planetary scale

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pages: 903 words: 235,753

The Stack: On Software and Sovereignty by Benjamin H. Bratton


1960s counterculture, 3D printing, 4chan, Ada Lovelace, additive manufacturing, airport security, Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, algorithmic trading, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Amazon Web Services, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, Berlin Wall, bioinformatics, bitcoin, blockchain, Buckminster Fuller, Burning Man, call centre, carbon footprint, carbon-based life, Cass Sunstein, Celebration, Florida, charter city, clean water, cloud computing, connected car, corporate governance, crowdsourcing, cryptocurrency, dark matter, David Graeber, deglobalization, dematerialisation, disintermediation, distributed generation, don't be evil, Douglas Engelbart, Edward Snowden, Elon Musk,, Eratosthenes, ethereum blockchain, facts on the ground, Flash crash, Frank Gehry, Frederick Winslow Taylor, future of work, Georg Cantor, gig economy, global supply chain, Google Earth, Google Glasses, Guggenheim Bilbao, High speed trading, Hyperloop, illegal immigration, industrial robot, information retrieval, intermodal, Internet of things, invisible hand, Jacob Appelbaum, Jaron Lanier, Jony Ive, Julian Assange, Khan Academy, linked data, Mark Zuckerberg, market fundamentalism, Marshall McLuhan, Masdar, McMansion, means of production, megacity, megastructure, Menlo Park, Minecraft, Monroe Doctrine, Network effects, new economy, offshore financial centre, oil shale / tar sands, packet switching, PageRank, pattern recognition, peak oil, performance metric, personalized medicine, Peter Thiel, phenotype, place-making, planetary scale, RAND corporation, recommendation engine, reserve currency, RFID, Sand Hill Road, self-driving car, semantic web, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley ideology, Slavoj Žižek, smart cities, smart grid, smart meter, social graph, software studies, South China Sea, sovereign wealth fund, special economic zone, spectrum auction, Startup school, statistical arbitrage, Steve Jobs, Steven Levy, Stewart Brand, Stuxnet, Superbowl ad, supply-chain management, supply-chain management software, TaskRabbit, the built environment, The Chicago School, the scientific method, Torches of Freedom, transaction costs, Turing complete, Turing machine, Turing test, universal basic income, urban planning, Vernor Vinge, Washington Consensus, web application, WikiLeaks, working poor, Y Combinator

The model does not put technology “inside” a “society,” but sees a technological totality as the armature of the social itself. It does not focus on computation in the service of governance, or in resistance to governance, but rather on computation as governance. In the first chapter, I propose that we view the various types of planetary-scale computation (e.g., smart grids, cloud computing, mobile and urban-scale software, universal addressing systems, ubiquitous computing, and robotics, and so on) not as isolated, unrelated types of computation but as forming a larger, coherent whole. They form an accidental megastructure called The Stack that is not only a kind of planetary-scale computing system; it is also a new architecture for how we divide up the world into sovereign spaces. More specifically, this model is informed by the multilayered structure of software protocol stacks in which network technologies operate within a modular and interdependent vertical order.

The continuing emergence of planetary-scale computation as metainfrastructure and of information as a historical agent of economic and geographic command together suggest that something fundamental has shifted off-center. But global transformations of hard and soft systems brought by computation have disturbed neat arrangements in ways that Clinton struggles to articulate and we struggle to describe and design for. While trade and migration perforate borders, state sovereignty and supervision over information flows are also dramatically reinscribed and reinforced. The possible architectures at work now and in the future seem twisted and torqued in the extreme. In this context, this book proposes a specific model for the design of political geography tuned to this era of planetary-scale computation. It works from the inside out, from technology to governing systems.

It lets us see that all of these different machines are parts of a greater machine, and perhaps the diagrammatic image of a totality that such a perspective provides would, as theories of totality have before, make the composition of alternatives—including new sovereignties and new forms of governance—both more legible and more effective. As the shape of political geography and the architecture of planetary-scale computation as a whole, The Stack is an accidental megastructure, one that we are building both deliberately and unwittingly and is in turn building us in its own image. While it names the organization of a planetary-scale computing infrastructure, my purpose is to leverage it toward a broader program for platform design. In the depiction of this incipient megastructure, we can see not just new machines but also still-embryonic geopolitical institutions and social systems as well. For these, The Stack is powerful and dangerous, both remedy and poison, a utopian and dystopian machine at once (it can go either way, and as Buckminster Fuller said, it will be touch and go until the last instant).


pages: 369 words: 98,776

The God Species: Saving the Planet in the Age of Humans by Mark Lynas


back-to-the-land, Berlin Wall, carbon footprint, clean water, Climategate, Climatic Research Unit, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, decarbonisation, dematerialisation, demographic transition, Haber-Bosch Process, ice-free Arctic, invention of the steam engine, James Watt: steam engine, megacity, meta analysis, meta-analysis, moral hazard, Negawatt, New Urbanism, oil shale / tar sands, out of africa, peak oil, planetary scale, quantitative easing, race to the bottom, Ronald Reagan, special drawing rights, Stewart Brand, University of East Anglia

To put this in context: Worldwide, 60 percent of the 227 largest rivers have been fragmented by man-made infrastructure, and the total number of dams blocking the natural flow of the planet’s watercourses is estimated at 800,000.1 These impound approximately 10,000 cubic kilometers of water—a quantity so substantial that it measurably reduces the rate of sea level rise (by about half a millimeter a year for the last half-century2) and even changes the mass distribution of the planet sufficiently to alter its axis and slightly increase the speed of its rotation.3 The sheer scale of human engineering activity on rivers has been extraordinary: On average we have constructed two large dams per day over the last fifty years, half of those in China alone.4 Humans have affected the water cycle in less visible ways too: Deforestation and irrigation are altering water-vapor flows over the planet’s surface;5 changes in land use and climate are increasing total planetary river runoff.6 Human engineering can have large-scale impacts—agriculture in Pakistan’s dry Indus Basin, supported by the largest irrigation network of canals and dams in the world, probably has a direct effect on the region’s monsoon.7 Due to the globe-girdling reach of modern human civilization, these regional and planetary-scale changes are perhaps unsurprising, for humanity has always had an umbilical connection with rivers and fresh water. Imperial capitals throughout history have lined major watercourses, from Nanjing on the Yangtze to London on the Thames. When water became scarce or was misused—as in ancient Mesopotamia or during Central America’s Classic Maya period—great civilizations could come crashing down, leaving little trace behind as their once unconquerable cities were reclaimed by sand or forest. Today we face the danger of overusing water resources on a planetary scale, and the consequences for our advanced civilization may be just as significant in the long run. TURNING ON THE TAP It would be foolish to neglect the enormous benefits that water engineering and control have delivered to humanity.

Today, with the worldwide language of science, that problem has finally been overcome. Venter and his team have seemingly proved that all life is reducible to chemistry—there is nothing more to it than that. No essential life force, no soul, no afterlife. With the primacy of science, there seems to be less and less room for the divine. God’s power is now increasingly being exercised by us. We are the creators of life, but we are also its destroyers. On a planetary scale, humans now assert unchallenged dominion over all living things. Our collective power already threatens or overwhelms most of the major forces of nature, from the water cycle to the circulation of major elements like nitrogen and carbon through the entire Earth system. Our pollutants have subtly changed the color of the sky, while our release of half a trillion tonnes of carbon as the greenhouse gas CO2 into the air is heating up the atmosphere, land, and oceans.

It is too late for that now, and—as my uncle always says—one must move with the times. Instead, the overwhelming weight of scientific evidence suggests that we are fast approaching the point where our interference in the planet’s great biogeochemical cycles is threatening to endanger the Earth system itself, and hence our own survival as a species. To avert this increasing danger, we must begin to take responsibility for our actions at a planetary scale. Nature no longer runs the Earth. We do. It is our choice what happens from here. This book aims to demonstrate how our new task of consciously managing the planet, by far the most important effort ever undertaken by humankind, can be tackled. The idea for it came to me in a moment of revelation two years ago in Sweden, during a conference in the pretty lakeside village of Tällberg. I was invited to join a group of scientists meeting in closed session to discuss the concept of “planetary boundaries,” a term coined by the Swedish director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, Professor Johan Rockström.


pages: 239 words: 68,598

The Vanishing Face of Gaia: A Final Warning by James E. Lovelock


Ada Lovelace, butterfly effect, carbon footprint, Clapham omnibus, cognitive dissonance, continuous integration, David Attenborough, decarbonisation, discovery of DNA, Edward Lorenz: Chaos theory, Henri Poincaré, mandelbrot fractal, megacity, Northern Rock, oil shale / tar sands, phenotype, planetary scale, short selling, Stewart Brand, University of East Anglia

There was nothing ‘unnatural’ in this; other organisms have been massively changing the Earth since life began 3.5 billion years ago. Without oxygen from photosynthesizers, for example, there would be no fires. Organisms change their world locally for purely selfish reasons: if the advantage conferred by the ‘engineering’ is sufficiently favourable it allows them, their progeny and their environment to expand until dominant on a planetary scale. Our use of fires as a biocide to clear land of natural forests and replace them with farmland was our second act of geoengineering. Third was industry for the last 200 years. Together these acts have led us and the Earth to evolve to its current state. As a consequence, most of us are now urban and our environment is an artefact of engineering. During this long engineering apprenticeship we changed the Earth, but until quite recently, like the photosynthesizers, we were unaware that we were doing it; still less were we aware of the adverse consequences.

The sun was 0.5 per cent cooler and there was no agriculture anywhere, so that natural vegetation was free to regulate the climate. Another difference was that the world was not then experiencing global dimming – the 2 to 3 degrees of global cooling caused by the atmospheric aerosol of man‐made pollution. PLANETARY MEDICINE AND ETHICS What are the planetary health risks of geoengineering intervention? Nothing we do is likely to sterilize the Earth, but the consequences of planetary‐scale intervention could hugely affect humans. Putative geoengineers are in a similar position to that of physicians before the 1940s. In his book The Youngest Profession the physician Lewis Thomas beautifully described the practice of medicine before the Second World War. There were only five effective medicines available: morphine for pain, quinine for malaria, insulin for diabetes, digitalis for heart disease and aspirin for inflammation, and very little was known of their mode of action.

These changes are at least as devastating as was the interglacial shift and will affect a world that is already hot and dry. When they do mass migration is inevitable. The recognition that we are the agents of planetary change brings a sense of guilt and gives environmentalism a religious significance. So far it is no more than a belief system that has extended the concept of pollution and ecosystem destruction from the local to the planetary scale. Maybe it will grow into a faith but it is still nascent and its dogma not yet properly codified. An environmentalist with a religious inclination might ask, ‘Was the discovery and use of fire our original sin? Were we sinful to continue to pollute the planet?’ For most of us the contrite expression of ‘Mea culpa!’ in a deep green voice is not appropriate. We know that we have made appalling mistakes but we have cast aside the old idea that we are born evil and now acknowledge that the whims of our fickle natures were amplified by technology, so that like a drunkard driving a tank we have accidentally trashed our world.


pages: 396 words: 117,149

The Master Algorithm: How the Quest for the Ultimate Learning Machine Will Remake Our World by Pedro Domingos


3D printing, Albert Einstein, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Arthur Eddington, Benoit Mandelbrot, bioinformatics, Black Swan, Brownian motion, cellular automata, Claude Shannon: information theory, combinatorial explosion, computer vision, constrained optimization, correlation does not imply causation, crowdsourcing, Danny Hillis, data is the new oil, double helix, Douglas Hofstadter, Erik Brynjolfsson, experimental subject, Filter Bubble, future of work, global village, Google Glasses, Gödel, Escher, Bach, information retrieval, job automation, John Snow's cholera map, John von Neumann, Joseph Schumpeter, Kevin Kelly, lone genius, mandelbrot fractal, Mark Zuckerberg, Moneyball by Michael Lewis explains big data, Narrative Science, Nate Silver, natural language processing, Netflix Prize, Network effects, NP-complete, P = NP, PageRank, pattern recognition, phenotype, planetary scale, pre–internet, random walk, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Second Machine Age, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, speech recognition, statistical model, Stephen Hawking, Steven Levy, Steven Pinker, superintelligent machines, the scientific method, The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver, theory of mind, transaction costs, Turing machine, Turing test, Vernor Vinge, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, white flight

Various research groups have used Alchemy or their own MLN implementations to solve problems in natural language processing, computer vision, activity recognition, social network analysis, molecular biology, and many other areas. Despite its successes, Alchemy has some significant shortcomings. It does not yet scale to truly big data, and someone without a PhD in machine learning will find it hard to use. Because of these problems, it’s not yet ready for prime time. But let’s see what we can do about them. Planetary-scale machine learning In computer science, a problem isn’t really solved until it’s solved efficiently. Knowing how to do something isn’t much use if you can’t do it within the available time and memory, and these can run out very quickly when you’re dealing with an MLN. We routinely learn MLNs with millions of variables and billions of features, but this is not as large as it seems because the number of variables grows very quickly with the number of entities in the MLN: if you have a social network with a thousand people, you already have a million possible pairs of friends and a billion instances of the formula Friends of friends are friends.

