All posts made in Nov. 2007:

15:09, Friday 30 Nov., 2007

I'd like to finish reading another 12 books before the end of 2007, as this would take me to 2/week over the year. I'm a few pages from the end of The Art of Innovation (Tom Kelley), and the following 5 books are in the queue: The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald); The Fabric of Reality (David Deutsch); The Catcher in the Rye (J. D. Salinger); Programming Collective Intelligence (Toby Segaran); Pedagogical Sketchbook (Paul Klee). A possible is The Nature and Art of Workmanship (David Pye).

I need to find another 5 books.

There are two constraints: I'm reading at 50% above my usual pace in order to reach the target, so I need to avoid the books that take me a while longer than usual to get through (Consuming Life (Zygmunt Bauman), I'm looking at you). However I don't want to cheat by reading pulp sci-fi, so I would like a few more non-fiction books in there, especially because my fiction consumption has been pretty high these last couple of months.

Any suggestions?

(More data: my quest for seminal computing texts led to me reading The Pattern on the Stone (W Daniel Hillis) and Platform for Change (Stafford Beer). And this is what I said about books in 2005... which reminds me that I haven't read The Rubaiyyat (Omar Khayaam) recently, so that may also have to drop onto the stack.)

Interconnected

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21:12, Sunday 25 Nov.

So I think they should genetically engineer trees with branch and leaf fractal sizes such that they act as perfect frequency filters for the noise spectrum of traffic and plant them alongside roads, because that would be prettier than the walls that are used. Also genetically engineered grass with serrated edges and designed cilia so when the wind blows the grass sings in a deep, filling harmonic tone, like this: llllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll.

20:30, Sunday 11 Nov.

I read The Space Merchants by Pohl and Kornbluth in September. I guess it stuck in my head.

The advertising industry is the pinnacle of this society. In the book, an ad fellow has a job to convince people to colonise Venus. There is also a pro-environment, anti-consumerism terrorist organisation named 'the Consies.'

See, this makes sense. Environmentalism as it stands is conservatism - the refusal to see there might be another, better system - by another name. I say 'as it stands' because I don't see any signs that the movement has escaped being one side of this spectrum: on the one hand we can conserve our resources, and on the other we can use and risk them.

There is a third way, and that is to identify the system which generates this opposition and work to change that. For example we may see that the environmentalism debate would be rendered moot having a billion humans orbiting Jupiter and a trillion nano-scale Londons seeded and replicated over the Tharsis Bulge using solar energy and reversible computing. So we would make a risk assessment to figure out whether we want to achieve that. Maybe the polar bears and Bangladesh are worth that. You tell me.

The current dichotomy is not sustainable (ha!), and nor is the system which generates it. Environmentalism prolongs the existence of this system.

We've seen how this should be resolved with capitalism: Marx told us. The revolution must come, and indeed must be provoked by encouraging conflict (in the case of capitalism, between labour and capital by making peaceful strikes violent and so on). The sooner the revolution comes, the sooner we can get on.

Now I'm not advocating a Marxist approach to trees. But what emerged from this conflict was a world in which labour was treated differently. Granted it's one in which conglomerate control is more insidious and labour has transformed into automatic consumers, but at least it's different. At least it proves the point that just the possibility of revolution can bring about a synthesis--and, goodness, given that's happened once then maybe if it happens twice we'll be able to put the dots together and have continuous revolution instead.

So what I'm advocating is a game-changing, post-revolution environmentalism. Don't waste resources, sure. But if we're spending resources to shift the status quo - feeding pandas into a wood-chipper to send a colony to the Moon, if that's the kind of engine that we invent and that's what it takes - then I'm behind it. Otherwise we're slowly painting ourselves into a corner.

Also secretly I'm behind anything that forces the issue too, which is why I burn tyres on the roof.

(There are two hidden assumptions here: that profligate use of resources will generate proportionately greater technological advance; that happiness does not matter. I could argue that deliberately making people unhappy is what will trigger the happiness revolution which will save us all - and I do use a form of this defence to be impolite to charity beggars - but really it needs more thought.)

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