CJW: I’m exhausted. Mostly over this cold I’ve been battling for a week+, but still not past the fatigue. Still, we’ve got plenty here worth sharing. As ever, if you are in a position where you’re able to support us, you’ve got a couple of options:
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Daniel Harvey (DCH) - Designer, writer, provocateur. Pro-guillotine tech critic. @dancharvey
Marlee Jane Ward (MJW) - is also Mia Walsch. Writer, apocalypse witch, goth aunt.
Corey J. White (CJW) - Author, podcaster, sin-eater.
Lidia Zuin (LZ) - Journalist, MA in semiotics, and PhD in Arts. Sci-fi writer, futurology researcher and essayist. @lidiazuin
CJW: How to Fix Climate Change (A Sneaky Policy Guide) - Saul Griffith
All of the planet’s trees and grasses and other biological machines pull a grand total of about 2 gigatons (GT) of carbon a year. To put that in context, our fossil burning is emitting 40 GT a year. Imagining that we can build machines that work 20 times better than all of biology is a fantasy created by the fossil-fuel industry so they can keep on burning.
An excerpt from Griffith’s new book Electrify, specifically from an appendix offering information to pushback on various (ill-considered?) “solutions” to climate change. Some interesting arguments here, and it’s laid out succinctly and in plain language.
Related (in the sense that you could make them fight): Geoengineering Will Be Part of a Fossil Fuel–Free Future - Leah Aronowsky reviewing Holly Jean Buck’s new book Ending Fossil Fuels: Why Net Zero Is Not Enough.
CJW: Animal populations experience average decline of almost 70% since 1970, report reveals - Patrick Greenfield at The Guardian
Earth’s wildlife populations have plunged by an average of 69% in just under 50 years, according to a leading scientific assessment, as humans continue to clear forests, consume beyond the limits of the planet and pollute on an industrial scale.
[…] Two years ago, the figure stood at 68%, four years ago, it was at 60%.
Line go up.
DCH: Three reasons a weak pound is bad news for the environment by Katharina Richter, Alix Dietzel, Alvin Birdi at The Conversation
Rising interest rates will push up the cost of borrowing relentlessly and present a tough political choice that seemingly pits the environment against economic recovery. As any future incoming government will inherit these same rates, a falling pound threatens to make it much harder to take large-scale, rapid environmental action.
A lack of investor confidence, rising interest rates, and higher import costs are going to fuck green economy policies in the UK.
Heat waves, flood, drought: Four in five of world’s cities at risk, study shows - Dina Kartit at Reuters (via Foreign Exchanges)
Russian pipeline leaks spark climate fears as huge volumes of methane spew into the atmosphere by Sam Meredith, cnbc.com
Creationism in the service of climate change denial by Paul Braterman, 3quarksdaily
These ‘nuclear bros’ say they know how to solve climate change by Shannon Osaka, The Washington Post
‘We Don’t Have Much Time Left’: Co-Author of UN Climate Report Detained at Climate Protest by Edward Ongweso Jr VICE
‘Dark data’ is killing the planet – we need digital decarbonisation by Tom Jackson and Ian R. Hodgkinson at The Conversation
CJW: Ukraine’s revenge on the West - MK Bhadrakumar at The Cradle
For Germany, in particular, the country’s economic model is riveted on the availability of abundant gas supplies from Russia, per long-term contracts, at cheap prices, through pipelines. Clearly, the sabotage of the Nord Stream has monumental implications.
To be sure, whoever perpetrated that terrorist attack calculated shrewdly that Russian gas should not flow to Europe for the foreseeable future. The perennial fear in Washington is that a German-Russian proximity may develop if energy ties are restored. Besides, today, US oil companies are having a huge windfall of profits in the European energy market, replacing Russia, by selling LNG at five to six times the US domestic price.
This piece is on the balance of various interests and concerns across Europe and how they could impact the progression of the war in Ukraine (and geopolitics more generally), but the above on the sabotaged pipeline is very chin-stroke emoji.
Related: Who profits from Pipeline Terror? - Pepe Escobar at The Cradle
And: Who sabotaged Nord Stream pipelines? US boasts ‘tremendous opportunity’ to weaken Russia. CIA knew - Ben Jenkins at Multipolarista
While Western governments have pinned the blame on Russia, without a shred of proof, it makes no strategic sense that Moscow would sabotage its own pipelines, after investing billions of dollars in the project.
Russia has even floated the possibility of investing more money to repair the pipelines. This would be a very strange move after bombing your own energy infrastructure.
Now the US has got the ball rolling, let’s keep blowing up pipelines…
CJW: Oil cuts: A perfect storm in US foreign policy - MK Bhadrakumar at The Cradle
On current trends in petropolitics. Interesting and likely impactful stuff.
