How do you design the future? Today we talk with cyberpunk founder and design theorist Bruce Sterling and feminist/activist writer Jasmina Tešanović about speculative design, design fictions, open source hardware, the maker movement, and the soft robots of our domestic future. Plus we go behind the scenes of the creation of a design fiction by Bruce, Jasmina, Sheldon Brown, and the Clarke Center—a video installation called My Elegant Robot Freedom.
Tagged with “sci-fi” (21)
Time travel is time research
Gleick began with H.G. Wells’s 1895 book The Time Machine, which created the idea of time travel.
It soon became a hugely popular genre that shows no sign of abating more than a century later.
“Science fiction is a way of working out ideas,” Gleick said.
Wells thought of himself as a futurist, and like many at the end of the 19th century he was riveted by the idea of progress, so his fictional traveler headed toward the far future.
Other authors soon explored travel to the past and countless paradoxes ranging from squashed butterflies that change later elections to advising one’s younger self.
Gleick invited audience members to query themselves: If you could travel in time, would you go to the future or to the past?
When exactly, and where exactly?
And what is your second choice?
(Try it, reader.)
“We’re still trying to figure out what time is,” Gleick said.
Time travel stories apparently help us.
The inventor of the time machine in Wells’s book explains archly that time is merely a fourth dimension.
Ten years later in 1905 Albert Einstein made that statement real.
In 1941 Jorge Luis Borges wrote the celebrated short story, “The Garden of Forking Paths.”
In 1955 physicist Hugh Everett introduced the quantum-based idea of forking universes, which itself has become a staple of science fiction.
“Time,” Richard Feynman once joked, “is what happens when nothing else happens.”
Gleick suggests, “Things change, and time is how we keep track.”
Virginia Woolf wrote, “What more terrifying revelation can there be than that it is the present moment?
That we survive the shock at all is only possible because the past shelters us on one side, the future on another.”
To answer the last question of the evening, about how his views about time changed during the course of writing Time Travel, Gleick said:
I thought I would conclude that the main thing to understand is: Enjoy the present.
Don’t waste your brain cells agonizing about lost opportunities or worrying about what the future will bring.
As I was working on the book I suddenly realized that that’s terrible advice.
A potted plant lives in the now.
The idea of the ‘long now’ embraces the past and the future and asks us to think about the whole stretch of time.
That’s what I think time travel is good for.
That’s what makes us human—the ability to live in the past and live in the future at the same time.
Science fiction has always been an outlet for our greatest anxieties. This week, we delve into how the genre is exploring the reality of climate change. Plus: new words to describe the indescribable.
Jeff VanderMeer @jeffvandermeer, author of the Southern Reach Trilogy and Borne, on writing about the relationships between people and nature.
Claire Vaye Watkins @clairevaye talks about Gold Fame Citrus, her work of speculative fiction in which an enormous sand dune threatens to engulf the southwest.
Kim Stanley Robinson discusses his latest work, New York 2140. The seas have risen 50 feet and lower Manhattan is submerged. And yet, there’s hope.
British writer Robert Macfarlane @RobGMacfarlane on new language for our changing world.
Throughout the show: listeners offer their own new vocabulary for the Anthropocene era. Many thanks to everyone who left us voice memos!
What did you imagine the early 21st century would look like when you were a kid? Was it all flying cars and jetpacks? Daily trips to the moon and hoverboards back here on Earth? Or were you more enamoured with the darker sides of futurism? Perhaps Doomsday prophecies and the ravages of Future Shock were on your mind. Did you sit up nights worrying about acid rain and environmental degradation?
How we imagine the future says a lot about us both as individuals and as groups. And by studying past visions of the future we can not only gain new insights into history, but we might even learn something about where we’re heading today.
Matt Novak’s talk, “A Brief History of Tomorrow”, looks at the history of invention and imagination — from robot vacuum cleaners of the 1950s to visions of the internet before the internet even existed. He’ll trace the history of popular ideas about how we’d be living here in the year 2015, and debunk a few common historical myths along the way. No matter how talented our prognosticators, we often discover that the future is never exactly as anyone predicted. Which is precisely what makes studying it so much fun.
Matt Novak is the editor of Gizmodo’s Paleofuture blog, which looks at past visions of the future. He explores the history of our most optimistic dreams and our most pessimistic fears by looking at everything from flying cars and utopian communities to overpopulation and complete societal collapse. His work is inspired by his private collection of retro-futuristic artifacts, including hundreds of vintage tech magazines, space age lunchboxes, 1980s videophones, among hundreds of other pieces. Matt started the Paleofuture blog independently in 2007 and it was later acquired by Smithsonian magazine in 2011 and then by Gawker Media in 2013. He currently lives in Los Angeles, a city which has about four years until it’s set to achieve the utopia depicted in the 1982 documentary Blade Runner.
