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.

A Kind of Tragedy

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“It was a warship, after all. It was built, designed to glory in destruction, when it was considered appropriate. It found, as it was rightly and properly supposed to, an awful beauty in both the weaponry of war and the violence and devastation which that weaponry was capable of inflicting, and yet it knew that attractiveness stemmed from a kind of insecurity, a sort of childishness. It could see that—by some criteria—a warship, just by the perfectly articulated purity of its purpose, was the most beautiful single artifact the Culture was capable of producing, and at the same time understand the paucity of moral vision such a judgment implied. To fully appreciate the beauty of the weapon was to admit to a kind of shortsightedness close to blindness, to confess to a sort of stupidity. The weapon was not itself; nothing was solely itself. The weapon, like anything else, could only finally be judged by the effect it had on others, by the consequences it produced in some outside context, by its place in the rest of the universe. By this measure the love, or just the appreciation, of weapons was a kind of tragedy.”

Text: Iain M. Banks, Excession

Pics: Images purporting to show the ‘Black Knight Satellite’ –  “an object approximately 13,000 years old, of extraterrestrial origin …orbiting Earth in near-polar orbit” – Wikipedia.

 

 

Fall of Empire

 

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“The fall of Empire, gentlemen, is a massive thing, however, and not easily fought. It is dictated by a rising bureaucracy, a receding initiative, a freezing of caste, a damming of curiosity—a hundred other factors. It has been going on, as I have said, for centuries, and it is too majestic and massive a movement to stop.” – Isaac Asimov, Foundation.

Pic: Great Fire of London, artist unknown.

The Lost Object

 

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“Frederic Brown writes about a man who travels into the past in order to punish his grandfather for tormenting his grandmother. In the course of an altercation he kills his grandfather before his father has been engendered. Thus the time traveller cannot then come into the world. Who, therefore, in fact killed the grandfather, if the murderer has not come into the world at all? Herein lies the contradiction. Sometimes an absent minded scientist, having left something in the past which he has visited, returns for the lost object and encounters his own self, since he has not returned exactly to the moment after his departure for the present, but to the time-point at which he was before. When such returns are repeated, the individual is subject to multiple reproduction in the form of doubles…”

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“Or another example: in the future someone comes to an artist (in one story to a painter, in another to a writer) and gives him either a book dealing with painting in the future or a novel written in the future. The artist then begins to imitate this material as much as possible, and becomes famous, the paradox being that he is borrowing from his own self (since he himself was the author of that book or those pictures, only “twenty years later”)”.

Text: The Time-Travel Story and Related Matters of SF Structuring, Stanislaw Lem, Thomas H. Hoisington and Darko Suvin, Science Fiction Studies.

Images:  Postcards From the Void – Juliet Eldred and Ground – Bill McDowell

Kipple

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JR – Kipple is useless objects, like junk mail or match folders after you use the last match or gum wrappers of yesterday’s homeopape. When nobody’s around, kipple reproduces itself. For instance, if you go to bed leaving any kipple around your apartment, when you wake up the next morning there’s twice as much of it. It always gets more and more.

Pris – I see.

JR – There’s the First Law of Kipple, “Kipple drives out nonkipple.” Like Gresham’s law about bad money. And in these apartments there’s been nobody there to fight the kipple.

Pris – So it has taken over completely. Now I understand.

JR – Your place, here, this apartment you’ve picked – it’s too kipple-ized to live in. We can roll the kipple-factor back; we can do like I said, raid the other apartments. But –

Pris – But what?

JR – We can’t win.

Pris – Why not?

JR – No one can win against kipple, except temporarily and maybe in one spot, like in my apartment I’ve sort of created a stasis between the pressure of kipple and nonkipple, for the time being. But eventually I’ll die or go away, and then the kipple will again take over. It’s a universal principle operating throughout the universe; the entire universe is moving toward a final state of total, absolute kippleization.

Text: Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Pic: Vintage matchbook