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.

Sibiria: A show about nothing.


[audio:Sibiria_2000_A_Show_About_Nothing_128kbps.mp3|titles=Sibiria: A Show About Nothing|artists=Mateusz Pozar]

Ten years ago I studied “Creativity and Innovation” in Karlstad. The extracurricular activities were more interesting than the studies; We got the student radio going and and had some five shows running each week. I had my own hour, Sibiria, which was patterned on the public radio show Frispel, a brilliant experimental weekly run by Fredrik Grundel at P3. Frispel was a freeform show which mixed samples and spoken content with music and effects, and it was original for it’s time. (If anyone has backups of those shows, please let me know. They’re difficult to get your hands on)

Out of the twenty or so shows that I did, I only have backups of two. A show about nothing came about when I didn’t have any ideas about what to do, and just ended up using bits and pieces I’d accumulated: A friend talking about light beer, the kings new years eve speech, computer game samples, and a whole bunch of audio effects. (I think I did it all using SoundEdit 16 with VST plugins which kept crashing)

This show was made almost ten years ago, so the music and aesthetics are a bit dated. Lucky People Center International had just been produced and I might have seen it by the time I ran Sibiria. For what it’s worth it’s a mostly well edited — occasionally slow going — hour of random stuff. If you wish to download a better quality version, right-click on the following link: Sibiria_2000_A_Show_About_Nothing_192kbps.mp3

(Thanks to Arne-Kjell for providing the MiniDisk player required to save the shows from bit rot)

How to succeed in evil: Pirate lawyers

A couple of years ago I found How to Succeed in Evil by Patrick E. McLean, and now it’s available in a more polished version. It would be difficult to improve on the original story, but the calm and balmy voice of Patrick makes a listen worthwhile. I recommend a listen: How to Succeed in Evil.

Below is an unrelated short story he published a couple of years ago, Vampire in the Attic.


Not long ago I posted a short audio segment that Planet Money had produced on the Somali pirates. They followed up the story and talked to the negotiator for the pirates, Mr. Ali.

Link to full episode: And three baby camels.


Foundlings 2

Of all the 6 and a half billion people in the world, what are the odds that any two people are a real match? Stories from people who know they’ve beat the odds, and the lengths they’ve gone to do it—including an American professor who sings Chinese opera for anyone who’ll listen, to get one step closer to his mate, and two kids who travel halfway around the country to find each other and become best friends.

→ This American Life episode 374: Somewhere Out There.


Bernie Madoff woke up in jail today, after pleading guilty to 11 charges stemming from an enormous Ponzi scheme. How enormous? The most recent court documents put the figure at $65 billion. In another amazing Planet Money Radio Dramatization, Alex Blumberg, Adam Davidson and David Kestenbaum act out a Ponzi scheme of their own.

→ NPR, Planet Money: A Ponzi Drama.


And two clips from Weeds. I don’t know if I look forwards to the next season, but It’s prolly worth a look.

[flv: 640 266]

[flv: 640 275]

How to be thrown out and invited back in.

Last Friday was an odd day. I’d spend the whole day at Chalmers with Ana and Juaqim (an architect from Barcelona who’s at the course as a guest tutor) going through what the students had done. The video-course stuff is interesting, and being forced to verbalise what you know is always challenging.

Ana’s train didn’t leave until well after eight in the evening, so we spend the interim hours at Bazar where I once again cemented my position as a connoisseur of internet perversions knowledge. Tired as hell, I saw Ana off to the tram and went home.

Or, rather, I would go home as soon as I’ve checked in on friends at a bar. I mean, the bar was on the way home and a beer would help me sleep even better. As tired as I was, my sleep deprived carcass just wasn’t able to do much but stare into space. Besides, a backpack heavy with laptops and such was a last straw of sorts.

Turns out that I tossed that straw after a while and drank from the bottle. Anna and Petter Jan has told this drunk girl that I’m the second best chess player in Sweden and was left by a girlfriend during my latest tournament; Petter is a world class taekwondo champion at the moment, and we’re both being hit upon by this economy assistant who’d just dismissed her boyfriend (he’s skulking nearby). At one point I launch into a monologue about killing and eating Jan. I might have tried to make a vegan point.

