I’ve been on and off work projects for so many years now, that the concept of “vacation” seems odd, but as of the start of this week I’ve been enjoying “vacation.” Sort of. The past two months I’ve been working at my old school as a technician, temping for Petter who’s been drafted into a side project at the university. I’m getting up at seven, at work at eight, and there’s no overtime and I get to sit in at meetings and lunch out. Having a day-job is a strange experience.

The vacation I’m on at the moment isn’t technically a vacation, rather my contract has expired and is renewed in August, so I’m “unemployed” rather than “on vacation” but hey, it still feels fine. I’m spending the days in the kolonostuga which Sara bought just now, and we’re clearing the cabbage patch, repainting walls and generally doing stuff that comes with owning land and a small house. “Active vacationing” in marketing speak.

The past six months have gone by with little thought or notice on my part. I’m using my cold and throat infection to slow down a bit, reach inbox zero and perhaps plan this year a bit. Apart from going to Poland for a few days, and after that going back to work, there’s a risk that I’ll be coasting — and both Iain M Banks sudden illness and death, and the book I’m reading (with the sobering title “How We Die”) make me want to appreciate being alive more than by tiredly playing Star Conflict on Steam.

I’m in front of the computer, editing a R Stevie Moore video, listening to Pixies and some Danish cartoon in the background where Sara fell asleep in front of the tv, escaping a brutal head cold. I’ve had warm union stuck to an aching ear for a while now, and perhaps it’s the onion, or the painkillers or the wine, but the pain is abating and I’m off to bed. Tomorrow is apparently “vegan pizza day” which ought to be celebrated somehow; or perhaps I’ll just clean the house up a bit — it looks like a mess and Tomasz is visiting in a couple of days…

Human relations, parenting, future!

YOU have complex feelings and ambivalence about a lot of things, even if it seems like those things are good for you or for the best. Don’t assume our kids don’t have those feelings, or that moving into our home is happily-ever-after for them. Don’t tell them how lucky they are or how they should feel.

→ Casaubon’s Book, Sharon Astyk: What Foster Parents Wish Other People Knew

In addition to allowing this man to not only affirm his commitment to abstaining from all the sexual partners he would instead very much be enjoying, the Internet also allowed him to pledge his fealty by defending his pony-bride’s honor, reaching out to the DeviantArt user “Kevinsano” and demanding he stop drawing her in degrading sexual situations.

→ A.V. Club, Sean O’Neal: The Internet finally reaches its apex as man marrying My Little Pony character writes angry email to erotic pony artist

Enforcing social conformity though outright mockery is kinda a time honored tradition on the internet but I definitely agree that in many cases it’s not really intended to engage the target constructively in an attempt to help them but rather ostracize them to the point where they remove themselves from the community. Of course for some targets any attention even negative attention just feeds their narcissism so they just escalate and make the environment even more toxic.

→ Metafilter, vuron: My Little Pony Wife

So, the ‘future’ – as we have previously imagined it – does not exist as a ‘thing’ but can be a ‘tool’ for dealing with the unknown. In other words a ‘flying car’ is not a product with a sell-by date, but a conversation that we need to hold – and continue to need to have – about our transport systems. In other words, it is entirely appropriate that we may not yet have flying cars or ray guns because we’ve had conversations about transport and how to deal with emerging technologies for over a century, which have contributed to their considered evolution.

→, Rachel Armstrong: Where did the future go?

On shopping and eating futures

When life gives you lemons, you pump lemonade options and dump them on someone else.

At least that’s my takeaway from some of the “investment tips” I’m reading right now. I’m having a conflicted time reading about personal finances, pension plans, insurance and stock investments: Despite myself it seems like an interesting challenge, sort of like an IRL ARG with clear goals but flexible routes. At the same time I’m reading books like “Collapse — Life at the end of civilisation” by David Jonstad (In Swedish: Kollaps — Livet vid civilisationens slut) and think of buying pasteurised foods and gold instead.