CJW: ‘They are stealing Russia’: Adam Curtis on how hyper-capitalism wrecked a nation – and why Liz Truss must take heed - Adam Curtis at The Guardian
Apparently Curtis’ new series TraumaZone doesn’t use narration, so if you want your fix of historical tidbits and interconnections you’re just going to have to read this. On the plus side, if you’ve watched enough of his previous work you’ll easily be able to hear it in his voice.
And a review: Russia 1985-1999: TraumaZone review – ingenious, essential viewing from Adam Curtis
DCH: This Danish Political Party Is Led by an AI by Chloe Xiang at Vice
The Synthetic Party, a new Danish political party with an artificially intelligent representative and policies derived from AI, is eyeing a seat in parliament as it hopes to run in the country’s November general election.
The party was founded in May by the artist collective Computer Lars and the non-profit art and tech organization MindFuture Foundation. The Synthetic Party’s public face and figurehead is the AI chatbot Leader Lars, which is programmed on the policies of Danish fringe parties since 1970 and is meant to represent the values of the 20 percent of Danes who do not vote in the election. Leader Lars won’t be on the ballot anywhere, but the human members of The Synthetic Party are committed to carrying out their AI-derived platform.
This will end well.
How Moscow grabs Ukrainian kids and makes them Russians - Sarah El Deeb, Anastasiia Shvets and Elizaveta Tilna at AP News
Sovereign borders lose meaning as Turkey’s violent campaign to intimidate Kurds reaches deep inside Sweden - Frankie Vetch at Coda
Iran’s First Feminist Uprising Woman! Life! Freedom! By Kian Tajbakhsh, Public Seminar
How Game Design Principles Can Enhance Democracy by Adrian Hon, noemamag
A history of botany and colonialism touched off by a moss bed by Nikita Arora Aeon
White-Collar War Crimes and For-Profit Famines at Current Affairs
CJW: We are already midway through exploring the galaxy (probably) - Matt Webb
Perhaps we’re the first iteration of the von Neumann probe. Perhaps our civilisation is the first FACTORY, and we’ll eventually make a probe (or whatever) that copies human civilisation to new star systems, and so on and so on.
If our actions and values today result in a successful REPRO construction, then the very same actions and values will be replayed countless times in countless star systems across the Milky Way.
Some great speculation on von Neumann probes based on various related papers.
DCH: Maybe related in interesting ways: A New Philosophy Of Planetary Computation by Ian Morse, noemamag
DCH: Elon Musk’s Embarrassing Twitter Deal Must Kill the Myth of His 12-D Chess
Facing an unwinnable lawsuit and the near-certainty of public embarrassment, Musk is now forced to follow through with the $44 billion purchase of a website that he seemingly offered to buy on a whim, carried away by the thought of becoming a hero in the culture wars around “free speech” online. Maybe Musk was never serious about the deal. It doesn’t matter. After trying very hard to get out of it, he must now pony up billions of dollars provided by himself and his financiers.
Just another idiot with too much money.
DCH: Cybersickness Could Spell an Early Death for the Metaverse by Maddie Bender, thedailybeast
a growing body of research suggests cybersickness is vastly more pervasive than previously thought—perhaps afflicting more than half of all potential users. Proponents of a “headset in every home” vision for VR must make sure first-timers don’t leave the experience and lose their lunch. A buggy beta hits differently when it’s your health and comfort on the line. And depending on how long the effects of cybersickness last for an individual, VR technology may not be just uncomfortable for them, but literally unusable.
DCH: No surprise. This kind of issue has plagued the field for ages. Often mired in sexist design decisions too.
CJW: I get motion sickness even from some first-person shooters. Most often it’s related to FOV and can easily be fixed, but as mentioned in this article they want to keep the hardware affordable, and a low FOV is an easy way to limit performance requirements.
The intersection of these physiological problems and the performance/economic issues is likely to be a huge roadblock for VR mass adoption. Which is fine - maybe by the time they’ve solved these issues there’ll be a metaverse (generic) worth connecting to.
DCH: Maybe. Right now thought on top of all of the above the whole thing is buggy as fuck.
The Battle for the Soul of the Web - Kaitlyn Tiffany at The Atlantic - CJW: On DWeb vs Web3. Not much of interest in this piece, really, but I’m flagging it because DWeb sounds like it’s worth keeping an eye on.