If the world is a Lego toy, we can break it up into individual bricks, remembering which attaches to which, and group the bricks by shape and color. If the world is Wikipedia, we can extract the entities it talks about, group them into classes, and learn how classes relate to each other. Then if someone asks us “Is Arnold Schwarzenegger an action star?” we can answer yes, because he’s a star and he’s in action movies. Step-by-step, we can learn larger and larger MLNs, until we’re doing what a friend of mine at Google calls “planetary-scale machine learning”: modeling everyone in the world at once, with data continually streaming in and answers streaming out. Of course, learning on this scale requires much more than a direct implementation of the algorithms we’ve seen. For one, beyond a certain point a single processor is not enough; we have to distribute the learning over many servers. Researchers in both industry and academia have intensely investigated how to, for example, do gradient descent using many computers in parallel.

., 34–38 Machine learning, 6–10 analogy and, 178–179 bias and variance and, 78–79 big data and, 15–16 business and, 10–13 chunking, 223–227 clustering, 205–210 dimensionality reduction, 211–217 effect on employment, 276–279 exponential function and, 73–74 fitness function and, 123 further readings, 297–298 future of, 21–22 impact on daily life, 298 effect on employment, 276–279 meta-learning, 237–239 nature vs. nurture debate and, 29, 137–139 Newton’s principle and, 65–66 planetary-scale, 256–259 politics and, 16–19 principal-component analysis, 211–217 problem of unpredictability and, 38–40 reinforcement learning, 218–223, 226–227 relational learning, 227–233 relationship to artificial intelligence, 8 science and, 13–16, 235–236 significance tests and, 76–77 as technology, 236–237 Turing point and, 286, 288 war and, 19–21, 279–282 See also Algorithms Machine-learning problem, 61–62, 109–110 Machine-translation systems, 154 MacKay, David, 170 Madrigal, Alexis, 273–274 Malthus, Thomas, 178, 235 Manchester Institute of Biotechnology, 16 Mandelbrot set, 30, 300 Margins, 192–194, 196, 241, 242, 243, 307 Markov, Andrei, 153 Markov chain Monte Carlo (MCMC), 164–165, 167, 170, 231, 241, 242, 253, 256 Markov chains, 153–155, 159, 304–305 Markov logic.


pages: 519 words: 136,708

Vertical: The City From Satellites to Bunkers by Stephen Graham


1960s counterculture, Berlin Wall, Buckminster Fuller, Chelsea Manning, Commodity Super-Cycle, deindustrialization, Edward Glaeser, Edward Snowden, energy security, Frank Gehry, ghettoisation, Google Earth, high net worth, housing crisis, Howard Zinn, illegal immigration, Indoor air pollution, Jane Jacobs, late capitalism, means of production, megacity, megastructure, mutually assured destruction, new economy, New Urbanism, nuclear winter, oil shale / tar sands, planetary scale, Plutocrats, plutocrats, post-industrial society, Project Plowshare, rent control, Richard Florida, Ronald Reagan, Skype, South China Sea, the built environment, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, trickle-down economics, urban decay, urban planning, urban renewal, urban sprawl, white flight, WikiLeaks

Air: Lethal Domes Air … from Johannesburg to Tehran, to Delhi to Jakarta, isn’t about aesthetics, or even possible climate change at some point in the future: it’s about life and death now – Timothy Doyle and Melissa Risely, Crucible for Survival, 2008 Humans, increasingly, manufacture their own air. For a species which expires without breathable oxygen within two or three minutes, this human manufacture of air is of incalculable importance.1 Human existence comes only after breath.2 The process of the machinic manufacture of air happens in a variety of related ways. On a planetary scale, three centuries of rampant urban-industrial growth mean that the earth’s atmospheric composition is radically different from what it was in the mid eighteenth century. Greenhouse gas data provides the most startling examples here: CO2 levels in 2011 were 40 per cent higher than those in 1750; nitrous dioxide levels were 20 per cent higher; atmospheric methane rates were 150 per cent higher.

The national pollution crises in the summers of 2013 and 2015 in Singapore and other parts of Southeast Asia, for example, were caused by Sumatran slash-and-burn forest fires in Indonesian rain forests to create space for palm oil plantations.39 In 2015, Indonesian fires created such smoke problems in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand that states of emergency were declared and half a million acute respiratory tract infections were reported in these countries. At first sight the airscapes above European, Japanese and North American cities appear to be cleaner and less deadly than those in Asia. On a planetary scale, this has been achieved partly through a massive geo-economic shift across the horizontal terrain of the earth’s surface. The huge and filthy extractive and manufacturing complexes that sustain consumption in North American and European cities is now largely offshored – strung out across China, East and Southeast Asia, Africa, Latin America and even Australia. A major report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2013 concluded that such wholesale offshoring from the West to East Asia was a key reason that global emissions of carbon dioxide and the other greenhouse gases increased twice as fast between 2000 and 2010 as they had during the previous three decades.

They are exemplars of a widening range of efforts, at a variety of scales, to try and make good air privately available to those who can afford it, amid an increasingly lethal exterior.76 Crucial questions surround such an incremental and haphazard privatisation of urban air through the spread of air-conditioned spaces and enclaves designed against a deteriorating exterior. Clearly, such projects inevitably become self-defeating at the urban and planetary scales. Beyond their sometimes negative impacts on those inside – who can succumb to poor health through problems such as ‘sick-building syndrome’ – these interiorised capsules of privatised air contribute disproportionately to the deterioration of the planetary climate outside their engineered bubbles. The sheer contradiction between the mass and density of the inevitably public city and dreams of controlled, hermetic microclimates shaping the inherently mobile air around mobile individuals inevitable breaks down.77 ‘People feel very strongly that their private constructions of immunity are endangered by the presence of too many constructions of immune spheres’, Sloterdijk writes.78 Such bubble-like worlds are ‘pressed against each other and destroy each other.’79 Thus, city-dwellers increasingly feel compressed and crowded within and between archipelagos of privatised interiors and deteriorating exteriors organised based on principles of extreme inequality.


pages: 326 words: 97,089

Five Billion Years of Solitude: The Search for Life Among the Stars by Lee Billings


Albert Einstein, Arthur Eddington, California gold rush, Colonization of Mars, cosmological principle, cuban missile crisis, dark matter, Dava Sobel, double helix, Edmond Halley, full employment, hydraulic fracturing, index card, Isaac Newton, Kuiper Belt, Magellanic Cloud, music of the spheres, out of africa, Peter H. Diamandis: Planetary Resources, planetary scale, profit motive, quantitative trading / quantitative finance, Ralph Waldo Emerson, RAND corporation, random walk, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Searching for Interstellar Communications, Silicon Valley, Solar eclipse in 1919, technological singularity, the scientific method, transcontinental railway

The duo decided to run a modest electric current through a sealed vessel of hydrogen, methane, ammonia, and water vapor—a mixture of gases thought at the time to mimic Earth’s ancient atmosphere. After only a week the Urey-Miller experiment had synthesized a “primordial soup” of organic compounds—sugars, lipids, and even amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins. Acting over millions of years on a planetary scale, such reactions could easily synthesize the organic ingredients for life from inorganic chemical precursors. On our own planet, the fossil record suggested that life must have already been thriving only a few hundred million years after our planet cooled from its formation; it seemed to have appeared as soon as it possibly could. Calvin argued forcefully that on geological timescales the emergence of simple, single-celled life was a certainty on any habitable world.

Mercury astronaut John Glenn, the first American to orbit the planet, predicted that within a century we would have linked atomic power plants to “anti-gravity devices,” fundamentally rewriting the laws of physics and revolutionizing life and transportation on Earth and in the heavens alike. Another Mercury astronaut, Scott Carpenter, expressed his hope that the anti-gravity “scheme” would help humans colonize the Moon, the Martian moon Phobos, and Mars. The prominent astronomer Fred Whipple suggested that Earth’s population would have stabilized at 100 billion, and that planetary-scale engineering of Mars would have altered the Red Planet’s climate to allow its 700,000 inhabitants to be self-sufficient. The director of NASA’s Office of Manned Space Flight, Dyer Brainerd Holmes, suggested that in 2063 crewed vehicles would be reaching “velocities approaching the speed of light,” and that society would be debating whether to send humans to nearby stars. A majority of the twenty-nine respondents predicted a peaceful world, harmoniously unified under a democratic world government and freed from resource scarcity.

But he posited that the reason our planet had avoided a runaway greenhouse early in its life was that photosynthetic organisms had pulled the excess CO2 out of the air and locked it away in buried organic carbon at precisely the right rate to stabilize Earth’s temperature. In his view, it was life itself that actively, unconsciously maintained the Earth’s habitability by closely coupling and coevolving with the world’s geophysical systems. The coupling was so close, he argued, that at the largest scales differences between living things and their inanimate environs became indistinct, and the world could rightly be viewed as a complex system analogous to a planetary-scale organism. He called this union of the biosphere and the rest of the Earth “Gaia” after the goddess of Mother Earth in Greek mythology. With a collaborator, the American biologist Lynn Margulis, Lovelock went on to author a large body of literature further developing the theory. Kasting’s contribution to this debate came from his study of carbon cycles for his PhD thesis, which was on the rise of oxygen on the prebiotic Earth.


pages: 371 words: 108,317

The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future by Kevin Kelly


3D printing, A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, AI winter, Airbnb, Albert Einstein, Amazon Web Services, augmented reality, bank run, barriers to entry, Baxter: Rethink Robotics, bitcoin, blockchain, book scanning, Brewster Kahle, Burning Man, cloud computing, computer age, connected car, crowdsourcing, dark matter, dematerialisation, Downton Abbey, Edward Snowden, Elon Musk, Filter Bubble, Freestyle chess, game design, Google Glasses, hive mind, Howard Rheingold, index card, indoor plumbing, industrial robot, Internet Archive, Internet of things, invention of movable type, invisible hand, Jaron Lanier, Jeff Bezos, job automation, Kevin Kelly, Kickstarter, linked data, Lyft, M-Pesa, Marshall McLuhan, means of production, megacity, Minecraft, multi-sided market, natural language processing, Netflix Prize, Network effects, new economy, Nicholas Carr, peer-to-peer lending, personalized medicine, placebo effect, planetary scale, postindustrial economy, recommendation engine, RFID, ride hailing / ride sharing, Rodney Brooks, self-driving car, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, slashdot, Snapchat, social graph, social web, software is eating the world, speech recognition, Stephen Hawking, Steven Levy, Ted Nelson, the scientific method, transport as a service, two-sided market, Uber for X, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, Whole Earth Review

There is a solar-powered mini-relay on my roof that communicates with the other relays on nearby rooftops so that we—the Greater World builders—can’t be kicked off a company’s network. We collectively run the network, a network no one owns, or rather everyone owns. Our contributions can’t be sold, nor do we have to be marketed to while we make and play games within one extended interconnected space. The Greater World is the largest co-op in history, and for the first time we have a hint of a planetary-scale governance. The game world’s policies and budget are decided by electronic votes, line by line, facilitated with lots of explaining, tutorials, and even AI. Now over 250 million people want to know why they can’t vote on their national budgets that way too. In a weirdly recursive way, people create teams and co-ops within the Greater World to make stuff in the real world. They find that the tools for collaboration improve quicker in the virtual spaces.

The average bit effectively becomes anonymous, almost undetectable, when measured against the scale of planetary data. In fact, we are running out of prefixes to indicate how big this new realm is. Gigabytes are on your phone. Terabytes were once unimaginably enormous, yet today I have three terabytes sitting on my desk. The next level up is peta. Petabytes are the new normal for companies. Exabytes are the current planetary scale. We’ll probably reach zetta in a few years. Yotta is the last scientific term for which we have an official measure of magnitude. Bigger than yotta is blank. Until now, any more than a yotta was a fantasy not deserving an official name. But we’ll be flinging around yottabytes in two decades or so. For anything beyond yotta, I propose we use the single term “zillion”—a flexible notation to cover any and all new magnitudes at this scale.

