“Nothing you could really call a nuclear war…”

“No comets crashing, nothing you could really call a nuclear war. Just everything else, tangled in the changing climate: droughts, water shortages, crop failures, honeybees gone like they almost were now, collapse of other keystone species, every last alpha predator gone, antibiotics doing even less than they already did, diseases that were never quite the one big pandemic but big enough to be historic events in themselves. And all of it around people: how people were, how many of them there were, how they’d changed things just by being there.”

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Text: William Gibson, The Peripheral

Pic: Filip Hodas

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Double Back

“Consider the insertion of Philip K. Dick into Blade Runner 2049 as a metafiction, something Dick did consciously and unconsciously in his fictions. Dick’s middle name was Kindred, and ‘K’ the replicant played by Ryan Gosling is K/kindred with Dick. K’s serial number is KD6-3.7 This is precisely the kind of numerological gift that Dick would have enjoyed, and perseverated over: it leads in one direction, before the flip/flop undermines the first solution. The combination of 6 and 3, interlinked by the hyphen, gives us 9 or alphabetically ‘I.’ The 3, isolated, gives us ‘C.’ It appears as if K’s serial number will encrypt Dick’s name directly: KDIC – but then it breaks off, or loops back, anagrammatically, leaving the final digit 7 unresolved. The numeral 7 has a rich and paradoxical history in the occult, theology, literature, and pataphysics. It’s also the square root of 49, and so forth. Yet, one must double back, approach the numerology differently: K (11), D (4), and 9 are 24. Then, 3 and 7. Work the numerological equation this way: 2+4+3+7 = 16, or ‘P’. The initials PKD are encrypted in K’s serial number.

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“Or, regard it another way: allow 3 + 7 to simply equal 10. 10 is ‘J.’ Therefore, the K serial number that identifies with Dick simultaneously identifies ‘J.’ Philip K. Dick’s twin sister died six weeks after birth. Her name was Jane. Dick was haunted by Jane. Twinning, and doubling are uncanny devices in Blade Runner 2049. But J is also Joi: a classic projection/introjection of Dick’s “dark-haired girl,” K’s daemon, his anima, his pre-occupation by spirit. Later, as pure emanation, Joi will occupy the persona of the doxie Mariette to experience sex with K. Then, J is Joe: the name given K by Joi when they mistakenly deduce K’s humanity. Joe K is also a ‘joke’ in that the name invokes Josef K of Kafka’s The Trial (pub. 1925), and Dick’s father, Joseph. Further, J is Joshi. Lieutenant Joshi, also referred to as Madam, is a surrogate maternal figure, who suggests the incest taboo in the family romance of the film. J is the lost and introjected sister Jane, and also Jesus, who in Dick’s complex of digressive Gnosticism is female. If this sounds like monomania on my part, then I refer you to The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick (2011), the philosophy of the author subsequent to his religious/mystical experience of February and March 1974. Dick’s Exegesis, edited by Pamela Jackson and Jonathan Lethem, with exceptional annotations and interventions from an array of acquaintances, academics, and authors, is a (self-)conscious presence in Blade Runner 2049. And this is the fidelity the sequel insists upon, the autodidactic philosophy which the original abjected as too weird. It is the core of the film…”

Text: James Reich, Blade Runner 2049: The Enigma and Exegesis of ‘K’

Pic: Manuscript page from Dick’s Exegesis 

Quantum Life

“That life was not organic, animal and vegetable and lesser kingdoms, growing, breathing, drinking, eating, breeding, hunting, hiding; it kindled no fires and wielded no tools; from the beginning, it was a kind of oneness. An original unity differentiated itself into countless avatars, like waves on a sea. They arose and lived individually, coalesced when they chose by twos or threes or multitudes, reemerged as other than they had been, gave themselves and their experiences back to the underlying whole. Evolution, history, lives eerily resembled memes in organic minds.

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“Yet quantum life was not a series of shifting abstractions. Like the organic, it was in and of its environment. It acted to alter its quantum states and those around it: action that manifested itself as electronic, photonic, and nuclear events. Its domain was no more shadowy to it than ours is to us. It strove, it failed, it achieved. They were never sure aboard Envoy whether they could suppose it loved, hated, yearned, mourned, rejoiced. The gap between was too wide for any language to bridge. Nevertheless they were convinced that it knew something they might as well call emotion, and that that included wondering.”

Text: Poul Anderson, Starfarers

“How does one hate a country, or love one?”

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“How does one hate a country, or love one? Tibe talks about it; I lack the trick of it. I know people, I know towns, farms, hills and rivers and rocks, I know how the sun at sunset in autumn falls on the side of a certain plowland in the hills; but what is the sense of giving a boundary to all that, of giving it a name and ceasing to love where the name ceases to apply? What is love of one’s country; is it hate of one’s uncountry? Then it’s not a good thing. Is it simply self-love? That’s a good thing, but one mustn’t make a virtue of it, or a profession…”

Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness

Crash the World Economy

 

“The asteroid, called 16 Psyche, is a massive hunk of precious metals including platinum and gold as well as iron and nickel.It orbits the sun between Mars and Jupiter and is of great scientific interest because it holds clues to one of the earliest eras in the history of our solar system — less than 10 million years after the birth of our sun.

