“The team must consist of three sorts of specialists, he says. Otherwise the revolution, whether in politics or the arts or the sciences or whatever, is sure to fail.
The rarest of these specialists, he says, is an authentic genius – a person capable of having seemingly good ideas not in in general circulation.
“A genius working alone,” he says, “is invariably ignored as a lunatic.”
The second sort of specialist is a lot easier to find; a highly intelligent citizen in good standing in his or her community, who understands and admires the fresh ideas of the genius, and who testifies that the genius is far from mad.
“A person like this working alone,” says Slazinger, “can only yearn loud for changes, but fail to say what their shaped should be.”
The third sort of specialist is a person who can explain everything, no matter how complicated, to the satisfaction of most people, no matter how stupid or pigheaded they may be. “He will say almost anything in order to be interesting and exciting,” says Slazinger.
“Working alone, depending solely on his own shallow ideas, he would be regarded as being as full of shit as a Christmas turkey.”
Underneath the fairly-depressing mood-music of 2013 so far, the motorik backbeat of progress into a brighter future can be faintly heard…
Brian Eno & Peter Chilvers at The Apple Store, Regent Street, originally uploaded by moleitau.
I’m looking forward to it immensely, but not without trepidation…
Stewart Brand, interviewed by Kevin Kelly, referencing George Dyson…
I take my cue from technology historian George Dyson, who argues that, from the perspective of the real world, the digital universe is accelerating rapidly but, from the view of the digital universe, the biological world is slllllooooowwwwwiiing doooowwwwn. Since we humans are amphibians and live in both universes, we are being torn by acceleration on one side and deceleration on the other. That sounds rough, but it’s actually pretty exciting.
The problem with ideas ís, the idea is often simply a way to focus your interest in making a work. The work isn’t necessarily, I think – a function of the work is not to express the idea…. The idea focuses your attention in a certain way that helps you to do the work.
Some of the smartest tech products of the year also came from enterprising young companies. Jawbone and fuseproject, both based in San Francisco, collaborated on the development of the UP wristband, which uses tiny motion sensors to monitor the wearer’s sleep, diet and exercise. A London design group, Berg, caused an online sensation when it introduced the Little Printer, a cute device that scours the Internet for information likely to interest its owner, and then prints it out.
When they came within sight of the picket line, Martin saw that the usual Referendum! signs had been supplemented with photographs of Ansari and a new slogan that Behrouz translated as ‘Murderers, get lost!’ That soldiers weren’t tearing the signs from people’s hands was no less amazing than if they’d borne the strongest profanities, given that this accusation and advice was meant for the government. Martin took out his new phone and snapped some pictures of the pickets, trying to balance a fervent wish to avoid being seen by the soldiers with a fear that if he looked too furtive the people around him would take him for an informer. One young man did move towards him, scowling, but Behrouz stepped in and whispered an explanation that seemed to satisfy him. He checked the pictures and queued them up for their long, tortuous journey to Sydney.
Even back in his office in Tehran he was no longer able to use the internet; he had to print out his copy and fax it. He’d tried uploading files direct to the newspaper’s computer using a dial-up modem, but the government was degrading international phone lines to the point where the modems just kept hanging up; even the faxes he sent arrived peppered with static and were only legible if he used an absurdly large font. The conventional mobile service was now disabled across the country, and every major city had installed transmitters to jam the frequencies that had enabled the mesh network Mahnoosh had showed him at the demonstration in Tehran. Slightly Smart Systems, though, had left one last option open: infrared.
Their phones could pass data to each other by IR along a line-of-sight path, and whilst the government could interfere with the system in a limited space, such as a stadium or public square, in principle, they could no more jam it everywhere than they could flood the whole country with strobing blue disco lights. The point-to-point bursts of IR carried email and news in much the same way as those services had worked in the days before the internet proper, when university computers had been linked up only sporadically via brief late-night phone calls but, in lieu of fixed landlines, the modern incarnation involved ‘polling’ phones in the vicinity to discover which ones were in a position to exchange data.