What is happening to disrupt the ancient impossible/possible boundary? As far as I can tell, the impossible things happening now are in every case due to the emergence of a new level of organization that did not exist before. These incredible eruptions are the result of large-scale collaboration, and massive real-time social interacting, which in turn are enabled by omnipresent instant connection between billions of people at a planetary scale. Just as fleshy tissue yields a new, higher level of organization for a bunch of individual cells, these new social structures yield new tissue for individual humans. Tissue can do things that cells can’t. The collectivist organizations of Wikipedia, Linux, Facebook, Uber, the web—even AI—can do things that industrialized humans could not. This is the first time on this planet that we’ve tied a billion people together in immediate syncopation, just as Facebook has done.


pages: 717 words: 150,288

Cities Under Siege: The New Military Urbanism by Stephen Graham


airport security, anti-communist, autonomous vehicles, Berlin Wall, call centre, carbon footprint, clean water, congestion charging, credit crunch, DARPA: Urban Challenge, defense in depth, deindustrialization, edge city, energy security, European colonialism, failed state, Food sovereignty, Gini coefficient, global supply chain, Google Earth, illegal immigration, income inequality, knowledge economy, late capitalism, loose coupling, market fundamentalism, McMansion, megacity, mutually assured destruction, Naomi Klein, New Urbanism, offshore financial centre, pattern recognition, peak oil, planetary scale, private military company, RAND corporation, RFID, Richard Florida, Scramble for Africa, Silicon Valley, smart transportation, surplus humans, The Bell Curve by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, urban decay, urban planning, urban renewal, urban sprawl, Washington Consensus, white flight

As a result, the US military had to ‘adapt to its new role as a tool of choice, rather than a tool of last resort’.9 Technophilic language may depict the RMA as ushering in a reduced-risk, ‘clean’ and seemingly painless strategy of US military dominance, but this picture assumes that the vast, integrated networks of sensors and weapons would work uninterruptedly. In addition, global scales of flow and connection dominate the discourse: technological mastery, omnipotent surveillance, real-time situational awareness, and speed-of-light digital interactions have been widely portrayed as processes intrinsically capable of endowing the US military with ‘full spectrum dominance’ on a planetary scale, irrespective of the geographical terrain to be dominated. RMA discourses have, in this sense, been signally a-geographical. Little account has been taken of the specificities of the spaces and geographical terrains inhabited by US adversaries in the post–Cold War period, or of the changes wrought through urbanization. A key axiom of RMA rhetoric has been the new US capability to prosecute global strategies for geopolitical dominance through a ‘radical non-territoriality’.10 In response to the RMA’s neglect of global urbanization, and spurred by the catastrophic and continuing urban insurgencies within Iraq since the 2003 invasion, an increasingly powerful range of counterdiscourses have emerged within the US military.

The United State’s hegemonic capabilities for surveilling Earth from the distant, vertical domains of air and space were deemed by the DSB to show ‘poor capability for finding, identifying and tracking’ what it called ‘unconventional war targets’, such as ‘individuals and insurgent or terrorists groups that operate by blending in with the larger society’.30 What was needed, argued the DSB report, were intimate and persistent military surveillance systems which penetrated the details of everyday urban life, both at home and abroad. Little less than a comprehensive rescaling of military surveillance would be necessary; ‘more intimate, terrestrial, 21st century ISR [Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance] were required’.31 The gaze of hegemonic military power, the report contended, must not only colonize the planetary scales of surveillance; it must penetrate the fine-grained local geographies of urban and infrastructural battlespaces. Such a transformation would be temporal as well as geographical. ‘The surveillance of people, things and activities required to populated the databases needed for identification, location and tracking,’ the DSB report stated, ‘will require a persistence beyond that typical of many of today’s’ military and security surveillance systems.

You want a tank, you want, you know, and I told the people there in Detroit, you know, SUVs – you put a machine gun on the top, you’re going to sell them better’.85 Gunster summarizes Rapaille’s view on the SUV thus: SUVs are ‘the most reptilian vehicles of all because their imposing, even menacing appearance appeals to people’s deep-seated desires for survival and reproduction … [He] believes that “we’re going back to medieval times,” and you can see that in that we live in ghettos with gates and private armies. SUVs are exactly that, they are armored cars for the battlefield’.86 Such invocations of a new and deeply insecure medievalism within the militarized borderland of the domestic US city fit with the more general suggestions of right-wing foreign policy commentators such as Robert Kaplan, who speaks of the ‘coming anarchy’ on a planetary scale, which will reduce our world to an assortment of lawless ‘feral cities’,87 where only the strongest – and the most aggressively militarized – will survive or prosper. 88 Here again, deeply anti-urban rhetoric blends into geopolitical imaginations, with the SUV linking the two. As George Monbiot quipped in the Guardian, perhaps the Hummer patriots, as they lumbered around US cities in their massive vehicles, ‘should also have been demonstrating their love for their country by machine-gunning passers-by’.89 THE PENTAGON PIMPS OUT Given this general backdrop, it is not surprising to discover that, in addition to using familiar recruiting tactics such as air shows and car races, the US military has exploited the Hummer.


pages: 464 words: 127,283

Smart Cities: Big Data, Civic Hackers, and the Quest for a New Utopia by Anthony M. Townsend


1960s counterculture, 4chan, A Pattern Language, Airbnb, Amazon Web Services, anti-communist, Apple II, Bay Area Rapid Transit, Burning Man, business process, call centre, carbon footprint, charter city, chief data officer, clean water, cleantech, cloud computing, computer age, congestion charging, connected car, crack epidemic, crowdsourcing, DARPA: Urban Challenge, data acquisition, Deng Xiaoping, East Village, Edward Glaeser, game design, garden city movement, Geoffrey West, Santa Fe Institute, George Gilder, ghettoisation, global supply chain, Grace Hopper, Haight Ashbury, Hedy Lamarr / George Antheil, hive mind, Howard Rheingold, interchangeable parts, Internet Archive, Internet of things, Jacquard loom, Jacquard loom, Jane Jacobs, jitney, John Snow's cholera map, Khan Academy, Kibera, knowledge worker, load shedding, M-Pesa, Mark Zuckerberg, megacity, mobile money, mutually assured destruction, new economy, New Urbanism, Norbert Wiener, Occupy movement, openstreetmap, packet switching, patent troll, place-making, planetary scale, popular electronics, RFC: Request For Comment, RFID, ride hailing / ride sharing, Robert Gordon, self-driving car, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, Skype, smart cities, Smart Cities: Big Data, Civic Hackers, and the Quest for a New Utopia, smart grid, smart meter, social graph, social software, social web, special economic zone, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Stuxnet, supply-chain management, technoutopianism, Ted Kaczynski, telepresence, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, too big to fail, trade route, Tyler Cowen: Great Stagnation, Upton Sinclair, uranium enrichment, urban decay, urban planning, urban renewal, Vannevar Bush, working poor, working-age population, X Prize, Y2K, zero day, Zipcar

., a veteran of RJR Nabisco and American Express, embarked on a radical transformation plan. The new IBM would focus solely on services and integration of large-scale, complex information systems. In 1995 the company abandoned its famously strict employee dress code. A decade later, in 2004, it was ready to jettison the personal-computer division that had so recently defined it. The new IBM wasn’t a staid purveyor of hardware; it was a general contractor for planetary-scale computing. Less than three years before the centennial, in 2008, company chairman Sam Palmisano had launched IBM’s Smarter Planet campaign in a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations.22 If Siemens and Cisco aim to be the electrician and the plumber for smart cities, IBM’s ambition is be their choreographer, superintendent, and oracle rolled into one. While Smarter Planet is a snazzy spin on a new marketing push, IBM has a long history of building truly globe-spanning computer systems.

In one chapter full of maps he detailed the ebbs and flows of telephone traffic up and down the Eastern Seaboard, arguing that the telephone was the means by which great cities like New York and Washington exerted economic, political, and social dominance over the nation. These cities placed vastly more calls than they received, as their residents gathered information and disseminated decisions from headquarters to the hinterlands. In the 1980s New York University’s Mitchell Moss expanded the analysis to the whole world, using similar data to show how Wall Street banks and Midtown media giants were extending this informational trade imbalance to a planetary scale, exploiting new telecommunications technologies to consolidate and dominate entire global markets.26 In 2008 MIT’s SENSEable City Lab brought these studies into the supercomputer age. The “New York Talk Exchange” visualized a year’s worth of phone traffic between New York and the world carried over AT&T’s global network. On a 3-D rendering of a spinning globe, glowing lines map the flow of calls arcing up from the Big Apple and raining down onto subordinate cities around the world.

My answer is always the same. “The one you live in.” It sounds glib, but I’m serious. The idea of a single, utopian design for the smart city has kept us from the hard work of building a rich and varied collection of ones that we can actually live with. Since 2008, the vision of our urban future has come to be dominated by companies that would repeat the cookie-cutter city designs of the twentieth century on a planetary scale, powered by the technology of global enterprise. Our mayors are putting their own spin on these designs, but they can’t solve all of our problems. The answer lies at the grass roots. I see it blossoming everywhere as we take these tools out into the streets and use them to reimagine and remake our world. We thought the Internet was about transcending the globe, and then it took a hyperlocal turn and became about swapping reviews of restaurants and getting free coupons for the local shop.


pages: 879 words: 233,093

The Empathic Civilization: The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis by Jeremy Rifkin


agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, back-to-the-land, British Empire, carbon footprint, collaborative economy, death of newspapers, delayed gratification, distributed generation,, energy security, feminist movement, global village, hydrogen economy, illegal immigration, income inequality, income per capita, interchangeable parts, Internet Archive, invention of movable type, invention of the steam engine, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, labour mobility, Mahatma Gandhi, Marshall McLuhan, means of production, megacity, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Milgram experiment, new economy, New Urbanism, Norbert Wiener, out of africa, Peace of Westphalia, peak oil, planetary scale, Simon Kuznets, Skype, smart grid, smart meter, supply-chain management, surplus humans, the medium is the message, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, The Wisdom of Crowds, theory of mind, transaction costs, upwardly mobile, uranium enrichment, working poor, World Values Survey

Using instant electronic messages of 30 billion conversations among 180 million people all over the world, they corroborated the small world theory that only 6.6 degrees of separation exist between any two strangers on Earth.132 Horvitz, said: “To me, it was pretty shocking. What we’re seeing suggests there may be a social-connectivity constant for humanity.” The researchers concluded that “[t]o our knowledge, this is the first time a planetary-scale social network has been available to validate the well-known ‘6 degrees of separation’ finding by Travers and Milgram.”133 Researchers in the field of IT, communications, and social network theory are buoyed by the findings and suggest that the small world phenomenon could be harnessed to bring the human race together quickly around natural disaster relief or for political and social purposes.

The great success of reality TV is a reflection of the new dramaturgical consciousness—ordinary people living out their lives, although with sufficient scripting to assure the audience’s attention. Even here, the traditional top-down flow of communication so characteristic of the TV medium has bent to a high degree of interactivity and feedback. In popular reality TV shows like American Idol, the TV audience gets to weigh in by text message to help shape the direction and story line. The dramaturgical age is upon us. Moreno could never have imagined psychodrama on a planetary scale. Nor could the early theorists of dramaturgical consciousness have guessed that one day the dramaturgical frame of mind would come to be so thoroughly internalized and externalized that a generation of young people would come to think of themselves as actors playing roles during most of their waking hours. The dramaturgical perspective was advanced in the 1950s just as television was coming of age.

In a world characterized by increasing individuation and made up of human beings at different stages of consciousness, the biosphere itself may be the only context encompassing enough to unite the human race as a species. While the new distributed communications technologies—and, soon, distributed renewable energies—are connecting the human race, what is so shocking is that no one has offered much of a reason as to why we ought to be connected. We talk breathlessly about access and inclusion in a global communications network but speak little of exactly why we want to communicate with one another on such a planetary scale. What’s sorely missing is an overarching reason for why billions of human beings should be increasingly connected. Toward what end? The only feeble explanations thus far offered are to share information, be entertained, advance commercial exchange, and speed the globalization of the economy. All the above, while relevant, nonetheless seem insufficient to justify why nearly seven billion human beings should be connected and mutually embedded in a globalized society.


pages: 284 words: 92,387

The Democracy Project: A History, a Crisis, a Movement by David Graeber


Bretton Woods, British Empire, corporate personhood, David Graeber, deindustrialization, dumpster diving, East Village, feminist movement, financial innovation, George Gilder, Lao Tzu, late fees, Occupy movement, payday loans, planetary scale, Plutocrats, plutocrats, Ralph Nader, reserve currency, Ronald Reagan, seigniorage, too big to fail, trickle-down economics, unpaid internship, We are the 99%, working poor

I should note here that the first mass use of consensus process, in the antinuclear movement of the late 1970s and early 1980s, was often quite rocky—partly out of simple lack of experience, partly out of purism (it was only later that modified consensus for larger groups came into common use)—and many who went through the experience, most famously libertarian socialist Murray Bookchin, who promoted the idea of communalism, came out strongly against consensus and for majority rule. b One does sometimes worry that the Gouverneur Morrises of the world have ultimately been successful in preventing such knowledge from reaching most of the population. c It wouldn’t have to be based on a system of strict consensus, by the way, since, as we’ll see, absolute consensus is unrealistic in large groups—let alone on a planetary scale! What I am talking about is just what I say: an approach to politics, whatever particular institutional form it takes, that similarly sees political deliberation as problem solving rather than as a struggle between fixed interests. FOUR HOW CHANGE HAPPENS The last chapter ended with a long-term, philosophical perspective; this one aims to be more practical. It would be impossible to write a how-to guide for nonviolent uprisings, a modern-day Rules for Radicals.