The Ungodly Surveillance of Anti-Porn ‘Shameware’ Apps by Dhruv Mehrotra, wired
RadicalizeMe by Ethan Seavey, 3quarksdaily
Is This the Beginning of the End of the Internet? by Charlie Warzel, The Atlantic + The internet is already over by Sam Kriss, Numb at the Lodge
Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights by President Biden, whitehouse.gov + The Seven-Year Struggle to Hold an Out-of-Control Algorithm to Account by Julia Angwin, themarkup
This Is Life in the Metaverse by Kashmir Hill The New York Times
CJW: Ark Head - Venkatesh Rao (via Sentiers)
We’ve given up on the prospect of actually solving or managing most of the snowballing global problems and crises we’re hurtling towards. Or even meaningfully comprehending the gestalt. We’ve accepted that some large fraction of those problems will go unsolved and unmanaged, and result in a drastic but unevenly distributed reduction in quality of life for most of humanity over the next few decades. We’ve concluded that the rational response is to restrict our concerns to a small subset of local reality–an ark–and compete for a shrinking set of resources with others doing the same. We’re content to find and inhabit just one zone of positivity, large enough for ourselves and some friends.
There’s a lot here that’s of interest in this piece, but there’s one thing I think Rao misses. As well as being a response to the ‘Too much all the time’ nature of things the past few years, worrying about your own “ark” to the exclusion of the bigger picture seems like a valid and understandable reaction when social services, democracy, livability, etc are being increasingly undermined by capital and the neoliberal state.
In other words, Rao talks about the “insight economy,” but I’m over here thinking about the other economy - the one that determines whether or not I can afford to pay rent and eat.
A few years ago it might have seemed like we could trust power structures and institutions to look after us, but that’s ridiculous on its face now. They will continue to do the bare minimum needed to maintain.
“Ark-head” sounds catchy, but maybe think instead of “community building/outreach.” You know, finding people you can actually rely on for the coming Times.
We’re Still Living in Don DeLillo’s White Noise - Ryan Napier at Jacobin - CJW: Makes me want to re-read White Noise.
When the Hindu Right Came for Bollywood by Samanth Subramanian in The New Yorker
On Kanye, the Chinese Surveillance State, and Our Post-Realist Future by Andrew Keen, Literary Hub
DCH: The Pandemic’s Legacy Is Already Clear by Ed Yong, The Atlantic
Recently, after a week in which 2,789 Americans died of COVID-19, President Joe Biden proclaimed that “the pandemic is over.” Anthony Fauci described the controversy around the proclamation as a matter of “semantics,” but the facts we are living with can speak for themselves. COVID still kills roughly as many Americans every week as died on 9/11. It is on track to kill at least 100,000 a year—triple the typical toll of the flu. Despite gross undercounting, more than 50,000 infections are being recorded every day. The CDC estimates that 19 million adults have long COVID. Things have undoubtedly improved since the peak of the crisis, but calling the pandemic “over” is like calling a fight “finished” because your opponent is punching you in the ribs instead of the face.
This will all happen again. Over and over and over again.
CJW: What the AIDS Crisis Can Teach Us About Monkeypox - Joshua Gutterman Tranen at Boston Review
A really interesting read on monkeypox, the early failures of the state in responding to the outbreak, and the lessons and legacies of AIDS activism. There’s also a section on racism in the gay community in regards to both AIDS and monkeypox that’s enlightening and sadly unsurprising…
The Covid-19 Booster Has a Public Relations Problem by Robin Fields at Undark
How Palantir will steal the NHS by Cory Doctorow
Medium COVID Could Be the Most Dangerous COVID by Benjamin Mazer The Atlantic
Current cholera outbreaks are a preview of what climate change will do to public health by Annalisa Merelli Quartz
The Right’s Anti-Vaxxers Are Killing Republicans by James Risen The Intercept
DCH: The Sacking of Britain + Thinktanking the Country by George Monbiot
Our destiny, according to this belief system, is to turn nature into money. If you point out that the ecological collapse this causes will destroy every aspect of our lives, including our economy, neoliberals reply that resources are, in effect, infinite: minerals will continue to be found, ecosystems will renew themselves. This summer, as the drought that now threatens our rivers and water supplies began, John Redwood MP stated: “The water regulators and companies want us to use less water in the years ahead. Why? Water is the ultimate renewable resource, available in abundance on our planet. They should get on with putting in the capacity so we can use what we want.”
This mindset denies not only environmental crises, but material reality. If money – which is all they know – can be magicked into existence, why can’t everything else?
Above a screenshot of a Guardian headline asking “Has Liz Truss handed power over to the extreme neoliberal thinktanks?”, the IEA’s head of public policy, Matthew Lesh, wrote “Yes”. The economic disaster inflicted by Truss and Kwarteng has been dubbed the Tufton Street Massacre, as the groups that devised their policies are headquartered in and around Tufton Street in Westminster.
The inimitable George Monbiot on the mini budget disaster, its ideological roots in neoliberalism, and the price we’re all going to pay as we race into a new wave of austerity measures.
Also succinctly summed up by Cassette Boy
DCH: A global recession is almost certainly coming and the Fed is to blame, according to the UN by Peter Vanham and David Meyer, fortune
One consequence: some 90 developing countries saw their currency weaken against the dollar this year, making it harder for them to buy any goods priced in dollar, or pay back dollar-denominated debt, and leading almost all into an economic downturn.
