TIL that Jason Silva calls himself a Futurist.
I want to talk about this. Because someone has to offer an opposing view, lest minds — especially young ones who haven’t read enough to know better — fall in this hole, never to return again. Mine nearly did, but I chose to hear out and learn from the skeptics, despite their “negativity”.
Silva is simply a filmmaker who enthusiastically uses buzzwords like “mindgasm" and "feedback loops" and "Quest Physics" — he borrows credibility. Many people are evidently apt to confuse this with profundity.
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For ease, the Wiki definition of a futurist:

Futurists (not in the sense of [the early 20th century art movement, futurism]) or futurologists are scientists and social scientists whose speciality is … to systematically explore predictions and possibilities about the future and how they can emerge from the present, whether that of human society in particular or of life on earth in general.

I don’t know if he does any of the above, but I can infer from what I’ve seen of it that Silva’s work does NOT involve science. It cannot. A scientifically literate person would not ever say the things this man says.
While many futurists do hold fringe beliefs/values/etc., futurism stems from a consideration of science and technology, and where they may lead us. Not New Age philosophy. NOT “The Secret”, not “intentions”, not “positive energy”, not mystical quantum anything. Some futurists may espouse those ideas, but they aren’t intrinsic to the movement.
••••••
For more info about futurism, please visit:
SpaceCollective.org
KurzweilAI.net
To learn more about differentiating between New Age BS and science, please visit the following links. (In no specified order, just a small sampling):
Scientific Literacy (list on Goodreads)If you don’t have time for whole books, at least start with a few quotes or a wiki summary. But please don’t make the mistake of rejecting outright or arguing based on a few excerpts. (Here, one might try to say the same about how I’m reacting to Silva. But the truth is, I was deeply immersed in material like his in my teen years, ergo I accepted and understood it before critically dissecting and rejecting it.)
Skepdic: New Thought"The dominating idea of all forms of New Thought is that thoughts or beliefs have an effect on things and people around us independently of our doing anything. Thinking creates reality."
Skepdic: “Energy” (New Age)"New Age spiritualism has co-opted some of the language of physics, including the language of quantum mechanics, in its quest to make ancient metaphysics sound like respectable science."
Skepdic: “Law” of AttractionAn offshoot of New Thought. Central tenet of “The Secret”.
Carl Sagan’s CosmosVideo series; a historical overview of science. Part of Sagan’s agenda toward scientific literacy. Things we all should’ve learned in grade school. Available for free, nearly everywhere.
"Science Saved My Soul" by Phil HellenesA 5-min excerpt of the original video.
Excerpt from Feynman’s The Meaning of it All

••••••
All that said… it’s difficult to live. People need the inspiration and personal values and philosophies that help them do so. Understanding that, I’m not anti-god nor anti-spirituality, etc. I am anti-obfuscation. There’s much more to this than I can cover in several paragraphs on a blog post.
I’m writing this not out of anger (although let’s be honest, some of this shit makes my blood boil), but in hopes of holding out yet another Candle in the Dark to anyone who may not otherwise have an opportunity to see one.

TIL that Jason Silva calls himself a Futurist.

I want to talk about this. Because someone has to offer an opposing view, lest minds — especially young ones who haven’t read enough to know better — fall in this hole, never to return again. Mine nearly did, but I chose to hear out and learn from the skeptics, despite their “negativity”.

Silva is simply a filmmaker who enthusiastically uses buzzwords like “mindgasm" and "feedback loops" and "Quest Physics" — he borrows credibility. Many people are evidently apt to confuse this with profundity.

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acalc

acalc:

She told me that she could no longer bear living on this planet. She wanted to be caught high up in the gravity, weightless, orbiting afar; appreciating the marvel, the splendor of it all—a hypothetical, transcendent, post-biological being of sorts. She wanted the Earth and its glowing spark to…

inthenoosphere
I see a strong parallel between the evolution of robot intelligence and the biological intelligence that preceded it. The largest nervous systems doubled in size about every fifteen million years since the Cambrian explosion 550 million years ago. Robot controllers double in complexity (processing power) every year or two. They are now barely at the lower range of vertebrate complexity, but should catch up with us within a half century.
Hans Moravec (via inthenoosphere)

Lets not let history say that:

“first they came for the AI,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t an AI.
Then they came for the cyborgs,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a cyborg.
Then they came for the transhumanists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a transhumanist.
Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak out for me.”

Gabriel Rothblatt,
from “Steve Mann Assaulted at French McDonald’s in world’s first “Cybernetic Hate Crime”
… they were now their own unavoidable experiment, and were making themselves into many things they had never been before: augmented, multi-sexed, and most importantly, very long-lived, the oldest at that point being around two hundred years old. But not one whit wiser, or even more intelligent. Sad but true: individual intelligence probably peaked in the Upper Paleolithic, and we have been self-domesticated creatures ever since, dogs when we had been wolves.
2312, Kim Stanley Robinson

{ The Public Domain Review }:

France in the Year 2000 (XXI century) – a series of futuristic pictures by Jean-Marc Côté and other artists issued in France in 1899, 1900, 1901 and 1910, originally in the form of paper cards enclosed to cigarette/cigar boxes and, later, as postcards. They depicted the world of the future, in 2000. The first cards were produced for the 1900 World Exhibition in Paris. There are at least 87 cards known that were authored by various French artists.