Since the 1980s, “freedom” has come to mean “the market,” and “the market” has come to be seen as identical with capitalism—even, ironically, in places like China, which had known sophisticated markets for thousands of years, but rarely anything that could be described as capitalism. The ironies are endless. While the new free market ideology has framed itself above all as a rejection of bureaucracy, it has, in fact, been responsible for the first administrative system that has operated on a planetary scale, with its endless layering of public and private bureaucracies: the IMF, World Bank, WTO, the trade organizations, financial institutions, transnational corporations, NGOs. This is precisely the system that has imposed free market orthodoxy, and allowed the opening of the world to financial pillage, under the watchful aegis of American arms. It only made sense that the first attempts to re-create a global revolutionary movement, the Global Justice Movement that peaked between 1998 and 2003, was effectively a rebellion against the rule of that very planetary bureaucracy.


pages: 319 words: 105,949

Skyfaring: A Journey With a Pilot by Mark Vanhoenacker


British Empire, Cape to Cairo, computer age, dark matter, Edmond Halley, John Harrison: Longitude, Louis Blériot, Maui Hawaii, out of africa, phenotype, place-making, planetary scale, Ralph Waldo Emerson, random walk, the built environment, transcontinental railway

Sometimes after a long flight I reach my hotel room and close my eyes, and I’m hit by the silence of being alone for the first time in thousands of miles, and I don’t know how many faces I’ve seen since my day began, since the sun rose in whatever city I happened to wake up in that morning. I am certain that on most workdays I see more people than many of my ancestors saw in an entire lifetime. I think how those I’ve seen have been scattered by the hours of airplanes, how the simplest definition of community, of sharing a space, has been disassembled, even as the plane has enabled new forms of reunions, those that take place on a fully planetary scale. By nightfall many of the people I saw in the airport or onboard my plane will have taken further flights, or will be at home, or in a hotel room like mine. Some may be driving the last miles down a narrow road, completing their journey to a place distant in every sense from the world I know, or may even now be describing their journey to the person they’ve traveled so far to see. Sometimes, trying to imagine the dimensions of modern flight, I think of the air.

But when I drove to them myself, the cloud they formed began to sort itself, to fall into place, as we say, like the pieces of a wooden puzzle. I realized that a lake I thought faced in one direction actually faced another, for example, and was close to a second location that I had never linked it to. When I learned to fly, such a sorting of idea-places onto the physical world around me happened on a fully planetary scale. What suddenly appeared in the window included not only the few cities I had flown to as a child, but everything I saw from the air that was identifiable—all the cities and mountains and oceans I had heard of or read about and dreamed of someday visiting. This sense of a formal knowledge of places falling onto actual earth and lining and connecting up, one with another, may be similar to the ways in which bodies change in the minds of medical students when they first learn how the organs and bones they’ve always known the names of are really located in three dimensions, and how they’re connected by other tissues they did not know about before medical school.


pages: 394 words: 85,734

The Global Minotaur by Yanis Varoufakis, Paul Mason


banking crisis, Berlin Wall, Big bang: deregulation of the City of London, Bretton Woods, business climate, capital controls, Carmen Reinhart, central bank independence, collapse of Lehman Brothers, collateralized debt obligation, colonial rule, corporate governance, correlation coefficient, credit crunch, Credit Default Swap, credit default swaps / collateralized debt obligations, debt deflation, declining real wages, deindustrialization, eurozone crisis, financial innovation, first-past-the-post, full employment, Hyman Minsky, industrial robot, Joseph Schumpeter, Kenneth Rogoff, labour market flexibility, liquidity trap, London Interbank Offered Rate, Long Term Capital Management, market fundamentalism, Mexican peso crisis / tequila crisis, mortgage debt, new economy, Northern Rock, paper trading, planetary scale, post-oil, price stability, quantitative easing, reserve currency, rising living standards, Ronald Reagan, special economic zone, Steve Jobs, structural adjustment programs, systematic trading, too big to fail, trickle-down economics, urban renewal, War on Poverty, Yom Kippur War

Simple: the rest of the world! How? By means of a permanent tsunami of capital that rushed ceaselessly across the two great oceans to finance America’s twin deficits. The twin deficits of the US economy thus operated for decades like a giant vacuum cleaner, absorbing other people’s surplus goods and capital. While that ‘arrangement’ was the embodiment of the grossest imbalance imaginable on a planetary scale, and required what Paul Volcker described vividly as ‘controlled disintegration in the world economy’, nonetheless it did give rise to something resembling global balance: an international system of rapidly accelerating asymmetrical financial and trade flows capable of creating a semblance of stability and steady growth. Powered by America’s twin deficits, the world’s leading surplus economies (e.g.

That is, a surplus recycling scheme that would not rely on some bright officials and the unaccountable financial sector of a single country, as the Global Minotaur was, but on a well-run, global organisation that consciously and transparently sets the parameters for the recycling of goods, profits, savings and demand. Two years later, Strauss-Kahn’s daring statement appears more like ‘famous last words’ than a genuine programme for policy change on a planetary scale. Indeed, the very image of a handcuffed Strauss-Kahn being forced into a NYPD car, a few weeks after he had made that statement to the BBC, is deliciously symbolic of the flicker-like nature of the elites’ post-2008 rethink. Since then, dominant politicians, heads of the IMF and the World Bank, private and central bankers alike, generally the stewards of world capitalism, seem to have chosen to un-learn very quickly the lessons of 2008.


pages: 102 words: 33,345

24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep by Jonathan Crary


augmented reality, Berlin Wall, dematerialisation, Dissolution of the Soviet Union, Fall of the Berlin Wall, invention of movable type, Kevin Kelly, late capitalism, megacity, planetary scale, Ponzi scheme, V2 rocket

There were many then who predicted the opening up of a multicultural world of local rationalities, of a diasporic and multi-centered pluralism, based on electronic public spheres. In Stiegler’s view, hopes for such developments were based on a misunderstanding of what was driving many processes of globalization. For him, the 1990s opened onto a hyper-industrial era, not a post-industrial one, in which a logic of mass production was suddenly aligned with techniques that, in unprecedented ways, combine fabrication, distribution, and subjectivation on a planetary scale. While much of Stiegler’s argument is compelling, I believe that the problem of “temporal objects” is secondary to the larger systemic colonization of individual experience that I have been discussing. Most important now is not the capture of attentiveness by a delimited object—a movie, television program, or piece of music—whose mass reception seems to be Stiegler’s main preoccupation, but rather the remaking of attention into repetitive operations and responses that always overlap with acts of looking or listening.


pages: 118 words: 35,663

Smart Machines: IBM's Watson and the Era of Cognitive Computing (Columbia Business School Publishing) by John E. Kelly Iii


AI winter, call centre, carbon footprint, crowdsourcing, demand response, discovery of DNA, Erik Brynjolfsson, future of work, Geoffrey West, Santa Fe Institute, global supply chain, Internet of things, John von Neumann, Mars Rover, natural language processing, optical character recognition, pattern recognition, planetary scale, RAND corporation, RFID, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, smart grid, smart meter, speech recognition, Turing test, Von Neumann architecture, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!

While quantum machines seem unlikely to replace general-purpose computers any time soon, these techniques could affect other domains of computing in ways not yet foreseeable. An especially intriguing target is helping people to understand the interactions of complex systems of systems that underlie everything from the human body to cities to the global financial industry. One thing seems certain: only through fundamental breakthroughs in physics will we be able to deal with so much complexity and uncertainty on a planetary scale. SCENARIO: DESIGNING PRODUCTS FROM THE MOLECULE UP In 1935, scientists at the E. I. DuPont Co. invented a synthetic fabric, later named nylon, that became the first commercially successful synthetic polymer. Nylon was first used as a replacement for silk in women’s stockings and parachutes but later came to be employed much more broadly in everything from clothing to gears in machines.


pages: 123 words: 32,382

Grouped: How Small Groups of Friends Are the Key to Influence on the Social Web by Paul Adams


Airbnb, Cass Sunstein, cognitive dissonance, David Brooks, information retrieval, invention of the telegraph, planetary scale, race to the bottom, Richard Thaler, sentiment analysis, social web, statistical model, The Wisdom of Crowds, web application, white flight

For a great overview (with data) of Dunbar’s number and online games, see Christopher Allen’s post “The Dunbar number as a limit to group sizes” on his blog Life With Alacrity. 6. For lots of detail about group dynamics, see David Brook’s book The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement (Random House, 2011). 7. For more information on Stanley Milgram’s experiments, including challenges to his methods, see the Wikipedia article on Small world experiment. 8. See the 2008 research paper “Planetary-scale views on a large instant-messaging network” by Jure Leskovec and Eric Horvitz (where they analyzed 30 billion conversations among 240 million MSN users). 9. Quote from Stanley Milgram’s 1967 Psychology Today article “The small-world problem.” 10. In his book Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age (Norton, 2003), Duncan Watts describes the difficulties in finding the shortest paths between people. 11.


pages: 476 words: 132,042

What Technology Wants by Kevin Kelly


Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, Buckminster Fuller,, carbon-based life, Cass Sunstein, charter city, Clayton Christensen, cloud computing, computer vision, Danny Hillis, dematerialisation, demographic transition, double entry bookkeeping,, Exxon Valdez, George Gilder, gravity well, hive mind, Howard Rheingold, interchangeable parts, invention of air conditioning, invention of writing, Isaac Newton, Jaron Lanier, John Conway, John von Neumann, Kevin Kelly, knowledge economy, Lao Tzu, life extension, Louis Daguerre, Marshall McLuhan, megacity, meta analysis, meta-analysis, new economy, out of africa, performance metric, personalized medicine, phenotype, Picturephone, planetary scale, RAND corporation, random walk, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, refrigerator car, Richard Florida, Silicon Valley, silicon-based life, Skype, speech recognition, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Stewart Brand, Ted Kaczynski, the built environment, the scientific method, Thomas Malthus, Vernor Vinge, Whole Earth Catalog, Y2K

The one kind of mind I doubt we’ll make many of is an artificial mind just like a human. The only way to reconstruct a viable human species of mind is to use tissue and cells—and why bother when making human babies is so easy? Some problems will require multiple kinds of minds to crack, and our job will be to discover new methods of thinking and to set this diversity of intelligences loose in the universe. Planetary-scale problems will require some kind of planetary-scale mind; complex networks made of trillions of active nodes will require network intelligences; routine mechanical operations will need nonhuman precision in calculations. Since our own brains are such poor thinkers in terms of probability, we’d really benefit by discovering an intelligence at ease with statistics. We’ll need all varieties of thinking tools. An off-the-grid stand-alone AI will be handicapped compared with a hive-mind supercomputer.


pages: 184 words: 53,625

Future Perfect: The Case for Progress in a Networked Age by Steven Johnson


airport security, algorithmic trading, banking crisis, barriers to entry, Bernie Sanders, call centre, Captain Sullenberger Hudson, Cass Sunstein, cognitive dissonance, credit crunch, crowdsourcing, dark matter, Dava Sobel, David Brooks, future of journalism, hive mind, Howard Rheingold, HyperCard, Jane Jacobs, John Gruber, John Harrison: Longitude, Kevin Kelly, Kickstarter, lone genius, Mark Zuckerberg, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Naomi Klein, Nate Silver, Occupy movement, packet switching, Peter Thiel, planetary scale, pre–internet, RAND corporation, risk tolerance, shareholder value, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, social graph, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Tim Cook: Apple, urban planning, WikiLeaks, working poor, X Prize

But the network that Baran, Cerf, and others designed was a network of peers, not a hierarchy. No single agency controlled it absolutely; everyone controlled it partially. Decentralization, peer-to-peer networks, gateways, platform stacks—the principles that Baran, Davies, Cerf, Kahn, and others hit upon together in the 1960s and 1970s provided a brilliant solution to the problem of sharing information on a planetary scale. Tellingly, the solution ultimately outperformed any rival approaches developed by the marketplace. Billions of dollars were spent by private companies trying to build global networks based on proprietary standards: AOL, CompuServe, Prodigy, Microsoft, Apple, and many others made epic efforts to become mainstream consumer networks in the late 1980s and early 1990s. They were all defeated by a set of networking standards—TCP/IP, the e-mail protocols of POP and SMTP, and the Web standards of HTML and HTTP—that were effectively public property: collectively developed and owned by no one, or by everyone.


pages: 200 words: 60,987

The Invention of Air: A Story of Science, Faith, Revolution, and the Birth of America by Steven Johnson


Albert Einstein, Chance favours the prepared mind, conceptual framework, Copley Medal, Danny Hillis, discovery of DNA, Edmond Halley, Edward Lloyd's coffeehouse, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, Kevin Kelly, planetary scale, side project, South Sea Bubble, stem cell, Stewart Brand, the scientific method, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions

That is one of the defining characteristics of what it means to be an organism: a system of cells and organs that are explicitly devoted to ensuring the survival of the larger group to which they belong. Each works, in the language of the original Gaia paper, as “a contrivance specifically constituted for a set of purposes.” The cells that help pump blood through our bodies go to elaborate lengths to keep blood-pressure levels at an equilibrium, because stable blood pressure is important to the survival of the organism. Lovelock and Margulis saw the same principle at work on a planetary scale: the Earth itself could be seen as a single organism, with the collective behavior of every member of the biosphere contributing to its survival. It was a variation on Sir John Pringle’s “no vegetable grows in vain” homily, with mankind replaced by Mother Earth. The biosphere regulates O2 levels, and it does it for a reason: because stable O2 levels are good for the biosphere. A thousand holes have been punched in the Gaia Hypothesis in the three decades since Lovelock and Margulis first proposed it, and it remains an open question whether the strong claim—the Earth is an organism—has empirical merit, or even utility as a metaphor.


pages: 239 words: 56,531

The Secret War Between Downloading and Uploading: Tales of the Computer as Culture Machine by Peter Lunenfeld


Albert Einstein, Andrew Keen, Apple II, Berlin Wall, British Empire, Brownian motion, Buckminster Fuller, Burning Man, butterfly effect, computer age, crowdsourcing, cuban missile crisis, Dissolution of the Soviet Union, don't be evil, Douglas Engelbart, Dynabook, East Village, Edward Lorenz: Chaos theory, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, Frank Gehry, Grace Hopper, gravity well, Guggenheim Bilbao, Honoré de Balzac, Howard Rheingold, invention of movable type, Isaac Newton, Jacquard loom, Jacquard loom, Jane Jacobs, Jeff Bezos, John von Neumann, Mark Zuckerberg, Marshall McLuhan, Mercator projection, Mother of all demos, mutually assured destruction, Network effects, new economy, Norbert Wiener, PageRank, pattern recognition, planetary scale, Plutocrats, plutocrats, Post-materialism, post-materialism, Potemkin village, RFID, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Richard Stallman, Robert X Cringely, Schrödinger's Cat, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, SETI@home, Silicon Valley, Skype, social software, spaced repetition, Steve Ballmer, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Ted Nelson, the built environment, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, the medium is the message, Thomas L Friedman, Turing machine, Turing test, urban planning, urban renewal, Vannevar Bush, walkable city, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, William Shockley: the traitorous eight

This sketch shows design in its historical role as the servant of commerce, as reflected in the early term for graphic design, “commercial art.” The right-hand circle shows what has happened, in Mau’s view, since the advent of nanotechnologies, genetic manipulation, large-scale digital fabrication, and even terraforming. Design expands to become the outermost ring, encompassing nature, culture, and business. From Mau’s perspective, humankind’s increasing capacities to manipulate and shape everything from the submolecular to planetary scales radically transforms what design means and signifies— in his words, that design itself “has become the biggest project of all.”8 Mieke Gerritzen, a Dutch visual provocateur, went so far as to proclaim that “Everyone Is a Designer!” in a book she designed by the same name.9 Whether we accept the hyperbole of her manifesto or not, there is much to be gained from at least thinking like a designer in this 89/11 world.


pages: 252 words: 80,636

Bureaucracy by David Graeber


3D printing, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, airport security, Albert Einstein, banking crisis, barriers to entry, borderless world, Bretton Woods, British Empire, collateralized debt obligation, Columbine, conceptual framework, Corn Laws, David Graeber, George Gilder, High speed trading, hiring and firing, late capitalism, means of production, music of the spheres, new economy, obamacare, Occupy movement, Parkinson's law, Peter Thiel, planetary scale, price mechanism, Ronald Reagan, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, South Sea Bubble, transcontinental railway, union organizing, urban planning

Within a matter of two or three years, we had sunk pretty much every proposed new global trade pact, and institutions like the IMF had been effectively expelled from Asia, Latin America, and, indeed, most of the world’s surface.28 The imagery worked because it showed everything people had been told about globalization to be a lie. This was not some natural process of peaceful trade, made possible by new technologies. What was being talked about in terms of “free trade” and the “free market” really entailed the self-conscious completion of the world’s first effective29 planetary-scale administrative bureaucratic system. The foundations for the system had been laid in the 1940s, but it was only with the waning of the Cold War that they became truly effective. In the process, they came to be made up—like most other bureaucratic systems being created on a smaller scale at the same time—of such a thorough entanglement of public and private elements that it was often quite impossible to pull them apart—even conceptually.


pages: 257 words: 66,480

Strange New Worlds: The Search for Alien Planets and Life Beyond Our Solar System by Ray Jayawardhana


Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, Arthur Eddington, cosmic abundance, dark matter, Edmond Halley, invention of the telescope, Isaac Newton, Kuiper Belt, Louis Pasteur, planetary scale, Pluto: dwarf planet, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Solar eclipse in 1919

Some of the other chunks are big enough to be seen with the naked eye and were called planets (“wanderers”) by our ancestors. Other, smaller pieces are faint, except when one occasionally burns up in the Earth’s atmosphere or comes close enough to the Sun to evaporate its frozen gases into an enormous tail. It is pretty clear by now that the Earth is special among its brethren in the solar system as the only planet with liquid water on its surface and life on a planetary scale. But there’s no reason to think that our solar system is unique in the Galaxy, given its hundreds of billions of stars. Unfolding Story In fact, well before they could detect extrasolar worlds, astronomers had a pretty good idea that the stuff of planets is ubiquitous. Thanks to clues from observations, laboratory studies, and computer simulations, we now have a reasonable, albeit incomplete, understanding of how the raw material comes together to make planetary systems.


pages: 277 words: 80,703

Revolution at Point Zero: Housework, Reproduction, and Feminist Struggle by Silvia Federici


Community Supported Agriculture, declining real wages, equal pay for equal work, feminist movement, financial independence, global village, illegal immigration, informal economy, invisible hand, labor-force participation, land tenure, means of production, microcredit, neoliberal agenda, new economy, Occupy movement, planetary scale, Scramble for Africa, statistical model, structural adjustment programs, the market place, trade liberalization, UNCLOS, wages for housework, Washington Consensus, women in the workforce, World Values Survey

The NIDL is thus identified with the formation of Free Trade Zones—industrial sites exempt from any labor regulation producing for export—and with the organization of “global assembly lines” by transnational corporations.5 Relying on this theory, both the media and economic planners have relaunched the myth of capitalism as the great equalizer and promoter of “interconnectedness,” this time presumably achieved on a planetary scale. As the argument goes, we are witnessing the industrialization of the “Third World.” We are told this process will both eliminate the hierarchies that have historically characterized the international division of labor, and will also have a positive impact on the sexual division of labor. The women working in the Free Trade Zones presumably benefit from engagement in industrial labor, gaining a new independence and the skills necessary to compete on the international labor market.6 Although accepted by neoliberal economists,7 this theory has not been exempt from criticism.8 Already in The New Helots (1987), Robin Cohen observed that the movement of capital from the “North” to the “South” is not quantitatively sufficient to justify the hypothesis of a “New” International Division of Labor.


The Techno-Human Condition by Braden R. Allenby, Daniel R. Sarewitz


airport security, augmented reality, carbon footprint, clean water, cognitive dissonance, conceptual framework, Credit Default Swap, decarbonisation, facts on the ground, friendly fire, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Jane Jacobs, land tenure, life extension, Long Term Capital Management, market fundamentalism, mutually assured destruction, nuclear winter, Peter Singer: altruism, planetary scale, prediction markets, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Ray Kurzweil, Silicon Valley, smart grid, stem cell, Stewart Brand, technoutopianism, the built environment, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, transcontinental railway, Whole Earth Catalog

The human and the technological will not clash, with one or the other emerging victorious. Nor will technology, reaching down its empathic paw, raise us from the trials and tribulations of being human. Rather, what will happen is what has already been happening: the two will continue to merge and re-make one another on the individual scale, on the institutional scale, on the social scale, on the planetary scale. Printing presses and books created a new kind of religious scholar; the Internet and Google create a new kind of student. Such changes may be profound. New human varietals will continue to emerge-indeed, "digital natives," comfortably embedded in their leT networks, may already exemplify this evolution. And integrating powerful new technologies into society may-and probably will-entail substantial damage, much as the development of the printing press enabled widespread study of Christianity in Medieval Europe in settings not controlled by the Church, which enabled the Reformation, which in turn played a part in hundreds of years of bloody religious warfare.


pages: 272 words: 76,089

Billions & Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium by Carl Sagan


Albert Einstein, anti-communist, clean water, cosmic abundance, dark matter, demographic transition, Exxon Valdez, F. W. de Klerk, germ theory of disease, invention of agriculture, invention of radio, invention of the telegraph, invention of the telephone, Isaac Newton, Mikhail Gorbachev, pattern recognition, planetary scale, prisoner's dilemma, profit motive, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Ronald Reagan, stem cell, the scientific method, Thomas Malthus

But as time went on, as technology improved, our numbers increased exponentially, and now here we are with an average of some ten people per square kilometer, our numbers concentrated in cities, and an awesome technological armory at hand—the powers of which we understand and control only incompletely. ** Because our lives depend on minuscule amounts of such gases as ozone, major environmental disruption can be brought about—even on a planetary scale—by the engines of industry. The inhibitions placed on the irresponsible use of technology are weak, often half-hearted, and almost always, worldwide, subordinated to short-term national or corporate interest. We are now able, intentionally or inadvertently, to alter the global environment. Just how far along we are in working the various prophesied planetary catastrophes is still a matter of scholarly debate.


pages: 829 words: 229,566

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate by Naomi Klein


1960s counterculture, battle of ideas, Berlin Wall, big-box store, bilateral investment treaty, British Empire, business climate, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, carbon footprint, clean water, Climategate, cognitive dissonance, colonial rule, Community Supported Agriculture, complexity theory, crony capitalism, decarbonisation, deindustrialization, dematerialisation, Donald Trump, Downton Abbey, energy security, energy transition, equal pay for equal work, Exxon Valdez, failed state, Fall of the Berlin Wall, feminist movement, financial deregulation, food miles, Food sovereignty, global supply chain, hydraulic fracturing, ice-free Arctic, immigration reform, income per capita, Internet Archive, invention of the steam engine, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, market fundamentalism, moral hazard, Naomi Klein, new economy, Nixon shock, Occupy movement, offshore financial centre, oil shale / tar sands, open borders, patent troll, planetary scale, post-oil, profit motive, quantitative easing, race to the bottom, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Rana Plaza, Ronald Reagan, smart grid, special economic zone, Stephen Hawking, Stewart Brand, structural adjustment programs, Ted Kaczynski, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, trade route, transatlantic slave trade, transatlantic slave trade, trickle-down economics, Upton Sinclair, uranium enrichment, urban planning, urban sprawl, wages for housework, walkable city, Washington Consensus, Whole Earth Catalog, WikiLeaks

Once self-sufficient rural residents will lose their lands and be urged to move into increasingly crowded urban slums—for their own protection, they will be told. Drought and famine will continue to be used as pretexts to push genetically modified seeds, driving farmers further into debt.42 In the wealthier nations, we will protect our major cities with costly seawalls and storm barriers while leaving vast areas of coastline that are inhabited by poor and Indigenous people to the ravages of storms and rising seas. We may well do the same on the planetary scale, deploying techno-fixes to lower global temperatures that will pose far greater risks to those living in the tropics than in the Global North (more on this later). And rather than recognizing that we owe a debt to migrants forced to flee their lands as a result of our actions (and inactions), our governments will build ever more high-tech fortresses and adopt even more draconian anti-immigration laws.

In recent years, the society has become the most prominent scientific organization to argue that, given the lack of progress on emission reduction, the time has come for governments to prepare a technological Plan B. In a report published in 2009, it called upon the British government to devote significant resources to researching which geoengineering methods might prove most effective. Two years later it declared that planetary-scale engineering interventions that would block a portion of the sun’s rays “may be the only option for reducing global temperatures quickly in the event of a climate emergency.”3 The retreat in Buckinghamshire has a relatively narrow focus: How should research into geoengineering, as well as eventual deployment, be governed? What rules should researchers follow? What bodies, if any, will regulate these experiments?


pages: 843 words: 223,858

The Rise of the Network Society by Manuel Castells


Apple II, Asian financial crisis, barriers to entry, Big bang: deregulation of the City of London, borderless world, British Empire, capital controls, complexity theory, computer age, Credit Default Swap, declining real wages, deindustrialization, delayed gratification, dematerialisation, deskilling, disintermediation, double helix, Douglas Engelbart, edge city, experimental subject, financial deregulation, financial independence, floating exchange rates, future of work, global village, Hacker Ethic, hiring and firing, Howard Rheingold, illegal immigration, income inequality, industrial robot, informal economy, information retrieval, intermodal, invention of the steam engine, invention of the telephone, inventory management, James Watt: steam engine, job automation, job-hopping, knowledge economy, knowledge worker, labor-force participation, labour market flexibility, labour mobility, laissez-faire capitalism, low skilled workers, manufacturing employment, Marshall McLuhan, means of production, megacity, Menlo Park, new economy, New Urbanism, offshore financial centre, oil shock, open economy, packet switching, planetary scale, popular electronics, post-industrial society, postindustrial economy, prediction markets, Productivity paradox, profit maximization, purchasing power parity, RAND corporation, Robert Gordon, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, social software, South China Sea, South of Market, San Francisco, special economic zone, spinning jenny, statistical model, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Ted Nelson, the built environment, the medium is the message, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, total factor productivity, trade liberalization, transaction costs, urban renewal, urban sprawl

A global economy is an historically new reality, distinct from a world economy.55 A world economy – that is, an economy in which capital accumulation proceeds throughout the world – has existed in the West at least since the sixteenth century, as Fernand Braudel and Immanuel Wallerstein have taught us.56 A global economy is something different: it is an economy with the capacity to work as a unit in real time, or chosen time, on a planetary scale. While capitalism is characterized by its relentless expansion, always trying to overcome limits of time and space, it was only in the late twentieth century that the world economy was able to become truly global on the basis of the new infrastructure provided by information and communication technologies, and with the decisive help of deregulation and liberalization policies implemented by governments and international institutions.