What makes matters worse, Grynspan says, is that aggregate demand isn’t the main cause for price rises: “It is markups and speculation. You have to look at the supply side.”
If you’re struggling to make ends meet right now it’s every bit as likely that the Biden administration is to blame as much as things like Brexit and Russia’s War with the Ukraine. No chance of a last-minute rescue from a secret cabal of economists this time out I reckon.
Battered by Floods and Trapped in Debt, Pakistani Farmers Struggle to Survive by Zia ur-Rehman, Kiana Hayeri, Christina Goldbaum, nytimes
How Do We Overcome Capitalism? Current Affairs
Boom! Antitrust Bill Passed by Matt Stoller
History shows that free trade can’t buy world peace by Jacob Soll in Politico
Biden Proposal to Make Gig Workers Employees Sinks Uber and Lyft Stock by Edward Ongweso Jr VICE
The Exploited Labor Behind Artificial Intelligence by Adrienne Williams noema
Who Pays for Inflation? by Samir Sonti phenomenal world
CJW: From the Fatherland, With Love - Ryu Murakami
I’ve only read 3 Ryu Murakami novels, and this is easily the most ambitious of the 3, clocking in at 666 pages. It’s a fascinating premise - what if a special forces unit of the North Korean military pretended to defect and head for Japan where they were to establish a beach-head for another 120,000 “defectors” due to follow?
Murakami does a brilliant job of selling the Japanese government’s inability to act and the geopolitical stalemate the situation causes, to the point where I was starting to wonder why we haven’t seen this strategy deployed in the real world.
Covering the perspectives of North Korean invaders, Japanese politicians, bureaucrats, a journalist, and a gang of disaffected and violent social outcasts, it’s a fascinating read, with a suitably explosive ending. Some of the bureaucratic nitty-gritty kind of dragged (which just makes it realistic, no?) but it was still brilliant and compelling despite.
LZ: The Ninth Gate (1999)
Oh how I love a 90s movie and all the bad jokes and cliché femme fatales and the questionable acting! If you enjoyed Angel Heart, this one’s for you and there’s Johnny Depp playing someone other than Jack Sparrow. Highlights to the ridiculous soundtrack and CGI – but with that said, I loved the movie and I’m looking forward to reading the book it was inspired on, The Club Dumas.
MJW: Don’t Worry Darling (2022)
I don’t mind a bit of Hollywood drama - bread and circuses, right? Plus everyone involved is just so beautiful, and there are fabulous Valentino gowns, men allegedly spitting on each other and Chris Pine dissociating during press interviews.
The movie? It was… okay. The story was reasonably basic and the twist is barely a twist at all. BUT, everyone looked gorgeous! Truly a film full of beautiful people. Florence Pugh was great because she’s great in everything, and Harry Styles tried his best in his first acting role. There was a dreamy ‘Stepford Wives in the desert’ feel to the aesthetic and I can dig that, but if you’ve seen The Stepford Wives then you’ve seen Don’t Worry Darling, essentially. The movie doesn’t do anything different with the form, besides add a more modern tech element. There was such space here for something new, and no follow through.
LZ: Overwatch 2 is live, but at what cost?
Well, Blizzard has finally released OW 2, also known as the same old Overwatch, but now free to play and with subscriptions in case you want cool cosmetics. Queues are long in Europe and you might still need to wait about 30 minutes before getting to play what is… the same, just prettier. Of course there are new abilities and new characters like Sojourn and Junker Queen, but it makes me angry that they are selling battle passes now… Valorant does that but at least when you kill someone you can get the gun with a skin for free hehe
Very cool German black metal band. Not longer on Spotify or anywhere else but YouTube, it seems. Highlight to “Bastard” and how cathartic it sounds.
LZ: TikTok neo surrealism post Lynchian art
Is this really a thing?? Even though I have TikTok on my phone, I never use it… but I might reconsider after seeing this gem on Twitter. It’s funny but it’s also dark and it has that Twin Peaks season 3 mood (or at least good/braindead Cooper mood).
LZ: Some cozy halloweeny autumnal art by Adriane Adams for y’all!
DCH: Death Under Computation. The long shadow of Soviet cybernetics by Regine we-make-money-not-art.co
In her multi-media work Death Under Computation, Anna Engelhardt traces how today’s Russian drones and other ‘smart weapons’ have their roots in largely-unknown experiments of Soviet military cybernetic research from the 1950s. Her project is articulated around a website and a series of material objects. The website explores the colonial logic at work in contemporary Russian warfare. Its physical counterpart translates the research detailed on the website into holograms and textile diagrams.
Deeply fascinating stuff. A good overview threading 50s era views on cybernetics to the drones of today.