The book does a good job of setting up a comparison between our civilisation and older ones, as well as the (most probable) conditions under which it collapsed. David is certainly not the first one to do this comparison, and there are millenarians and doomsayers in every age, but since he’s not pulling mayan calendars out of his ass but is actually looking at what is upholding our culture (“cheap energy”) and how this is threatened (“peak everything, climate change, political incentive to keep status quo”) it’s a fascinating read. It’s as if it takes some of the arguments from Jared Diamonds “Guns, germs and steel” and speculates where they will lead us.

With one eye I’m looking to do mid-term investments with what little savings I have, and with the other I’m looking to learn how to live of the grid and boobytrap my supply of potable water and cans of beans. And with a more tranquil third eye — perhaps the denial eye — I’m finding the below consumerist video hilarious: Sara had put in a late night auction offer online and is freaking out because she really doesn’t want to win the credenza.

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The pirate ebay: Fabbing

This can be interesting: The Pirate Bay is sharing 3D models for printing, so far only using the category Physibles on the original site. Right now there are mostly dupes of stuff from Thingiverse, and seeing as the interface is the usual forum link-dump there’s no preview or version control, but it’s still an interesting development for two reasons: For one, once 3D sharing sites will start to be harassed on IP-issues, there will be be a chilling effect on the distribution and usage of models, so we’ll need a safe haven for that. TPB has proved rather resilient.

(Further on, it’s easy to foresee 3D-printers which won’t print non-signed models, taxation on printing materials used privately, consumer protection laws which are stretched to encompass personal fabrication, etc, so there will have to be forums to discuss circumvention and open source practices)

Think about it this way: If piracy of IP today mostly is a concern for a few companies in the western world – regardless if it’s clothes, movies or medicine — what will happen when the manufacturing industries start to feel threatened by the infringement on their manufacturing prerogative? Previously, someone ordered 1000 Gucci bags from your factory and you spat them out, regardless if the person you ordered them from was a pirate or Gucci; either way, you had a business model – making stuff. If now the pirates are not only threatening the IP of some of your clients, but also the necessity of including you in their piracy, you’re suddenly standing with a factory without orders.

I think that fabbing can be a boon to humanity in many ways, but as always with disruptive technologies there will be a huge backlash, and the sooner we can build infrastructures for dealing with reactionary policies the better. Which ties in with the second reason this is interesting, which has to do with the development of a public discourse on the subject.

So far the ideas surrounding fabbing are best described in science fiction and by those in the field – Bruce Sterlings Shaping Things comes to mind — but they’re slowly gaining mainstream attention; Petter told me he saw 3D printing mentioned in a lifestyle & decoration magazine which usually is concerned with spring colours and feelgood food. Just as in art though, the debate will sooner or later come down to what we are printing, rather than that we are printing, and if TPB can be a platform to foster experimentation with fabbing, we’ll have another generation which is used to remix and copy and paste and mash things up, only now with physical objects rather than media. But for that to happen there needs to be practice and debate, and tpb putting it’s weight behind the issue can only accelerate that.

Nukes, flies, guns and nerds

While others stare in awe at Assange’s many otherworldly aspects — his hairstyle, his neatness, too-precise speech, his post-national life out of a laptop bag — I can recognize him as pure triple-A outsider geek. Man, I know a thousand modern weirdos like that, and every single one of them seems to be on my Twitter stream screaming support for Assange because they can recognize him as a brother and a class ally. They are in holy awe of him because, for the first time, their mostly-imaginary and lastingly resentful underclass has landed a serious blow in a public arena. Julian Assange has hacked a superpower.

→ Webstock, Bruce Sterling: The Blast Shack

July 18, 2010—California Highway Patrol officers arrest Byron Williams, 45, after a shootout on I-580 in which more than 60 rounds are fired. Officers had pulled Williams over in his pick-up for speeding and weaving in and out of traffic when he opened fire on them with a handgun and a long gun. Williams, a convicted felon, is shot several times, but survives because he is wearing body armor. Williams, a convicted felon, reveals that he was on his way to San Francisco to “start a revolution” by killing employees of the ACLU and Tides Foundation. Williams’ mother says her son was angry at “Left-wing politicians” and upset by “the way Congress was railroading through all these Left-wing agenda items.”