Dignity-wise, it goes downhill from there. I start speaking English with a heavy Polish accent. Ponglish is not a language made for singing, something that becomes apparent in the karaoke-taxi we take to Röda Sten. I absolutely maim whatever respect the driver might have had for East-European people, and how they combine with ABBA. Someone in the backseat is screaming “Bitches and hos, bitches and hos!” into the microphone, and I’m explaining something to someone.

The mood has reached a fever pitch, where every movement takes on colour. Everything you say is potentially funny and you are acting on a meta-level where your behaviour is a choice rather than something personal. The philosophical term for this is “shitfaced” and we are all very charming and fun. We have become the party and expect everyone else to know this as well.

We demand that the cab stop with open doors outside Röda Sten so that we can finish the song and entertain the people, perhaps improving on their lives so barren of joy. A woman has taken shelter against the rain, and for some reason we are all pointing and shouting; In each of our minds there are hundreds of reasons for why this is hilarious.

Intermission. Arts and Ideas: The quiet carriage. 4 minutes.

We march past the queue and get in without paying. Attitude can take you past two guards and a cashier, no problems. We take Bloody Mary by the hand and sit on the stage; Someone suggests I help steal a microphone cable because it’s really expensive and fun. What fun, I don’t know, but it must be fun because we thought of it. In the end, someone was whipped with the cable and that was that.

Jan suggests another jest for the evening, and I upset a young man by telling him that I kill and barbecue dogs, selling them as mystery meat. I can’t for the life of me remember this, so I imagine that my brain has long since gone to bed. On the dance floor, I dance like there is no tomorrow. I’m Kali the destroyer and my flailing arms create a space I promptly occupy with a butt as lively as any butt has been. If you have seen people in voodoo trance – trashing about, throwing themselves all over the bloody place – you might have a grasp of what is happening. I am the snake man. Petter has a grainy video to prove it.

Once again joining the others outside – I’m still not smoking but enjoy the company – I take a picture of one of the guards. He gets upset and yells at me to erase the image. This is the point of the evening where I decide that civil courage is called for and I tell him to call the cops if he wishes to press charges, but I’m not erasing any images, thank you very much. I get pushed into the street and yelled at a bit more, evoking sympathy from standers-by.

Four minutes later, he comes up and apologises profusely. He didn’t know that I was a freelance photographer for the largest daily, and surely I wouldn’t want to publish the image of him, and the job of a bouncer is a stressful one and he didn’t know that I was only doing my job.

Anna has convinced him that I’m actually doing an undercover story on the secret life of bouncers and have to take candid images of them in order to catch the real person behind the badge. Anna played him like a really thick brick, creating the most beautiful music of explanations and excuses. I don’t know how any of this happened, and Jan can’t believe that I didn’t get the shit kicked out of me. The image wasn’t even all that good.

Intermission. Arts and Ideas: Studio Shehrazade. 2 minutes.

Well, whatever. Three of us are left, everyone else has dropped off during the night. The place is boarding up but we manage to get three more drinks to celebrate my narrow escape and Annas’ talents. We leave after only I am left standing on the dance floor, shouting and battling invisible monkeys.

Two guys try to pick up Anna outside the club. It’s a lazy attempt and we’re laughing it off – things are still in meta-space where nothing is really happening – and I mimic their accent to the great enjoyment of myself. I am my own biggest fan at the moment. They give up, seeing as I might be insane; I’m encouraging them to make camp and sleep under the bridge, and laugh like a maniac.

There’s a heavy mist enveloping everything, and our sounds are muffled as we’re making our way home. It’s a short walk, and soon we’re all drinking Resorb in the kitchen.

And there it ends. The evening that was supposed to have seen me in bed before ten, had me running about like a nappy mythomaniac. I don’t know if this happened exactly because I was tired and certain that I wouldn’t go out, or if I’d just temporarly gone around the bend, but it was a learning experience.

Should you like to fill in the gaps there’s always the comments section.