Before the restrictions on intercity travel had come in, Slightly Smart email had diffused across the country and over the borders in a matter of days; from Tehran, Martin had sent a test message to his editor and received a reply in four days, probably via Turkey. No doubt there would soon be government programmers working on ways to clog the whole system with spam – and plainclothes police strolling around arresting anyone who responded to their polling signal – but for now the benefits were worth the risk, and a crowd of Ansari supporters was a good place to start. Martin switched his phone to polling mode and parked it in his shirt pocket with the tiny lens of the IR transceiver exposed, leaving it to try its secret handshake on as many passing strangers as it liked.
“I’m interested in the unknown and the unknowable and the role they have in our understanding,” says Kunzru. And perhaps how irrationalism and faith thrive in such conditions. Throughout he seems to be arguing that the quest for meaning is a human projection on to the void. In a novelistic echo of the German philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach, Kunzru suggests that religion – especially Christianity – is best understood as a projection of human longing.
Cue intriguing gnostic confabulation. From the entry on The Holographic Principle on wikipedia
In a larger and more speculative sense, the theory suggests that the entire universe can be seen as a two-dimensional information structure “painted” on the cosmological horizon, such that the three dimensions we observe are only an effective description at macroscopic scales and at low energies.
Which might make one think of The Barbelith. One of the central characters in Hari’s novel is a ‘contactee’ called ‘Schmidt’
“Kunzru’s almost self-defeatingly ambitious fourth novel is about the human quest for transcendence – not just encountering big-brained Venusians, but the hope of finding a thing that sometimes goes by the name of God.”
Deserts and the ‘immense’ feature in “Gods Without Men” – In the interview, Hari talks about the role of the desert and vision-quests. That we’ve tended to find ourselves there looking for things painted on the cosmological horizon.
Which physics seems to think might just be us.
But, before we get carried away Dr. Jonathan Miller reminds
“The cosmos is a deeply dangerous thing to think about – into it, vacant minds expand…”
And I’m reminded again, of a Giles Foden article from 2002 about the links between Al-Qaida and Asimov’s Foundation. In it, Foden quotes Kunzru’s fellow Wired UK 1.0 alumnus Oliver Morton, in turn quoting Gaston Bachelard:
…the space opera sub-genre of science fiction offers the possibility of a massive expansion of self-mythologising will-to-power. In a 1999 New Yorker article on galactic empires, Oliver Morton beamed up French philosopher Gaston Bachelard, author of The Poetics of Space, to explain all this: “Immensity is a philosophical category of daydream. Daydream undoubtedly feeds on all kinds of sights, but through a sort of natural inclination, it contemplates grandeur. And this contemplation produces an attitude that is so special, an inner state that is so unlike any other, that the daydream transports the dreamer outside the immediate world to a world that bears the mark of infinity.”
Back to the interview, and following on themes from Curtis’ “Machines of Loving Grace”:
“In the middle of all these storylines, Kunzru finds a way of working in the financial meltdown as Jaz’s Wall Street wheeler dealing goes hideously awry. Kunzru is torn about speculative finance, finding it intellectually thrilling and socially disgusting. “I think how the high priests of abstraction work is fascinating. I’m really interested, for instance, in a postwar Wall Street speculator called WD Gann who used astrological techniques. The idea of predicting and controlling is quixotic. It’s all about the will to believe.”
Especially when confronted with the immense…
From “What Technology Wants” by Kevin Kelly:
Listen to the technology, Carver Mead says. What do the curves say? Imagine it is 1965. You’ve seen the curves Gordon Moore discovered. What if you believed the story they were trying to tell us: that each year, as sure as winter follows summer and as day follows night, computers would get half again better, and half again smaller, and half again cheaper, year after year, and that in 5 decades they would be 30 million times more powerful than they were then. (This is what happened.) If you were sure of that in 1965, or even mostly persuaded, what good fortune you could have harvested! You would have needed no other prophecies, no other predictions, no other details to optimize the coming benefits. As a society, if we just believed that single trajectory of Moore’s, and none other, we would have educated differently, invested differently, prepared more wisely to grasp the amazing powers it would sprout.
30 million times more capable. This is what happened. Worth remembering.