→ Coalition to stop gun violence: Insurrectionism Timeline

Though I never doubted that I would execute a launch order without question, other misgivings occasionally surfaced. We arrested a group of Catholic nuns staging a peaceful protest on one of our launch facilities a few years back. For a missileer who is a practicing Catholic, such a situation brings up questions: If women who have committed themselves to the Word of God feel so strongly about the immorality of nuclear weapons that they’re willing to be confined for their convictions, what kind of Christian am I to sit at the launch switch? How do you resolve a conflict between duty to your God and duty to your country? Who wins, faith or flag?

Danger Room, John Noonan: In nuclear silos, death wears a snuggie

Now Joe and I are good feminists, like our hero, and we believe in rapprochement between the sexes, and do everything we can to encourage it; we’re sweet-natured and respectful of women and big fun on dates (which is irrelevant, since neither of us will ever have another date after Dec. 8). We don’t actually believe that men are irredeemable, and we especially don’t like to contemplate the possibility that there is some sort of surly misogynistic brute deep down inside us, lurking behind all those layers of wit, charm, and sophistication. But that’s exactly what this little thought experiment required. In some weird gender-inverted way it was like being Andrea Dworkin for six weeks. Six long weeks.

→ The Sideshow, Avedon Carol: Interview with Sam Hamm about scripting The Screwfly Solution

Capitalism. Art. Death. Fascism!

It was a bargain. We will give you our lives; we will spend our lives obediently doing things we wouldn’t choose, things that probably do not really matter to anyone. And in return we will get money. And money will take care of us
→, Benjamin Rosenbaum: The guy who worked for money

Dead bodies alone, are not that fascinating or scary or whatever you think they might be. They are just what they look like, lifeless skin suitcases. Without the life in them, they’re nothing. I think a person needs life and a body to be a human being. Without one of the two they are just meat furniture that needs to be moved before it starts to stink, or starts to rot, or starts to rot any more in any case.

→ My life with death:

The notorious stage theory of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, whereby one progresses from denial to rage through bargaining to depression and the eventual bliss of “acceptance,” hasn’t so far had much application in my case. In one way, I suppose, I have been “in denial” for some time, knowingly burning the candle at both ends and finding that it often gives a lovely light.

→ Vanity Fair, Christopher Hitchens: Topic of Cancer

An artist can only add shit to shit. Dinos once said, ‘Our art is potty-training for adults.’ He got that about right.” The Chapman brothers are trying to help grown-ups be more civilised? “We’re not here to help,” he giggles. “We certainly don’t care about moral instruction. Our interest in morality is not in being moralists, but in how morality works as a functional pacifier.”

→, Stuart Jeffreys: How the Chapman brothers became the brothers grim

Moreover, “57.6 percent of the respondents agreed that human rights organizations that expose immoral conduct by Israel should not be allowed to operate freely. Slightly more than half agreed that ‘there is too much freedom of expression’ in Israel. The poll also found that most of the respondents favor punishing Israeli citizens who support sanctioning or boycotting the country, and support punishing journalists who report news that reflects badly on the actions of the defense establishment.”

→ Judy’s world, Judy Mandelbaum: Yes, it can happen there: Artists envision “Israel fascism”

I consider myself a reasonably bright person, who works hard to make something people like. When I’m old and crumbling, I want to be able to feel that I had a successful life in which my work brought happiness to a lot of people.

→ The bottom feeder, Jeff Vogel: Sometimes it’s OK to pirate my games

Fabbulousness and the taste of masses.

Bruce Sterling allowed Starship Sofa to podcast his novella The Kiosk the other day, and it’s two hours well spent if you’re in the least interested in the (possible) disruptive tendencies of fabbing and rapid manufacturing. Go listen to it before it disappears, then come back here. (You can skip the first ten minutes to get to the story)

Skip the first ten or so minutes, which are of more interest to sci-fi people rather than you, and take notes on which predictions you agree with. Having listened to the story, I had to remind myself that rapid prototyping is still in its infancy and not a foregone conclusion, lest I give up on it in favour of something more bleeding edge.