This globalized core includes financial markets, international trade, transnational production, and, to some extent, science and technology, and specialty labor. It is through these globalized, strategic components of the economy that the economic system is globally interconnected. Thus, I will define more precisely the global economy as an economy whose core components have the institutional, organizational, and technological capacity to work as a unit in real time, or in chosen time, on a planetary scale. I shall review succinctly the key features of this globality. Table 2.6 Cross-border transactions in bonds and equities, 1970–1996 (percentage of GDP) Source: IMF (1997: 60), compiled by Held et al. (1999: table 4.16) a January–September. b 1982. Global financial markets Capital markets are globally interdependent, and this is not a small matter in a capitalist economy.57 Capital is managed around the clock in globally integrated financial markets working in real time for the first time in history: billion dollars worth of transactions take place in seconds in the electronic circuits throughout the globe.


pages: 602 words: 177,874

Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist's Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations by Thomas L. Friedman


3D printing, additive manufacturing, affirmative action, Airbnb, AltaVista, Amazon Web Services, autonomous vehicles, Ayatollah Khomeini, barriers to entry, Berlin Wall, Bernie Sanders, bitcoin, blockchain, business process, call centre, centre right, Clayton Christensen, clean water, cloud computing, corporate social responsibility, crowdsourcing, David Brooks, demand response, demographic dividend, demographic transition, Deng Xiaoping, Donald Trump, Erik Brynjolfsson, failed state, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Ferguson, Missouri, first square of the chessboard / second half of the chessboard, Flash crash, game design, gig economy, global supply chain, illegal immigration, immigration reform, income inequality, indoor plumbing, Internet of things, invention of the steam engine, inventory management, Jeff Bezos, job automation, John von Neumann, Khan Academy, Kickstarter, knowledge economy, knowledge worker, land tenure, linear programming, low skilled workers, Lyft, Mark Zuckerberg, Maui Hawaii, Menlo Park, Mikhail Gorbachev, mutually assured destruction, pattern recognition, planetary scale, pull request, Ralph Waldo Emerson, ransomware, Ray Kurzweil, Richard Florida, ride hailing / ride sharing, Robert Gordon, Ronald Reagan, Second Machine Age, self-driving car, shareholder value, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, Skype, smart cities, South China Sea, Steve Jobs, TaskRabbit, Thomas L Friedman, transaction costs, Transnistria, urban decay, urban planning, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, WikiLeaks, women in the workforce, Y2K, Yogi Berra

This was how they put it: The Great Acceleration marks the phenomenal growth of the global socio-economic system, the human part of the Earth System. It is difficult to overestimate the scale and speed of change. In little over two generations—or a single lifetime—humanity (or until very recently a small fraction of it) has become a planetary-scale geological force. Hitherto human activities were insignificant compared with the biophysical Earth System, and the two could operate independently. However, it is now impossible to view one as separate from the other. The Great Acceleration trends provide a dynamic view of the emergent, planetary-scale coupling, via globalization, between the socio-economic system and the biophysical Earth System. We have reached a point where many biophysical indicators have clearly moved beyond the bounds of Holocene variability. We are now living in a no-analogue world.


pages: 327 words: 103,336

Everything Is Obvious: *Once You Know the Answer by Duncan J. Watts


affirmative action, Albert Einstein, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Black Swan, butterfly effect, Carmen Reinhart, Cass Sunstein, clockwork universe, cognitive dissonance, collapse of Lehman Brothers, complexity theory, correlation does not imply causation, crowdsourcing, death of newspapers, discovery of DNA, East Village, easy for humans, difficult for computers, edge city,, Erik Brynjolfsson, framing effect, Geoffrey West, Santa Fe Institute, happiness index / gross national happiness, high batting average, hindsight bias, illegal immigration, interest rate swap, invention of the printing press, invention of the telescope, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Jane Jacobs, Jeff Bezos, Joseph Schumpeter, Kenneth Rogoff, lake wobegon effect, Long Term Capital Management, loss aversion, medical malpractice, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Milgram experiment, natural language processing, Netflix Prize, Network effects, oil shock, packet switching, pattern recognition, performance metric, phenotype, planetary scale, prediction markets, pre–internet, RAND corporation, random walk, RFID, school choice, Silicon Valley, statistical model, Steve Ballmer, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, supply-chain management, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, the scientific method, The Wisdom of Crowds, too big to fail, Toyota Production System, ultimatum game, urban planning, Vincenzo Peruggia: Mona Lisa, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, X Prize

Leonhardt, David. 2009. “Medical Malpractice System Breeds More Waste.” New York Times, Sept. 22. ———. 2010. “Saving Energy, and Its Cost.” New York Times, June 15. Lerner, Josh. 2009. Boulevard of Broken Dreams: Why Public Efforts to Boost Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital Have Failed—and What to Do About It: Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Leskovec, Jure, and Eric Horvitz. 2008. “Planetary-Scale Views on a Large Instant-Messaging Network.” 17th International World Wide Web Conference, April 21–25, 2008, at Beijing, China. Levitt, Steven D., and Stephen J. Dubner. 2005. Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything. New York: William Morrow & Co. Lewis, Michael. 2009. “The No-Stats All-Star.” New York Times Magazine, February 13. Lewis, Randall, and David Reiley. 2009.


pages: 356 words: 102,224

Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space by Carl Sagan


Albert Einstein, anthropic principle, cosmological principle, dark matter, Dava Sobel, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, germ theory of disease, invention of the telescope, Isaac Newton, Kuiper Belt, linked data, nuclear winter, planetary scale, profit motive, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Stephen Hawking, telepresence

You can understand why there is no longer such a thing as a local environmental problem. Molecules are stupid. Industrial poisons, greenhouse gases, and substances that attack the protective ozone layer, because of their abysmal ignorance, do not respect borders. They are oblivious of the notion of national sovereignty. And so, due to the almost mythic powers of our technology (and the prevalence of short-term thinking), we are beginning—on Continental and on planetary scales—to pose a danger to ourselves. Plainly, if these problems are to be solved, it will require many nations acting in concert over many years. I'm struck again by the irony that spaceflight—conceived in tile cauldron of nationalist rivalries and hatreds—brings with it a stunning transnational vision. You spend even a little time contemplating the Earth from orbit and the most deeply engrained nationalisms begin to erode.


pages: 329 words: 85,471

The Locavore's Dilemma by Pierre Desrochers, Hiroko Shimizu


air freight, back-to-the-land, British Empire, Columbian Exchange, Community Supported Agriculture, edge city, Edward Glaeser, food miles, Food sovereignty, global supply chain, intermodal, invention of agriculture, inventory management, invisible hand, Jane Jacobs, labour mobility, land tenure, megacity, moral hazard, mortgage debt, oil shale / tar sands, oil shock, peak oil, planetary scale, profit motive, refrigerator car, Steven Pinker, the market place, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, trade liberalization, Upton Sinclair, urban sprawl

As Aristotle observed more than two millennia ago: “Sometimes there is much drought or rain, and it prevails over a great and continuous stretch of country. At other times it is local; the surrounding country often getting seasonable or even excessive rains while there is drought in a certain part; or, contrariwise, all the surrounding country gets little or even no rain while a certain part gets rain in abundance.” 20 This is even more so on a planetary scale. Of course, the state of transportation and information technologies at any given point in time was also crucial in moving goods around in the right amounts and at the right time. Historically, regions that could rely on maritime transportation always had a clear advantage over landlocked ones. To give but one illustration, a 4th century AD observer noted that in the town of Edessa (modern Turkish Sanlıurfa) located more than 350 kilometers away from the nearest seaport:[t]here was a famine, the most severe within the memory of man.


pages: 342 words: 88,736

The Big Ratchet: How Humanity Thrives in the Face of Natural Crisis by Ruth Defries


agricultural Revolution, Columbian Exchange, demographic transition, double helix, European colonialism, food miles, Francisco Pizarro, Haber-Bosch Process, Internet Archive, John Snow's cholera map, out of africa, planetary scale, premature optimization, profit motive, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Thomas Malthus, trade route, transatlantic slave trade, transatlantic slave trade

The regulatory machinery that makes it possible for a planet to recycle water, carbon, and much more is the truly distinguishing feature of our planet. More than anything else, it has saved the planet from the scorching fate of Venus and the frozen fate of Mars. It has kept nutrients for plants and animals cycling from land to ocean to deep beneath the surface to the atmosphere and back. It is the most precious, and the least appreciated, foundation for human civilization. As with Earth’s other planetary-scale features, this recycling machinery is not subject to humanity’s control. So far as is known, ours is the only planet where an atom of carbon can find itself cycling from one form to another on time scales as short as seconds and as long as millions of years. Carbon easily bonds with other elements and forms the backbone of all known life. Carbon is ubiquitous and promiscuous. At different times the same atom can reside in the leaves of a plant, in the cells of an animal’s body, in hard rocks, dissolved in the ocean, or as gas in the atmosphere.


pages: 313 words: 84,312

We-Think: Mass Innovation, Not Mass Production by Charles Leadbeater


1960s counterculture, Andrew Keen, barriers to entry, bioinformatics,, call centre, citizen journalism, clean water, cloud computing, complexity theory, congestion charging, death of newspapers, Debian, digital Maoism, double helix, Edward Lloyd's coffeehouse, frictionless, frictionless market, future of work, game design, Google Earth, Google X / Alphabet X, Hacker Ethic, Hernando de Soto, hive mind, Howard Rheingold, interchangeable parts, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, Jane Jacobs, Jaron Lanier, Jean Tirole, jimmy wales, John von Neumann, Kevin Kelly, knowledge economy, knowledge worker, lone genius, M-Pesa, Mark Zuckerberg, Marshall McLuhan, Menlo Park, microcredit, new economy, Nicholas Carr, online collectivism, planetary scale, post scarcity, Richard Stallman, Silicon Valley, slashdot, social web, software patent, Steven Levy, Stewart Brand, supply-chain management, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, the market place, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, The Wisdom of Crowds, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, Whole Earth Catalog, Zipcar

The Netherlands is We-Think in action at national level: a constant, adaptive, interconnected and incremental approach to innovation.7 In future we will need this kind of highly social innovation at much greater scale if we are to tackle global issues. As the Canadian catastrophe theorist Thomas Homer-Dixon puts it in The Upside of Down, In one respect humanity is extraordinarily lucky: just when it faces some of the biggest challenges in its history, it has developed a technology that could be the foundation for extremely rapid problem-solving on a planetary scale, for radically new forms of democratic decision-making. We have only just begun to tap the web’s potential and the new ways of thinking and acting it offers us. We-Think will really make a difference when we use it creatively to tackle major shared challenges: to spread democracy and learning, to improve health and quality of life, to tackle climate change and the threats of extremism. If we succeed in bending it to those objectives, people might look back a century from now and say it made the critical difference in the world’s ability to govern itself.


pages: 310 words: 89,653

The Interstellar Age: Inside the Forty-Year Voyager Mission by Jim Bell


Albert Einstein, crowdsourcing, dark matter, Edmond Halley, Edward Charles Pickering,, Eratosthenes, gravity well, Isaac Newton, Kuiper Belt, Mars Rover, planetary scale, Pluto: dwarf planet, polynesian navigation, Ronald Reagan, Saturday Night Live, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Stephen Hawking, V2 rocket

Because it is so bright and so far from the sun, Triton’s is among the coldest natural surfaces in the solar system, with an average temperature only about 38 degrees above absolute zero (or an incomprehensible –391°F). Triton’s brightness suggested that there would be relatively clean ice on the surface, perhaps even including exotic, low-temperature ices other than water ice. And its strange backward orbit suggested that it may have been through some sort of planetary-scale trauma, such as being captured by Neptune, or had its course changed by some sort of giant impact. It was a great way to end the surface-imaging phase of a great mission—with an encounter that would be surprising no matter what was revealed. Last Port of Call. Voyager 2 flyby trajectory past Neptune. (NASA/JPL) About five hours after closest approach to Neptune, Voyager 2 flew past Triton.


