AuthorJonathan Sanderson

Observations on cows’ moos…

with Sir Patrick Stewart.

He sounds like he’s had a few drinks, if you ask me. Or possibly he’s just trying not to laugh.

Point-of-view tourism

Slate: How the U.S. media would cover Thanksgiving if it were in another country.

Funny. True.

Domestic drones

New from the MySociety genii:, capsule the curiously-capitalised PlaceOpedia. Think Google Maps ? Wikipedia. Brilliant. Except that, as I write, all the links read

Every year, my wife and I devote the month of November to convincing our children their plastic dinosaur figures come to life while they sleep.

(Source)

Genius. Read the whole post.

Grey, layering to the horizon

San Francisco by David Yu on 500px.com

San Francisco by David Yu, on 500px. Click through for the full-size version.

Not one of mine, obviously, though I wish it was. This is immediately one of my favourite photographs — I’ve been a sucker for layered greys heading out to the horizon for at least thirty years, so this makes me go a bit weak at the knees, frankly.

Implausible hovering

Even if you aren’t of the steampunk persuasion, airships are plain cool. Here’s a bunch of them care of The Atlantic.

Airship

We’re used to seeing photographs of aircraft, and we imagine their speed and air flowing over their wings and all that; familiarity with the concept has led us to forget how mysterious they are. The A380 is big enough to offer a glimpse of sufficiently advanced technology, but only barely.

Photographs of airships do not, I suspect, do them justice. They didn’t fly, they hung. They were weightless, but far from massless: Hindenburg was as big as an aircraft carrier and it operated at a gross weight of more than 200 tonnes, roughly half the maximum take-off weight of an A380.

And it hovered. Silently.

Look at The Atlantic’s photos and tell me that wouldn’t have been just a little eerie.

Speed

This is glorious. Great story, illness well told.

Gernsback Discontinuum

It’s a terrible shame and a real disservice for the years to come when the people we count on to dream are content with IKEA and iPads.

Star Trek and the shiny, boring future — Adventures in Consumer Technology — Medium.

Great – and in an age of ever-longer blog posts, commendably short – essay on the lack of futurism in ‘futuristic’ cinema. The IKEA conformity of popular TV was something in which I cheerfully participated, mostly because it made my budget go further. But we were horribly aware that as a result, essentially all shows had the exact same look.

The other day I saw, lurking in the back of shot on Defiance, a giant caster wheel bolted to one of those kick-steps you use so kids can reach the sink. The whole thing was sprayed silver, presumably so it looked like some weird abstract future artwork. No, it was a wheel bolted to a kickstep, and painted silver.

Netbooks were the Red Wedding

Pretty much all stories are about the human condition; they explore the decisions people make, the forces and ideas which drive them, and the impact of those actions on those who follow and fall before them. Epic stories tend towards epic settings, which is why Game of Thrones is set in a quasi-mediaeval land of knights and horses and archers and castles.

Fast-forward 1500 years, and the equivalent setting for future dramatists will be the corporate battlegrounds of the early digital age. There’s no doubt that the story of Apple, for example, is epic in structure: the rise, fall and rise again (following the return of the founding King) is straight out of the Greek playbook.

Not that I expect the stories to be as simplistic and literal as ‘Jobs vs. Gates’. I merely note that we live in epic times.

We saw the hand of destiny, the reassertion of martial and political primacy, in Apple’s newfound confidence at WWDC this week. Pressured by the traditional ruler to the North, harried by the reivers of Wall Street, the supposedly-cowed company growled and bayed its defiance.

Can’t innovate any more, my ass.
Phil Schiller

The sabre-rattling and troop-rousing was framed, however, within bookends of statements of pious faith, a re-expression and return to the qualities enshrined in the Kingdom’s founding:

Designed by Apple in California

We live in epic times.

Privacy

Re: Google Glass, PRISM, and all that — I forget when I first said it, maybe a decade ago, but:

In the future, we will all have our fifteen minutes of privacy.

It’s an obvious corruption, but that hasn’t stopped us walking straight into the trap. For all of Google’s assertions that they won’t allow facial recognition for Glass, isn’t that exactly what we’ve all wanted ever since somebody first came up with the idea of earrings that whisper the name of the person who’s just started talking to you?

…and of course, your personal electronics will run the search by querying the cloud, and once you’ve uploaded your social connections to make that work you’ve abrogated privacy.

We’ve been preparing for this for more than twenty years. We’ve known about Echelon for almost as long. And more than a billion of us pour our lives into Facebook anyway. We want this future personally and individually, and the collective risk is someone else’ problem.

What do you mean you’ve never been to Alpha Centauri? Oh, for heaven’s sake, mankind, it’s only four light years away, you know. I’m sorry, but if you can’t be bothered to take an interest in local affairs, that’s your own lookout. Energize the demolition beam. I don’t know, apathetic bloody planet, I’ve no sympathy at all.

If I were to write a science fiction novel right now, I’d probably set it against the background of a US-like state which had gone through the right-wing equivalent of China’s Cultural Revolution. It’d be like the McCarthy era, only with actual evidence.

I may not think that’s going to happen, but I’ll make a spread bet and rejoin ORG anyway. In the meantime I find it hard to get in a lather about PRISM precisely because I’d pretty much assumed any halfway competent intelligence agency would be trying to pull that off anyway.

The failure is ours for electing policy-makers who make the same mistakes with countries as we do as individuals. And I’m not sure how we get around that, short of evolving as a species. Fast.

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