Fabbing. Now in real time. Or in China. Or at your place.

A couple of weeks ago The Pirate Factory in Malmö demonstrated their RepRap. There’s Flickr pool of the event up here with a shaky video at the end of it. They’re using a spruced up version from Bits from Bytes which looks slightly less dingy than the RepRap usually does (also, it uses a more powerful microcontroller for driving the printer independently of a computer — apparently an SD card is enough) and judging from the pictures there was a bunch of people present. I wonder which of the pictures are going to be used in Swedish school-books in the future, as illustrations of the fabbing revolution and micro-production…

Speaking of which, Wired has an article up on the current state of how manufacturing companies have become accessible to anyone with a credit card, lowering the cost of admission into mass production to more or less zero. Atoms are the new bits is worth your time if you’re the least interested in these matters, or the future in general. It’s full of interesting links, like the one to, an enormous portal of Chinese manufacturers.

I wonder what the environmental costs will be of bespoke production; To some extent you’ll have less hit-and-miss toys occupying landfills, but this gain might well be offset by increased packaging and shipping, or some other corollary. Also, I wonder if these long-tail manufacturing plants will go global or if China and such countries will retain their head start; We in the west will only ever manufacture wars.

If intellectual properties will become impossible to enforce — something which isn’t certain, given the oppressive laws which are passed to counter transparency and openness — this would indeed shift not only the knowledge of how to do something but also the rational for the existence of a specific company. If you can download the plans for a SAAB, you just need someone to manufacture it. In the end, just as globalization has killed the connection between brand and production — after all, the cheap manufacturing plants exist exactly because of the Export Processing Zones in Vietnam and China — it might well kill the last remnant of Company with a capital “c,” the brand with an address.

These realizations are not lost on industry folk, but no-one wants to admit their own obsolescence, thus there’s no hurry to come up with new business models. The exceptions are Threadless of the world, but those start from the bottom up and don’t have to reinvent themselves; Let’s see how well Apple handles the transition — if at all.

Joren De Wachter has written a summation of the coming upheavals — The Return of the Public Domain — and it’s a text targeting those in the manufacturing & design industry. Even though he’s hopeful, or rather, not fearful, of the technological changes which will change intellectual property as we understand it, his text is very thin on the details of how companies will cope, and focus rather on the knowledge workers themselves. (Proffesional Idea Generators, he calls us, which might actually go as an acronym on my next business card)

However, there is also a very clear positive side to the new developments described above for Professional Idea Generators. The new business models that become necessary will clearly provide them with significant competitive advantages for doing business in an environment where the Public Domain is important. Knowledge and expertise, cost effectiveness, continued innovation and networking are key competences of Professional Idea Generators. This puts them in a very strong position in respect of the new developments.

The sentiment seems to be that “someone will still make money, if they just figure out how to add their own knowledge as a value which can be commodified.” As things stand, only those who make stuff will be needed, those who actually have the tools and raw material to manufacture something. Everyone else is part of the Public Domain. And not only figuratively as someone who designs webpages or new pens, but they themselves become part of the commons, and last time I checked there was a tragedy involved in the commons under any scarcity-driven economic model.

You’re going to need a special secret sauce, armed guards keeping it safe for long enough to sell it. And even then you’re either competing for a nieche audience which wants the exclusive, or your elbowing for space with other companies, competing on price.

And here’s a narrative which might seem familiar: Over at The Millions, there’s an interview with a guy who pirates books, and in the comments section some people are upset over a lack of morals. In ten years time, when your kids are printing modified pirated Nikes, maybe the kneejerk debate will be different, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. Home fabbing is killing Nike!

The future! The future!

The Singularity is no longer talked about as the geek rapture which will make people happy and good and content with life; Just as our capacity for rational and creative thought will be multiplied hundredfold in a short time, our capacity to act according to our own morals increases accordingly. No longer a world where anyone can build an atom bomb, but one in which each of us is a walking one. The will to power will out, and just because there’s no need to fight over oil or water doesn’t mean someone won’t want to kill us all.