(All images via Wikimedia Commons).

wildcat2030
wildcat2030:

At this year’s Coachella music festival, slain rapper Tupac Shakur was resurrected for a performance with Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg. Projected as a two-dimensional image, abs still ripped in the pixilated afterlife, Virtual ’Pac alternately dazzled and freaked out the crowd 15 years after his shooting. Forget keeping it real; thug life just got surreal. Kind of creepy but not exactly cutting-edge: Hologram Tupac was actually a 19th-century magic trick called Pepper’s Ghost, an image projected onto glass tilted 45 degrees. Pepper’s Gangsta, if you will, was flashed in high definition on Mylar, but it’s basically the same wizardry used by local community theaters for spectral castmembers. …
’Pac might be the baddest projection out there, but he’s neither the first nor the most audaciously futuristic. The latter distinction belongs to Japan’s virtual pop star Hatsune Miku, a digital-android pixie in aquamarine pigtails and knee-high boots. She performs via basically the same technology as Tupac, with flesh-and-blood musicians as her backup band. Since 2009, the Japanese-pop divatar has performed shows in her native land, as well as a Los Angeles debut at the Nokia Theater during the 2011 Anime Expo. In March, she sold 10,000 tickets for $76 a pop in Tokyo. Her most viewed clip on YouTube, in which she sings her megahit { “World Is Mine” } has gotten more than 15 million hits.
(via I Sing the Body Electric - LA Times Magazine)

wildcat2030:

At this year’s Coachella music festival, slain rapper Tupac Shakur was resurrected for a performance with Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg. Projected as a two-dimensional image, abs still ripped in the pixilated afterlife, Virtual ’Pac alternately dazzled and freaked out the crowd 15 years after his shooting. Forget keeping it real; thug life just got surreal. Kind of creepy but not exactly cutting-edge: Hologram Tupac was actually a 19th-century magic trick called Pepper’s Ghost, an image projected onto glass tilted 45 degrees. Pepper’s Gangsta, if you will, was flashed in high definition on Mylar, but it’s basically the same wizardry used by local community theaters for spectral castmembers. …

’Pac might be the baddest projection out there, but he’s neither the first nor the most audaciously futuristic. The latter distinction belongs to Japan’s virtual pop star Hatsune Miku, a digital-android pixie in aquamarine pigtails and knee-high boots. She performs via basically the same technology as Tupac, with flesh-and-blood musicians as her backup band. Since 2009, the Japanese-pop divatar has performed shows in her native land, as well as a Los Angeles debut at the Nokia Theater during the 2011 Anime Expo. In March, she sold 10,000 tickets for $76 a pop in Tokyo. Her most viewed clip on YouTube, in which she sings her megahit { “World Is Mine” } has gotten more than 15 million hits.

(via I Sing the Body Electric - LA Times Magazine)

Finished Anathem last week; maybe too quickly.

••••••

I wonder if anyone could recommend something similar, please?

••••••


NOT THESE:

I’ve been searching for a similar book or author, but only finding references to other Neal Stephenson books (The Diamond Age was amazing; haven’t read Snow Crash or Cryptonomicon yet but didn’t want to get lost in a Stephenson-only literary world), other sci-fi that bears little resemblance (The Foundation Trilogy was interesting but not as memorable, and I don’t actually like William Gibson that much — Neuromancer was OK and had it’s hidden crevasses, but the writing style is totally different and the concept similarities end at future technologies and cyberpunk/space stuff), and the mention that Anathem is sort of a novelization of Godel Escher Bach : Eternal Golden Braid, by Douglas Hofstadter. I guess I could see how the latter might be true, but until they { digitally publish } that doorstop, I’m not about to carry it around again.

Somehow, after all that, I’ve been led to Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. It’s a funny, quirky, cute book so far… but not satiating.


MORE LIKE THIS
(what Anathem had that I want more of from sci-fi):