Kim Stanley Robinson and Sheldon Solomon on exploration and death – books podcast | Books | The Guardian
Can humanity escape extinction by reaching for the stars? We confront final questions with the science fiction novelist Kim Stanley Robinson and the psychologist Sheldon Solomon.
We’re heading off into the unknown in this week’s podcast, with a pair of writers who explore what drives our human experiment.
The writer Kim Stanley Robinson has been examining possible futures for humanity for 40 years in a series of novels that stretch from nuclear devastation through climate chaos to Mars and beyond. His latest novel, Aurora, pushes 500 years onwards with a story of a vast starship on a 200-year journey to Tau Ceti.
Robinson explains why he decided to write a generation starship novel and why he’s happier pushing at the boundaries of fiction rather than the boundaries of science.
The psychologist Sheldon Solomon has, by contrast, been expanding the realm of science, putting an insight from ancient philosophy – that our lives are shaped by our awareness of our own mortality – on a sound experimental footing.
Solomon explains how he and his colleagues Jeff Greenberg and Tom Pyszczynski have been measuring the ways in which the fear of death alters our behaviour and how the stories we tell ourselves against that fear have forged history.
From Alice Walker to Chinua Achebe, the world’s greatest authors discuss their best known novel.
Wiliam Gibson discusses his landmark novel Neuromancer with Harriett Gilbert, a studio audience and readers around the world.
As 2001: A Space Odyssey is re-released in cinemas, Francine Stock presents a special edition on Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece. ‘My God, it’s Full of Stars’ were the last words of Dave Bowman before he journeyed through the Stargate, according to writer Arthur C. Clarke but it’s an apt description for this edition of The Film Programme. Francine journeys through time and space to uncover the mysteries of this 1968 classic. Searching for the mind of HAL. and lost alien worlds among the delights of the Stanley Kubrick Archive at London’s University of the Arts. Joining Francine on her voyage of discovery are 2001 chronicler Piers Bizony, former urbane spaceman Keir Dullea and the woman who built the moon! Other voices include production designer Harry Lange, make-up genius Stuart Freeborn, editor Ray Lovejoy, all now so much stardust, as well as those of lead ape ‘Moonwatcher’ (Dan Richter) & Stargate deviser Douglas Trumbull. Open the Pod Bay Doors HAL!
On January 14th, 2007 Margaret Atwood and Michael Cunningham sat down on the Key West Literary Seminar stage for a conversation on the topic of “Speculative Fiction and the Art of Subversion”
Folks looking for a lighter take on the problems of designing for an imagined future might want to screen “Desk Set,” a romantic comedy from 1957 starring Tracy & Hepburn. It concerns a group of researchers at a national network (a thinly disguised NBC) who fear being replaced by an “electronic brain” named EMERAC. Although its name is very similar to the University of Pennsylvania’s ENIAC, EMERAC is really more like Remington Rand’s UNIVAC—the first widely available mainframe.
Considering the fact that this “sci-fi” is set, not in a world centuries beyond the Eisenhower era, but in a world we can now easily recognize as the mid-1960s, it’s amazing how much the writers, designers and set decorators got wrong. By the late ‘50s, it was already apparent that transistors would make mainframes ever smaller, yet EMERAC is gigantic, easily dwarfing every other element on the set. Granted, the size of EMERAC may have more to do with the idea that technology was a huge threat to the “ladies” of the research department. Its size was merely the physical embodiment of what the electronic revolution would mean to people who earned their livings with pencils and paper.
In spite of the laughable beeps, boops and groans emitted by EMERAC (at one point it actually vents steam), a critical scene absolutely nails what the computer/Internet revolution would mean to clerks and librarians. The president of the network challenges the researchers to retrieve an obscure statistic about damage to U.S. forests caused by the spruce bud worm. We’re informed in an aside that it had taken weeks to find the information with traditional, library-based methods. The nerdy mistress of EMERAC sits down at a keyboard and types in: “How much damage is done annually to American forests by the spruce bud worm?” Almost instantaneously EMERAC spits out the answer.
The original Broadway playwright, William Marchant, clearly saw where the world was headed, because we all do pretty much the same thing every day with Google.
Kim Stanley Robinson, Sci-Fi Author
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