“It’s hard out here for futurists under 30. As we percolated through our respective nations’ education systems, we were exposed to WorldChanging and TED talks, to artfully-designed green consumerism and sustainable development NGOs. Yet we also grew up with doomsday predictions slated to hit before our expected retirement ages, with the slow but inexorable militarization of metropolitan police departments, with the failure of the existing political order to deal with the existential-but-not-yet-urgent threat of climate change.

Many of us feel it’s unethical to bring children into a world like ours. We have grown up under a shadow, and if we sometimes resemble fungus it should be taken as a credit to our adaptability. We’re solarpunks because the only other options are denial or despair. The promises offered by most Singulatarians and Transhumanists are individualist and unsustainable: How many of them are scoped for a world where energy is not cheap and plentiful, to say nothing of rare earth elements?

Solarpunk is about finding ways to make life more wonderful for us right now, and more importantly for the generations that follow us – i.e., extending human life at the species level, rather than individually. Our future must involve repurposing and creating new things from what we already have (instead of 20th century “destroy it all and build something completely different” modernism). Our futurism is not nihilistic like cyberpunk and it avoids steampunk’s potentially quasi-reactionary tendencies: it is about ingenuity, generativity, independence, and community.

Read more:

Thanks to Edwin Gardner.

This Hiding Place Should Never be Disturbed

Nuclear waste “Every day, the world over, large amounts of high-level radioactive waste created by nuclear power plants is placed in interim storages, which are vulnerable to natural disasters, man-made disasters, and to societal changes. In Finland the world’s first permanent repository is being hewn out of solid rock – a huge system of underground tunnels – that must last 100,000 years as this is how long the waste remains hazardous.

Once the waste has been deposited and the repository is full, the facility is to be sealed off and never opened again. Or so we hope, but can we ensure that? And how is it possible to warn our descendants of the deadly waste we left behind? How do we prevent them from thinking they have found the pyramids of our time, mystical burial grounds, hidden treasures? Which languages and signs will they understand? And if they understand, will they respect our instructions? While gigantic monster machines dig deeper and deeper into the dark, experts above ground strive to find solutions to this crucially important radioactive waste issue to secure mankind and all species on planet Earth now and in the near and very distant future.”

“Into Eternity”. Watch (75 min) & Read. Via TOD.

The Misanthrope’s Guide to the End of the World

“Garbage eschatology (I claim credit for this neologism) is based on the premise that our technological infrastructure has acquired too much complexity for us to fix. It will kill us not by turning sentient and (for whatever obscure reason) wanting to kill us, but by stupidly and dumbly collapsing on top of us, like a gigantic Windows Vista, while we watch, powerless to prevent our impending accidental death. Technology will kill us by collapsing into a pile of rubble, turning the planet into a gigantic landfill. (…).

My view is based on the idea that the entropy of a software system (broadly defined to include the civilization-ware that runs the planet, including the mechanically embodied computational intelligence of such things as sewer systems) inevitably increases with time, past a point of no-return. Beyond that, we cannot stop it from collapsing under its own weight, and cannot marshal the resources to reverse the aging process either. The best we can do is hide and then emerge from the rubble and build ourselves Mad Max or Waterworld civilization resurrections. And don’t waste your time agonizing. We probably crossed that threshold in the 14th century, by my calculations.”

Venkatesh Rao = Joseph Tainter with a sense of humour. Read the whole thing. Via Ran Prieur.

Technical Illustrations by Karl Hans Janke (1909-1988)

Karl hans janke 3

The Deutsche Fotothek has uploaded a mind-blowing portfolio of around 3,500 drawings and documents by German visionary Karl Hans Janke. Via BibliOdyssey, where you can find a selection and an introduction in English about the man and his work.

Magic Motorways

Futurama city for the motor age

In the “Highways and Horizons” pavilion at the 1939-40 World’s Fair in New York, General Motors presented Americans with “Futurama”, a vision of the city of 1960. Norman Bel Geddes designed an enormous scale model, showing a utopian city rebuilt for the motor age, completely separating cars and pedestrians. Five million people came to see the exhibit, waiting more than an hour for their turn to get a sixteen-minute glimpse at the motorways of the world of tomorrow. There
is a technicolor movie of the show online, as well as the accompanying book that Geddes wrote to explain his (and the motor industry’s) ideas (or propaganda): “Magic Motorways“.

Update: another movie here (via). Related: London traffic improvements (the Bressey Report, 1938).

Beyond Utopia

Beyond utopia 2

The Venus Project advocates an alternative vision for a sustainable new world civilization: “Many people believe that there is too much technology in the world today, and that technology is the major cause of our environmental pollution. This is not the case.”