge annual question ‘what have you changed your mind about?‘ included two luminaries expressing disappointment with the internet. Douglas Rushkoff has decided that the internet is just another place to do business and Nicholas Carr writes of his realisation that the internet is a powerful tool for centralised control rather than ‘a technology of personal liberation, a force for freedom’.

My disappointment with the internet springs from the realisation that (combined with mobile phones) it is the only thing that makes life in the 21st century much different from life in the 1980s when I was a child. The science-fiction I read then promised a multitude of different futures but with hindsight all of them were incredibly ambitious. The internet is wonderful and I love it but it is just not a flying car.

I live in a house built in 1904, my jeans became fashionable in the 1950s, I travel to work on a tube line first operated in 1906 in an 1973 tube train, I go on holidays to the Mediterranean not the moon and I don’t own even one robot (and no, Roombas and Nabaztags don’t count)

Given this frame of mind I greatly enjoyed reading the exceptionally shiny Where’s My Jetpack and Johnny Dee’s Guardian article asking if the future was a lot more fun in the past

BT’s Technology timeline declares:

“The world is speeding up as each generation learns from their kids, and through knowledge sharing via the Internet, so who knows what the next 60 years will bring?”

From first flight to moon landing in 60 years but then what? We’re nearing the 40th anniversary of the moon landings. There’s a lot to get done in the next 20 years to get back up to speed.

(I’m still fascinated by the thought of what technologies I will refuse to have anything to do with when I am old – in the way that my gran was ‘having no truck’ with computers. I reckon things should look pretty different in the 2060s, even if we continue at the speed of a snail )

Written by Karen

January 2nd, 2008 at 10:41 am

Posted in future