pages: 360 words: 101,636

Engineering Infinity by Jonathan Strahan


augmented reality, cosmic microwave background, dark matter, gravity well, planetary scale, Pluto: dwarf planet, post scarcity, Schrödinger's Cat, technological singularity, Ted Kaczynski

Lorus's voice breaks up in a stuttering hash of dropouts. And the lights and the polisher stop working. The Lansford Hastings is a starship, one of the fastest mecha ever constructed by the bastard children of posthumanity. From one angle, it may take us centuries to crawl between stars; but there's another perspective that sees us screaming across the cosmos at three thousand kilometres per second. On a planetary scale, we'd cross Sol system from Earth orbit to Pluto in less than two weeks. Earth to Luna in under five minutes. So one of the truisms of interstellar travel is that if something goes wrong, it goes wrong in a split instant, too fast to respond to. Except when it doesn't, of course. When the power goes down, I do what anyone in my position would do: I panic and ramp straight from slowtime up to my fastest quicktime setting.


pages: 417 words: 109,367

The End of Doom: Environmental Renewal in the Twenty-First Century by Ronald Bailey


3D printing, additive manufacturing, agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, autonomous vehicles, Cass Sunstein, Climatic Research Unit, Commodity Super-Cycle, conceptual framework, corporate governance, credit crunch, David Attenborough, decarbonisation, dematerialisation, demographic transition, diversified portfolio, double helix, energy security, failed state, financial independence, Gary Taubes, hydraulic fracturing, income inequality, invisible hand, knowledge economy, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Naomi Klein, oil shale / tar sands, oil shock, pattern recognition, peak oil, phenotype, planetary scale, price stability, profit motive, purchasing power parity, race to the bottom, RAND corporation, rent-seeking, Stewart Brand, Tesla Model S, trade liberalization, University of East Anglia, uranium enrichment, women in the workforce, yield curve

Finally, and most important, I am greatly indebted to the scores of researchers who shared their time, their scientific findings, their philosophical insights, and their hopes for the future of humanity with me. INTRODUCTION A LITTLE OVER TWO DECADES AGO, I WROTE a book, Eco-Scam: The False Prophets of Ecological Apocalypse, in which I looked closely at prevalent and generally accepted predictions of imminent planetary-scale environmental dooms. I analyzed the psychological appeal of doom, how predictions of disaster function as a political technique aimed at frightening people into handing over power to self-selected elites who want to enact drastic transformations in social and economic institutions. As I explained in my introduction twenty-two years ago, I was initially fascinated by these prophecies of global catastrophe because I had believed them.


pages: 523 words: 148,929

Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100 by Michio Kaku


agricultural Revolution, AI winter, Albert Einstein, augmented reality, Bill Joy: nanobots, bioinformatics, blue-collar work, British Empire, Brownian motion, cloud computing, Colonization of Mars, DARPA: Urban Challenge, delayed gratification, double helix, Douglas Hofstadter,, friendly AI, Gödel, Escher, Bach, hydrogen economy, I think there is a world market for maybe five computers, industrial robot, invention of movable type, invention of the telescope, Isaac Newton, John von Neumann, life extension, Louis Pasteur, Mahatma Gandhi, Mars Rover, megacity, Murray Gell-Mann, new economy, oil shale / tar sands, optical character recognition, pattern recognition, planetary scale, postindustrial economy, Ray Kurzweil, refrigerator car, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Rodney Brooks, Ronald Reagan, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Silicon Valley, Simon Singh, speech recognition, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, telepresence, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas L Friedman, Thomas Malthus, trade route, Turing machine, uranium enrichment, Vernor Vinge, Wall-E, Walter Mischel, Whole Earth Review, X Prize

Soccer and the Olympics are emerging to dominate planetary sports. The 2008 Olympics, for example, were widely interpreted as a coming-out party for the Chinese, who wanted to assume their rightful cultural position in the world after centuries of isolation. This is also an example of the Cave Man Principle, since sports are High Touch but are entering the world of High Tech. • Environmental threats are also being debated on a planetary scale. Nations realize that the pollution they create crosses national boundaries and hence can precipitate an international crisis. We first saw this when a gigantic hole in the ozone layer opened over the South Pole. Because the ozone layer prevents harmful UV and X-rays from the sun from reaching the ground, nations banded together to limit the production and consumption of chlorofluorocarbons used in refrigerators and industrial systems.


pages: 404 words: 131,034

Cosmos by Carl Sagan


Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, Arthur Eddington, clockwork universe, dematerialisation, double helix, Drosophila, Edmond Halley, Eratosthenes, Ernest Rutherford, germ theory of disease, invention of movable type, invention of the telescope, Isaac Newton, Lao Tzu, Louis Pasteur, Magellanic Cloud, Mars Rover, Menlo Park, music of the spheres, pattern recognition, planetary scale, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, spice trade, Tunguska event

We see here a conflict between our passions and what is sometimes called our better natures; between the deep, ancient reptilian part of the brain, the R-complex, in charge of murderous rages, and the more recently evolved mammalian and human parts of the brain, the limbic system and the cerebral cortex. When humans lived in small groups, when our weapons were comparatively paltry, even an enraged warrior could kill only a few. As our technology improved, the means of war also improved. In the same brief interval, we also have improved. We have tempered our anger, frustration and despair with reason. We have ameliorated on a planetary scale injustices that only recently were global and endemic. But our weapons can now kill billions. Have we improved fast enough? Are we teaching reason as effectively as we can? Have we courageously studied the causes of war? What is often called the strategy of nuclear deterrence is remarkable for its reliance on the behavior of our nonhuman ancestors. Henry Kissinger, a contemporary politician, wrote: “Deterrence depends, above all, on psychological criteria.


pages: 565 words: 151,129

The Zero Marginal Cost Society: The Internet of Things, the Collaborative Commons, and the Eclipse of Capitalism by Jeremy Rifkin


3D printing, additive manufacturing, Airbnb, autonomous vehicles, back-to-the-land, big-box store, bioinformatics, bitcoin, business process, Chris Urmson, clean water, cleantech, cloud computing, collaborative consumption, collaborative economy, Community Supported Agriculture, computer vision, crowdsourcing, demographic transition, distributed generation,, Frederick Winslow Taylor, global supply chain, global village, Hacker Ethic, industrial robot, informal economy, intermodal, Internet of things, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, job automation, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, Julian Assange, Kickstarter, knowledge worker, labour mobility, Mahatma Gandhi, manufacturing employment, Mark Zuckerberg, market design, means of production, meta analysis, meta-analysis, natural language processing, new economy, New Urbanism, nuclear winter, Occupy movement, oil shale / tar sands, pattern recognition, peer-to-peer lending, personalized medicine, phenotype, planetary scale, price discrimination, profit motive, RAND corporation, randomized controlled trial, Ray Kurzweil, RFID, Richard Stallman, risk/return, Ronald Coase, search inside the book, self-driving car, shareholder value, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, Skype, smart cities, smart grid, smart meter, social web, software as a service, spectrum auction, Steve Jobs, Stewart Brand, the built environment, The Nature of the Firm, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, The Wisdom of Crowds, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, Thomas L Friedman, too big to fail, transaction costs, urban planning, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, web application, Whole Earth Catalog, Whole Earth Review, WikiLeaks, working poor, Zipcar

Beneath all the surface hyperbole that went along with the colonization of cyberspace, scholars and activists alike were beginning to ask the question of how this new virtual public square—one that is capable of connecting the entire human race for the very first time in history—might change the fundamentals of how society is organized. What consequences would flow from a social space where everyone could reach everyone else, connect, collaborate, and create new ways to interact with one another on a planetary scale—something never before imaginable? I started thinking about writing the book in 1998. I was teaching at the time in the advanced management program at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. CEOs from around the world were beginning to sniff around the Internet, attempting to figure out whether it posed a threat, an opportunity, or both to their way of doing business. It was then that I began to ponder some questions.


pages: 489 words: 148,885

Accelerando by Stross, Charles


call centre, carbon-based life, cellular automata, cognitive dissonance, Conway's Game of Life, dark matter, dumpster diving, Extropian, finite state, Flynn Effect, glass ceiling, gravity well, John von Neumann, knapsack problem, Kuiper Belt, Magellanic Cloud, mandelbrot fractal, market bubble, means of production, packet switching, performance metric, phenotype, planetary scale, Pluto: dwarf planet, reversible computing, Richard Stallman, SETI@home, Silicon Valley, Singularitarianism, slashdot, South China Sea, stem cell, technological singularity, telepresence, The Chicago School, theory of mind, Turing complete, Turing machine, Turing test, upwardly mobile, Vernor Vinge, Von Neumann architecture, web of trust, Y2K

They cower in gated communities and hill forts, mumbling prayers and cursing the ungodly meddlers with the natural order of things. But eight out of every ten living humans are included in the phase-change. It's the most inclusive revolution in the human condition since the discovery of speech. A million outbreaks of gray goo – runaway nanoreplicator excursions – threaten to raise the temperature of the biosphere dramatically. They're all contained by the planetary-scale immune system fashioned from what was once the World Health Organization. Weirder catastrophes threaten the boson factories in the Oort cloud. Antimatter factories hover over the solar poles. Sol system shows all the symptoms of a runaway intelligence excursion, exuberant blemishes as normal for a technological civilization as skin problems on a human adolescent. The economic map of the planet has changed beyond recognition.


pages: 481 words: 125,946

What to Think About Machines That Think: Today's Leading Thinkers on the Age of Machine Intelligence by John Brockman


3D printing, agricultural Revolution, AI winter, Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, algorithmic trading, artificial general intelligence, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, bitcoin, blockchain, clean water, cognitive dissonance, Colonization of Mars, complexity theory, computer age, computer vision, constrained optimization, corporate personhood, cosmological principle, cryptocurrency, cuban missile crisis, Danny Hillis, dark matter, discrete time, Elon Musk, Emanuel Derman, endowment effect, epigenetics, Ernest Rutherford, experimental economics, Flash crash, friendly AI, Google Glasses, hive mind, income inequality, information trail, Internet of things, invention of writing, iterative process, Jaron Lanier, job automation, John von Neumann, Kevin Kelly, knowledge worker, loose coupling, microbiome, Moneyball by Michael Lewis explains big data, natural language processing, Network effects, Norbert Wiener, pattern recognition, Peter Singer: altruism, phenotype, planetary scale, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, Republic of Letters, RFID, Richard Thaler, Rory Sutherland, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, self-driving car, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, Skype, smart contracts, speech recognition, statistical model, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, strong AI, Stuxnet, superintelligent machines, supervolcano, the scientific method, The Wisdom of Crowds, theory of mind, Thorstein Veblen, too big to fail, Turing machine, Turing test, Von Neumann architecture, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, Y2K

Essentially we must meet change with love instead of fear. I believe we can. REIMAGINING THE SELF IN A DISTRIBUTED WORLD MATTHEW RITCHIE Artist Will it happen? It already has. With the gradual fusion of information-storing-and-reporting technologies at the atomic and molecular scales, and the scaling up of distributed and connected information-storing-and-reporting devices at the social and planetary scale (which already exceeds the number of human beings on the planet), the definitions of both machine and thinking have shifted to embrace both inorganic and organic “complexes” and “systemic decisions” as interchangeable terms—mechanically, biologically, physically, intellectually, and even theologically. Near-future developments in biotechnology and transhuman algorithmic prediction systems will quickly render many of the last philosophical distinctions between observing, thinking, and deciding obsolete, and quantitative arguments meaningless.


pages: 462 words: 142,240

Iron Sunrise by Stross, Charles


blood diamonds, dumpster diving, gravity well, hiring and firing, industrial robot, life extension, loose coupling, mutually assured destruction, phenotype, planetary scale, postindustrial economy, RFID, side project, speech recognition, technological singularity, trade route, uranium enrichment, urban sprawl

New Dresden is not a McWorld: it’s a shitty little flea hole populated by pathologically suspicious Serbs, bumptiously snobbish Saxons, three different flavors of Balkan refugee, and an entire bestiary of psychopathic nationalist loons. The planetary national sport is the grudge match, at which they are undisputed past masters. I say “past masters” for a reason — they’re not as bad as they used to be. The planet has been unified for the past ninety years, since the survivors finished merrily slaughtering everyone else, formed a federation, had a nifty little planetary-scale nuclear war, formed another federation, and buried the hatchet (in one another’s backs). For most of the past forty years, New Dresden has been ruled by a sinister lunatic, Colonel-General Palacky, chairman of PORC, the Planetary Organization of Revolutionary Councils. Most of Palacky’s policies were dictated by his astrologers, including his now-notorious abolition of the currency and its replacement with bills divisible by 9, his lucky number.


