Andy Weir’s self-published novel The Martian has become a New York Times bestseller and the #1 movie in America. But it began with a series of blog posts that reflected Andy’s lifelong love of space science and detailed research about traveling to and surviving on the fourth planet in our Solar System. You can see the film in theaters everywhere, but only at The Interval will you hear Andy skip the fiction and talk about the details of how a real world mission to reach and colonize Mars would work. He’ll discuss his book, too, and answer your questions at this very special event in our Interval salon series.
Tagged with “long now” (15)
Stories are alive. The ones that last, Gaiman said, outcompete other stories by changing over time. They make it from medium to medium—from oral to written to film and beyond. They lose uninteresting elements but hold on to the most compelling bits or even add some. The most popular version of the Cinderella story (which may have originated long ago in China) has kept the gloriously unlikely glass slipper introduced by a careless French telling.
First, he presents exhaustive evidence that the tragic view of history is wrong and always has been. A close examination of the data shows that in every millennium, century, and decade, humans have been drastically reducing violence, cruelty, and injustice—-right down to the present year. A trend that consistent is not luck; it has to be structural.
So, second, he boldly founds a discipline that might as well be called “psychohistory.” As a Harvard psychologist and public intellectual (author of The Language Instinct and The Blank Slate), he sought causes for the phenomenon he’s reporting—-why violence has declined. Real ethical progress, he found, came from a sequence of institutions, norms, cultural practices, and mental tricks employed by whole societies to change their collective mind and behavior in a peaceful direction.
Humanity’s great project of civilizing itself is far from complete, but Pinker’s survey of how far we’ve come builds confidence that the task will be completed, and he illuminates how to get there.
Edward O. Wilson has revolutionized science and inspired the public more often than any other living biologist. Now he is blending his pioneer work on ants with a new perspective on human development to propose a radical reframing of how evolution works.
First the social insects ruled, from 60 million years ago. Then a species of social mammals took over, from 10 thousand years ago. Both sets of “eusocial” animals mastered the supremely delicate art of encouraging altruism, so that individuals in the groups would act as if they value the goal of the group over their own goals. They would specialize for the group and die for the group. In recent decades the idea of “kin selection” seemed to explain how such an astonishing phenomenon could evolve. Wilson replaces kin selection with “multi-level selection,” which incorporates both individual selection (long well understood) and group selection (long considered taboo). Every human and every human society has to learn how to manage adroitly the perpetual ambiguity and conflict between individual needs and group needs. What I need is never the same as what we need.
E. O. Wilson’s current book is The Social Conquest of Earth. His previous works include The Superorganism; The Future of Life; Consilience; Biophilia; Sociobiology; and The Insect Societies.
Creative photographer Sussman showed beautiful slides of very elderly organisms. The captions were as crucial as the images—-naming the species, the place, and the approximate age. You can see many of them here: http://rachelsussman.com/portfolios/OLTW/main.html
The series began with the only animal—-an eighteen-foot brain coral in the waters of Tobago, thought to be 2,000 years old. An enormous baobob in South Africa might be 2,000 years old. Then there is the astounding welwitschia mirabilis of the Namibian desert, a conifer that feeds on mist, with the longest leaves in the plant kingdom.
Games perpetually revolutionize computer use toward denser interaction with the human mind. To do that, they perpetually revolutionize themselves. Understanding the next frontiers of the genre is one way to understand where society is going.
In this talk Jesse Schell explores the social, cognitive, and technological trends in computer game design and use.
Jesse Schell is the CEO of Schell Games, the author of the authoritative text, The Art of Game Design: A book of lenses, and a Professor of Entertainment Technology at Carnegie Mellon, specializing in Game Design. At Walt Disney, he was Creative Director of the Imagineering VR Studio. Date: Tue, 27 Jul 2010 00:00:00 -0700 Location: San Francisco, CA, Novellus Theater, Long Now Foundation Program and discussion: http://fora.tv/2010/07/27/Jesse_Schell_Visions_of_the_Gamepocalypse
Why do policy makers and historians shun each other? Gavin observed that policy people want actionable information, certainty, and simple explanations. Meanwhile historians revel in nuance, distrust simple explanations and also distrust power and those who seek it. Thus historians keep themselves irrelevant, and policy makers keep their process ignorant.
Gavin proposed five key concepts from history that can inform understanding and improve policy dramatically.
Nils Gilman describes deviant globalization as "the unpleasant underside of transnational integration."
There’s nice tourism, and then sex tourism, such as in Thailand and Switzerland. The vast pharmacology industry is matched by a vast traffic in illegal drugs. The underside of waste disposal is the criminal dumping in the developing world of toxic wastes from the developed world. Military activities worldwide are fed by a huge gray market in weapons. Internet communications are undermined by floods of malware doubling every year. Among the commodities shipped around the world are exotic hardwoods, endangered species, blood diamonds, and stolen art worth billions in ransom. Illegitimate health care includes the provision of human organs from poor people — you can get a new kidney with no waiting for $150,000 in places like Brazil, the Philippines, Istanbul, and South Africa. Far overwhelming legal immigration are torrents of illegal immigrants who pay large sums to get across borders. And money laundering accounts for 4-12% of world GDP — $1.5 to 5 trillion dollars a year.
These are not marginal, "informal" activities. These are enormous, complex businesses straight out of the Harvard Business Review. The drug business in Mexico, for example, employs 400,000 people. A thousand-dollar kilo of cocaine grows in value by 1400-percent when it crosses into the U.S. — nice profit margin there.
Neuroscientist and fiction writer David Eagleman presents "Six Steps to Avert the Collapse of Civilization."
Civilizations always think they’re immortal, Eagleman says, but they nearly always perish, leaving "nothing but ruins and scattered genetics." It takes luck and new technology to survive. We may be particularly lucky to have Internet technology to help manage the six requirements of a durable civilization
Design fiction is an approach to design that speculates about new ideas through prototyping and storytelling. The goal is to move away from the routine of lifeless scenarios-based thinking. We will share design fiction projects and discuss related techniques for design thinking, communication and exploration of near future concepts.
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