“But now it’s grabbed the attention of money-hungry entrepreneurs and investors thanks to its stratospheric price tag. Valued at $A14,000 quadrillion, according to Lindy Elkins-Tanton, the lead scientist on the NASA mission, it is definitely worth more than its weight in gold.

“But bringing back an asteroid of this value could completely wipe out our global economy. Luckily, the space agency is taking the trip for scientific purposes and isn’t planning on conducting any mining — yet.”

Text: Magi Murphy, NASA announces 2022 mission to explore metal asteroid so valuable it could crash the world economy

‘Under the stars,’ she repeated. ‘I never noticed the stars before. I always thought of them as great big diamonds that belonged to someone. Now they frighten me. They make me feel that it was all a dream, all my youth.’

‘It was a dream,’ said John quietly. ‘Everybody’s youth is a dream, a form of chemical madness.’

How pleasant then to be insane!’

So I’m told,’ said John gloomily. ‘I don’t know any longer. At any rate, let us love for a while, for a year or so, you and me. That’s a form of divine drunkenness that we can all try. There are only diamonds in the whole world, diamonds and perhaps the shabby gift of disillusion. Well, I have that last and I will make the usual nothing of it.”

Text: F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Diamond as Big as the Ritz

“We watched at the eye-machine…”

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“According to Lindner, his patient first began experiencing a strange feeling while reading fanciful adventure novels during his youth. “In some weird and inexplicable way I knew that what I was reading was my biography […]. Nothing in these books was unfamiliar to me: I recognized everything… My everyday life began to recede at this point. In fact, it became fiction—and, as it did, the books became my reality.” At the further stage of this “psychosis,” the patient “filled in the spaces” between the written stories with “fantasy ‘recollections.'”

“If, in fact, the man described here is Paul Linebarger (a.k.a. Cordwainer Smith), this strange, distorted sense of reality did little to hinder his success in the more conventional world that you and I inhabit. He earned a Ph.D. in political science at Johns Hopkins, and in his early life he mastered six languages. He served on the faculty of Duke University, advised the military on psychological warfare (and wrote a seminal book on the subject), did work for the CIA, and advised President John F. Kennedy. And those are merely highlights of his terrestrial CV.

“Smith’s science-fiction work was obsessed with grand historical concepts and organizational philosophies, and describes in great detail command structures—in particular what he calls the Instrumentality of Mankind, a galactic governmental framework that recurs again and again in his work—and transformational epochs. A particular fixation of his was his projected future “Rediscovery of Man,” in which a technologically superior race of human beings deliberately renounces its advantages and blandly perfected lives in order to reintroduce risk and uncertainty into the sphere of day-to-day events.

“What an odd change from those all-too-familiar sci-fi books about the future, in which some authoritarian dystopian society is postulated. Here instead Cordwainer Smith envisions a future in which the powers-that-be prefer to embrace a messy, uncontrolled imperfection. In an unusual twist on the typical futurist saga, Smith describes a fierce backlash against the grand achievements of the social engineers—but only because they have succeeded so completely.

“The rulers now decide that they need to return to the less predictable ways of the past. Only 42 people in the entire universe know how to read English, that archaic language of a dead society, and a Common Tongue now allows universal communication, but that is now to be replaced by the reintroduced old languages. A host of other advances—medical, sociological, psychological, economic—are similarly seen as obsolete.

“I myself was the first man to put a postage stamp on a letter, after fourteen thousand years,” announces the narrator Paul in Smith’s short story “Alpha Ralpha Boulevard.” “I took Virginia to hear the first piano recital. We watched at the eye-machine when cholera was released in Tasmania, and we saw the Tasmanians dance in the streets, now that they did not have to be protected any more. Everywhere, men and women worked with a wild will to build a more imperfect world. I myself went into a hospital and came out French…”

Text: Ted Gioia, Remembering Cordwainer Smith: Full-Time Sci-Fi Author, Part-Time Earthling, The Atlantic.

Image: Kazuya Akimoto, The Evil Eye, 2010.

Our Grandparents Had A Future

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analemma-tower-clouds-architecture-office-conceptual-supertall-skyscrapers_dezeen_2364_col_3“We have no idea, now, of who or what the inhabitants of our future might be. In that sense, we have no future. Not in the sense that our grandparents had a future, or thought they did. Fully imagined cultural futures were the luxury of another day, one in which ‘now’ was of some greater duration. For us, of course, things can change so abruptly, so violently, so profoundly, that futures like our grandparents’ have insufficient ‘now’ to stand on. We have no future because our present is too volatile. … We have only risk management. The spinning of the given moment’s scenarios. Pattern recognition”

Text: William Gibson, Pattern Recognition

Pics: “In a bid to get around terrestrial height restrictions, Clouds Architecture Office has proposed suspending the world’s tallest skyscraper from an asteroid, leaving residents to parachute to earth.New York-based Clouds Architecture Office drew up plans for Analemma Tower to “overturn the established skyscraper typology” by building not up from the ground but down from the sky by affixing the foundations to an orbiting asteroid.”Harnessing the power of planetary design thinking, it taps into the desire for extreme height, seclusion and constant mobility,” said the architects, who have previously drawn up proposals for space transportation and a 3D-printed ice house on Mars.”If the recent boom in residential towers proves that sales price per square foot rises with floor elevation, then Analemma Tower will command record prices, justifying its high cost of construction.”- Supertall skyscraper hangs from orbiting asteroid in Clouds Architecture Office concept, Dezeen.