Jennifer Morgue by Stross, Charles


call centre, correlation does not imply causation, disintermediation, dumpster diving, Etonian, haute couture, interchangeable parts, Maui Hawaii, mutually assured destruction, planetary scale, RFID, Silicon Valley, Skype, slashdot, stem cell, telepresence, traveling salesman, Turing machine

James Bond was a creature of the Cold War: a strange period of shadow-boxing that stretched from late 1945 to the winter of 1991, forty-six years of paranoia, fear, and the creepy sensation that our lives were in thrall to forces beyond our comprehension. It's almost impossible to explain the Cold War to anyone who was born after 1980; the sense of looming doom, the long shadows cast by the two eyeball-to-eyeball superpowers, each possessing vast powers of destruction, ready and able to bring about that destruction on a planetary scale in pursuit of their recondite ideologies. It was, to use the appropriate adjective, a truly Lovecraftian age, dominated by the cold reality that our lives could be interrupted by torment and death at virtually any time; normal existence was conducted in a soap-bubble universe sustained only by our determination to shut out awareness of the true horrors lurking in the darkness outside it an abyss presided over by chilly alien warriors devoted to death-cult ideologies and dreams of Mutually Assured Destruction.


pages: 442 words: 135,006

ZeroZeroZero by Roberto Saviano


Berlin Wall, Bernie Madoff, call centre, credit crunch, double entry bookkeeping, Fall of the Berlin Wall, illegal immigration, Julian Assange, London Interbank Offered Rate, Mikhail Gorbachev, new economy, open borders, planetary scale, Ponzi scheme, Ronald Reagan, Skype, Steve Jobs, uranium enrichment, WikiLeaks

Because if it’s true that a kilo of cocaine in Colombia is sold for $1,500, in Mexico for $12,000 to $16,000, in the United States for $27,000, in Spain for $45,000, in Holland for $47,000, in Italy for $54,000, and in the UK for $77,000; if it’s true that the price per gram varies from $61 in Portugal to $166 in Luxembourg, going for $80 in France, $87 in Germany, $96 in Switzerland, and $97 in Ireland; if it’s true that on average 1 kilo of pure cocaine is cut to make 3 kilos that are then sold in single-gram doses; if all this is true, it’s also true that whoever controls the entire chain of production is one of the richest men in the world. Cocaine traffic today is managed by a new middle class of mafiosi. They use distribution to gain control of the territory where it is sold. A game of Risk on a planetary scale. On one side are the areas where cocaine is produced, which become fiefdoms where nothing but poverty and violence grow, areas the mafias keep under control by generously doling out charity and alms, which they pass off as rights. No development, only profits. If someone wants to better himself, he demands riches, not rights. Riches that he needs to know how to grab. In this way only one model of success is perpetuated, of which violence is merely a vehicle and a tool.


pages: 478 words: 142,608

The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins


Albert Einstein, anthropic principle, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, Ayatollah Khomeini, Brownian motion, cosmological principle, David Attenborough, Desert Island Discs, double helix,, experimental subject, Fellow of the Royal Society, gravity well, invisible hand, John von Neumann, luminiferous ether, Menlo Park, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Murray Gell-Mann, Necker cube, Peter Singer: altruism, phenotype, placebo effect, planetary scale, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Schrödinger's Cat, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, the scientific method, theory of mind, Thorstein Veblen, trickle-down economics, unbiased observer

This distinction may seem puzzling, and I must explain it further, using the so-called anthropic principle. The anthropic principle was named by the mathematician Brandon Carter in 1974 and expanded by the physicists John Barrow and Frank Tipler in their book on the subject.67 The anthropic argument is usually applied to the cosmos, and I’ll come to that. But I’ll introduce the idea on a smaller, planetary scale. We exist here on Earth. Therefore Earth must be the kind of planet that is capable of generating and supporting us, however unusual, even unique, that kind of planet might be. For example, our kind of life cannot survive without liquid water. Indeed, exobiologists searching for evidence of extraterrestrial life are scanning the heavens, in practice, for signs of water. Around a typical star like our sun, there is a so-called Goldilocks zone – not too hot and not too cold, but just right – for planets with liquid water.


pages: 515 words: 126,820

Blockchain Revolution: How the Technology Behind Bitcoin Is Changing Money, Business, and the World by Don Tapscott, Alex Tapscott


Airbnb, altcoin, asset-backed security, autonomous vehicles, barriers to entry, bitcoin, blockchain, Bretton Woods, business process, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, carbon footprint, clean water, cloud computing, cognitive dissonance, corporate governance, corporate social responsibility, Credit Default Swap, crowdsourcing, cryptocurrency, disintermediation, distributed ledger, Donald Trump, double entry bookkeeping, Edward Snowden, Elon Musk, Erik Brynjolfsson, ethereum blockchain, failed state, fiat currency, financial innovation, Firefox, first square of the chessboard, first square of the chessboard / second half of the chessboard, future of work, Galaxy Zoo, George Gilder, glass ceiling, Google bus, Hernando de Soto, income inequality, informal economy, interest rate swap, Internet of things, Jeff Bezos, jimmy wales, Kickstarter, knowledge worker, Kodak vs Instagram, Lean Startup, litecoin, Lyft, M-Pesa, Mark Zuckerberg, Marshall McLuhan, means of production, microcredit, mobile money, Network effects, new economy, Oculus Rift, pattern recognition, peer-to-peer lending, performance metric, Peter Thiel, planetary scale, Ponzi scheme, prediction markets, price mechanism, Productivity paradox, quantitative easing, ransomware, Ray Kurzweil, renewable energy credits, rent-seeking, ride hailing / ride sharing, Ronald Coase, Ronald Reagan, Satoshi Nakamoto, Second Machine Age, seigniorage, self-driving car, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, Skype, smart contracts, smart grid, social graph, social software, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Stewart Brand, supply-chain management, TaskRabbit, The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, The Nature of the Firm, The Wisdom of Crowds, transaction costs, Turing complete, Turing test, Uber and Lyft, unbanked and underbanked, underbanked, unorthodox policies, X Prize, Y2K, Zipcar

CHAPTER 11 LEADERSHIP FOR THE NEXT ERA Prolific is an adjective that should precede all titles used to describe twenty-one-year-old Vitalik Buterin, the Russian-born Canadian founder of Ethereum. (Prolific founder, that is.) Ask his legion of followers about Ethereum, and they’ll tell you it’s a “blockchain-based, arbitrary-state, Turing-complete scripting platform.”1 It has attracted IBM, Samsung, UBS, Microsoft, and the Chinese auto giant Wanxiang, and an army of the smartest software developers in the world, all of whom think that Ethereum may be the “planetary scale computer” that changes everything.2 When Buterin explained “arbitrary-state, Turing-complete” to us, we got a glimpse of his mind. Listening to music is very different from reading a book or calculating the day’s revenues and expenses, and yet you can do all three on your smart phone, because your smart phone’s operating system is Turing complete. That means that it can accommodate any other language that is Turing complete.


The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community by David C. Korten


Albert Einstein, banks create money, big-box store, Bretton Woods, British Empire, clean water, colonial rule, Community Supported Agriculture, death of newspapers, declining real wages, European colonialism, Francisco Pizarro, full employment, George Gilder, global supply chain, global village, Hernando de Soto, Howard Zinn, informal economy, invisible hand, joint-stock company, land reform, market bubble, market fundamentalism, Monroe Doctrine, Naomi Klein, neoliberal agenda, new economy, peak oil, planetary scale, Plutocrats, plutocrats, Ronald Reagan, Rosa Parks, South Sea Bubble, stem cell, structural adjustment programs, The Chicago School, trade route, Washington Consensus, World Values Survey

The same technological revolution that brings the imperative for change is also facilitating a global cultural and spiritual awakening to the interdependence of life, the unrealized possibilities of our human nature, and the opportunity before us to bring forth a cultural, economic, and political transformation as a conscious collective choice. It is the work of Ricardo and the Hacienda Santa Teresa on a planetary scale. Millions of people the world over are already engaging in it. Some would call it a reawakening to the spiritual wisdom of our ancient past. Others might liken it to the sense of awe at the wonder and beauty of life that commonly follows a near-death experience. However we choose to characterize it, this awakening is opening the way for an evolutionary leap to a new level of human social, intellectual, and spiritual possibility.


pages: 411 words: 114,717

Breakout Nations: In Pursuit of the Next Economic Miracles by Ruchir Sharma


3D printing, affirmative action, Albert Einstein, American energy revolution, anti-communist, Asian financial crisis, banking crisis, Berlin Wall, BRICs, British Empire, business climate, business process, business process outsourcing, call centre, capital controls, Carmen Reinhart, central bank independence, centre right, cloud computing, collective bargaining, colonial rule, corporate governance, crony capitalism, deindustrialization, demographic dividend, Deng Xiaoping, eurozone crisis, Gini coefficient, global supply chain, housing crisis, income inequality, indoor plumbing, inflation targeting, informal economy, Kenneth Rogoff, knowledge economy, labor-force participation, labour market flexibility, land reform, M-Pesa, Mahatma Gandhi, market bubble, megacity, Mexican peso crisis / tequila crisis, new economy, oil shale / tar sands, oil shock, open economy, Peter Thiel, planetary scale, quantitative easing, reserve currency, Robert Gordon, Shenzhen was a fishing village, Silicon Valley, software is eating the world, sovereign wealth fund, The Great Moderation, Thomas L Friedman, trade liberalization, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, working-age population

Even more unusual, these economies were taking wing at the same time that inflation, a constant threat in periods of rapid growth, was falling back everywhere. The number of nations that beat inflation—containing the annual rate of price increases to less than 5 percent—rose from 16 in 1980 to 103 in 2006. This was the same high-growth and low-inflation “Goldilocks economy” that America enjoyed in the 1990s, only with much faster growth and expanded to a planetary scale, including much of the West. It was a chorus of all nations, singing a story of stable high-speed success, and many observers watched with undiscriminating optimism. The emerging nations were all Chinas now, or so it seemed. This illusion, which in large part persists to this day, is fed by the fashionable explanation for the boom—that emerging markets succeeded because they had learned the lessons of the Mexican peso crisis, the Russian crisis, and the Asian crisis in the 1990s, all of which began when piles of foreign debt became too big to pay.


pages: 804 words: 212,335

Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds


game design, glass ceiling, gravity well, Kuiper Belt, planetary scale, random walk, statistical model

'Weps functionality: nominal. Ninety-nine point four per cent probability that target was completely neutralised. Seventy-nine per cent probability that no one within two hundred kilometres could have survived, unless they were behind a kilometre of armour.' 'Good enough odds for me,' Volyova said. She studied the wound in the surface of Resurgam for a moment longer, evidently satiating herself with the thought of planetary-scale destruction. 1 Alastair Reynolds - Revelation Space Revelation Space FIFTEEN Mantell, North Nekhebet, 2566 'They bluffed,' Sluka said, just as a sudden, false dawn shone over the north-easterly horizon, turning the intervening ridges and bluffs into serrated black cutouts. The glare was magnesiumbright, edged in purple. Briefly it overloaded whole strips of Sylveste's vision, leaving numb voids where it had burned.


pages: 661 words: 169,298

Coming of Age in the Milky Way by Timothy Ferris


Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, Alfred Russel Wallace, anthropic principle, Arthur Eddington, Atahualpa, Cepheid variable, Chance favours the prepared mind, Commentariolus, cosmic abundance, cosmic microwave background, cosmological constant, cosmological principle, dark matter, delayed gratification, Edmond Halley, Eratosthenes, Ernest Rutherford, Gary Taubes, Harlow Shapley and Heber Curtis, Harvard Computers: women astronomers, Henri Poincaré, invention of writing, Isaac Newton, John Harrison: Longitude, Karl Jansky, Lao Tzu, Louis Pasteur, Magellanic Cloud, mandelbrot fractal, Menlo Park, Murray Gell-Mann, music of the spheres, planetary scale, retrograde motion, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Searching for Interstellar Communications, Solar eclipse in 1919, Stephen Hawking, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, Thomas Malthus, Wilhelm Olbers

Weart and Gertrud Weiss Szilard. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1978. Recollections and correspondence by a pioneer in nuclear fusion. Taton, Rene. History of Science, trans. A.J. Pomerans. London: Basic Books, 1963. —————. Reason and Chance in Scientific Discovery, trans. A.J. Pomerans. New York: Science Editions, 1962. Taube, Mieczyslaw. Evolution of Matter and Energy in Cosmic and Planetary Scale. Killwanger Switz.: self-published, 1982. Taubes, Gary. Nobel Dreams. New York: Random House, 1986. Account of Carlo Rubbia’s quest to identify the W and Z particles predicted by electroweak theory. Taylor, A.E. Aristotle. New York: Dover, 1955. Survey of Aristotle’s thought. —————. Plato: The Man and His Work. New York: Meridian, 1960. Standard reference, with commentary on each of the dialogues.