Ray Kurzweils movie Trancendent Man seems like an interesting overview of the mans ideas, and h+ has an interview with him which you might want to read before the movie makes it onto the torrent sites; He is good at articulating the problems which might appear as a result of technological advances (eternal life, nano-tech, AI) and because of his technological background actually has numbers he can throw at you when it comes to the hard sci-fi predictions.

James Hughes over at Changesurfer Radio interviewed professor of philosphy Asher Seidel about his book, and it’s a good guide to the kinds of questions that might challenge our successors. I started listening to the transhumanist Changesurfer Radio ten years ago in Karlstad, and it’s a great source of interesting ideas and people. I heartily recommend it, if for no other reason than that James is a politically conscious person who doesn’t let his interviewees get away with just technological solutions to human problems; Humans are social and political beasts and use technology accordingly. Which, incidentally, also is the lesson that good science fiction can teach us.


Lately, between fattening myself on crisps and ramen, and watching The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, I’ve been reading. Since none of you heathens got me an ebook reader for the holidays, I’ve been perched in my comfy new fake leather armchair, reading off the screen or on paper.

Mostly I’ve been rekindling old flames: Iain M. Banks Matter as well as the abridged Transition; Peter F Hamiltons Starflyer books — Pandora’s Star and Judas Unchained — have sent me back to the first two parts of the Dreaming Void trilogy, and I can hardly wait for the last installment which is due out in fall of 2010, and where I’m guessing we’re going to see a fascist universe be created in the Void.

Matter is a Culture novel and as such it’s a fascinating read. More than in other novels there is intervention by the Culture — a futuristic, egalitarian galactic society which tries to nudge more primitive civilizations along —  into the life and society of a Victorian era feudal world which exists on a shell world; a spherical world within a world within a world, built for unknown purposes. The king is murdered and his daughter, who has gone off and joined the Culture, returns for his funeral, getting mixed up in a world she’d left behind. If you enjoy Iains style of prose, you’ll love this book — its imagery is powerful and the language just the right amount of funny.

Petter gave me Foreskins Lament by Shalom Auslander — known from This American Life as the Jew who hates God — and it’s a good read so far. If you need a reason for why religion might be more damaging to your mental health than a regular abusive home, look no further than to his description of how he was taught about God. Apatheism is the way to go, people. Trust me on this — just focus on an existential issue other than theism, and make that issue the cornerstone of your personal ontology and moral conviction.

I still haven’t slogged through 45 by Bill Drummond, a collection of essays which Olle lent me, but I’m getting there, although that has been delayed by my adorable mom, who just sent me a Polish account of two years spent in Tokyo. It being mom I have to prioritize that, even though it reads like a punny Lost in Translation. Never an endorsement.

I’m on my last to second life here!

When Second Life first got started it was lauded as the next step of the Internet – the bridge between 2D browser based networking and the glorious future which was going to be tactile smell-o-rama. With an economy that encouraged in-game innovation and entrepreneurial residents lots of stuff happened. Real money was invested.

In 2006 Warren Ellis got a gig writing Second Life Sketches for Reuters, which were interesting to follow since he’s rather clever and used to fringe culture well enough not to get phased by the bizarre. I wonder if Reuters got what they expected; The articles are no longer available on their server, nor can I find an easy Google cache.

I haven’t logged in for a year but just updated the client because of the video below, found on Boingboing Gadgets. It’s Kool Aid man in Second Life created by Jon Rafman and he’s offering tours of the virtual landscape. It reminds me of a world where a plague has killed off everybody and left only hedonistic crazies, or perhaps Earth after the rapture, with ungodly sinners fucking anything that is interestingly animated.

Look at the landscapes and architecture in the video. Millions of hours worth of user created content exists or has existed in SL, and although the graphics are poor compared to current generation of games, and much of what’s happening is mimicry of “real life,” there’s still something awe-inspiring about the scale and evident passion.