  • More than an action-adventure yarn set in an apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic future with cool technology.
    Apocalypses are boring. Futuristic Technology != Science. Stephenson seems to understand that, and I greatly appreciate that he writes something more like Scientific Fiction — injecting actual science into the narrative. (But the tech is awesome as well: I wouldn’t say no to a bolt, cord, and sphere! …Nor to a decade in a concent, actually, though that’s not really technological.)
  • Not only science, but also philosophic, historical, literary, mathematical, and even some sociopolitical references and theories.
    It’s amazing to find a book so densely packed with material to review, learn from, and reflect upon even after the last page. As well, the addition of the scientific and epistemological made it something greater than the usual novel whose inquiries end at the Human: human triumphs, troubles, loves, heroes, villains, life lessons, etc. Sure, those help a story along and keep our primal attention, but Anathem was able to wander just past all that (not too far) and into the realm of the alien — Nature. These were my favorite things about this book and I haven’t found that much outside the realm of Non-Fiction. It was a little like The Quark and the Jaguar in that regard, but with a plot. [As an Amazon reviewer put it: “I’m just glad the man decided to be an author and not a teacher. I’d miss out.”]
  • Witty, hilarious, sardonic, cheeky prose.
    Whatever it may lack in subtlety it makes up for with laughs.
  • Great, real characters and an absorbing storyline.
    Strange & Norell is fun so far, but I can’t say I give a damn about anybody in that book. I don’t mind putting it down [whereas Anathem constantly rivaled things like sleep and easily won]. GEB:EGB is interesting and I’ll finish it eventually, but it doesn’t carry you the way a story does and, again, I have no trouble putting it down.
  • A beautiful world.
    Maybe not always aesthetically pleasing, but there was a lot of fuel for the imagination (More so in The Diamond Age).
    (Unlike Neuromancer — for some reason I find Gibson’s descritive style hard to follow and remember the feeling of not knowing where anything was in relation to anything else while reading it.)
  • New, but useful, words.
    Some complain that Stephenson { made up words } while writing Anathem, but a little mixing of languages, prefixes, and suffixes give old words new — and sometimes amusing or better-suited — meanings, connotations, and references.
    Besides that, I’m always glad to read his books on a Kindle because the dictionary is super handy for new, Earth-English vocabulary.


Cyborg

DEFINITION:

A cyborg, short for “cybernetic organism”, is a being with both biological and artificial (e.g. electronic, mechanical or robotic) parts. The term was coined in 1960 when Manfred Clynes and Nathan S. Kline used it in an article about the advantages of self-regulating human-machine systems in outer space. …

The term cyborg is often applied to an organism that has enhanced abilities due to technology, though this perhaps oversimplifies the necessity of feedback for regulating the subsystem. The more strict definition of Cyborg is almost always considered as increasing or enhancing normal capabilities. While cyborgs are commonly thought of as mammals, they might also conceivably be any kind of organism and the term “Cybernetic organism” has been applied to networks, such as road systems, corporations and governments, which have been classed as such. The term can also apply to micro-organisms which are modified to perform at higher levels than their unmodified counterparts.

{ Wiki }

FROM THE SOURCE:

"Here’s the thing: For most of us, cyborg ends at the human-machine hybrid. The point of the cyborg is to be a cyborg; it’s an end unto itself. But for Clynes, the interface between the organism and the technology was just a means, a way of enlarging the human experience. That knotty first definition? It ran under this section headline: “Cyborgs — Frees Man to Explore.” The cyborg was not less human, but more."
{ The Man Who First Said ‘Cyborg,’ 50 Years Later }
- Alexis Madrigal - Technology - The Atlantic

POP CULTURE:

Fictional cyborgs are portrayed as a synthesis of organic and synthetic parts, and frequently pose the question of difference between human and machine as one concerned with morality, free will, and empathy. Fictional cyborgs may be represented as visibly mechanical (e.g. the Cybermen in the Doctor Who franchise or The Borg from Star Trek); or as almost indistinguishable from humans (e.g. the Terminators from the Terminator films, the "Human" Cylons from the re-imagining of Battlestar Galactica etc.) The 1970s television series The Six Million Dollar Man featured one of the most famous fictional cyborgs, referred to as a bionic man. Cyborgs in fiction often play up a human contempt for over-dependence on technology, particularly when used for war, and when used in ways that seem to threaten free will. Cyborgs are also often portrayed with physical or mental abilities far exceeding a human counterpart (military forms may have inbuilt weapons, among other things).

{ Wiki }

••••••

OS:

It’s unfortunate that most of our “education” about matters of science and technology comes from pop culture / pop fiction and popular media, all of which distort these topics into something barely recognizable and tailored to fit a money-making form. A violent, supposedly “humanistic” form that, while appearing to tell action-packed stories about the preservation of our freedoms, actually destroys them in a way.

By adding certain connotations to those topics (like cyborgs), those stories limit the public imagination by nudging it toward that apocalyptic, man-vs-nature-vs-non-nature-vs… whatever — whatever you’d like to vs any given day if it reels in the cash — scenario. As opposed to actually inspiring that same public to imagine how we can extend our reach, ourselves, our understanding, via science and technology, and thereby actually improve our relationship with the world around us.

wildcat2030

Valorizing machine-generated imagery is like valorizing the unconscious mind. Like Surrealist imagery, it is cool, weird, provocative, suggestive, otherworldly, but it is also impoverished.

That’s the big problem, as I see it: the New Aesthetic is trying to hack a modern aesthetic, instead of thinking hard enough and working hard enough to build one. That’s the case so far, anyhow.