It doesn’t matter what it is. It’s art. This is what science fiction should look like. Actually it’s what science looks like.
I wrote my own rss feed aggregator a year or so ago – it looks a bit like the way Opera renders RSS… which was almost certainly also the inspiration for pinterest I think, which itself has a shitload of clones now… in fact there’s an EU company that’s apparently worth about $200m – and it’s main tactic is to take applications that are foolishly only available to the US market, then clone them, build up a user-base, then sell them to the original companies.
But I digress… I have a hand-coded feed a bit like pinterest, but with 3 columns – and it’s basically science fiction now. Real, but still sci-fi. Kindof. The Sci Fi singularity is almost on us. It’d be fucking cool… if we could just get rid of the fascists.
Although these are basically “Carrying Stuff About” bots, which is no bad thing I suppose. At least these ones are actually doing something – there was this ludicrous thing a couple of weeks back where someone made some “concept” thing where hexapods were going to do swarm-gardening… and loads of blogs reported it as though it was fact. Nope. Not fact. Barmy idea. It’s going to be a long time before gardening robots can function in anything other than environments specially designed for them… like these carrying-stuff-about bots. Very controlled environment… flat floors, uniform plant-pots etc etc.
What happens though if a pot falls over? Hmmm? What then? If something out of the ordinary happens?
They lose their minds, that’s what. They’re a long way from being able to weed, and incinerate bugs etc… and by a long way, I mean about 5-10 years. Everything seems to be about 5-10 years away. It’s a kind of permanently receding singularity… which is basically the mid-point of the sci-fi singularity… ie: between now, and the point where technology has become so bizarre we can’t begin to predict what it will be like.
The Sci-Fi Demi-Singularity then. Between the foreseeable and the unforeseeable futures. 5-10 years.
Are we there yet?
No. Nearly though. Nearly there.
Oh. That. Don’t know.
Chinese Scientists teleport information over 10 miles. Life in a test-tube. (The Obama Admin taking an interest – aka the greedy leading the blind). Cameras that scan your retinas, even with eyes down-cast, as you walk by without you knowing…
You may well ask
So the teleportation isn’t really teleportation – but it’s right out there on the fringe – so far beyond what I can imagine that I fall back to some 19th century atemporal hash and think “Skynet is going to be Chinese?”.
I have no idea – but I’ll tell you what it looks like. It looks like that thing that ate Sam Neil in Even Horizon… or this:
Which is a (very common) protein that some peeps in Boston have just managed to use to make nanoscale bio-lasers.
I’m sorry… bio-what? WTF is a bio-laser?
The unfortunate thing about all this is that the first applications… the first people who get to “make stuff” out of it, are the same people who’re into invisible tanks or robot-fired, rocket-propelled, exploding string…
… followed closely I suppose by whoever has the most money – that other-world, the people-behind-the-walls. In the black towers, or in super-yauchts on the Med. Apparently Canada’s security bill for hosting the G8 talks next month runs to a billion dollars. The guard-economy never had it so good – but it is a type of gilded house-arrest. Always on-edge.
Ok – this isn’t a film review (far be it from me etc)… it’s a loosely rotating bunch of (scrambled) satellite thoughts, revolving around Moon – which is a movie. It’s set on the moon.
But first watch this. It’s Bruce Sterling. He’s brilliant. He goes on for ages.
But more about that later. First the trivia.
1) My mate made this movie. Or had something to do with the making of it. Whatever. In my mind it’s my mate’s movie. My Mate’s Movie Moon.
2) I pirated it.
I had to. I live in a small town in New Zealand – the local cinema is never going to show it and the local video store probably won’t stock it either. They don’t even have City of God. They don’t have Paris Texas. Their Science Fiction Section is about 1m Sq shelving, filled with the major franchises/block-busters. Welcome to the suburban desert. It’s Wallmart with the roof come off.
I guess I could have bought the DVD over the internet… if I could trust that the import would be geographically band-fucked, or that Sony weren’t going to try to infect my computer with another root-kit virus etc… but that’s not how the process works, and everybody knows it. We don’t buy DVDs of movies we haven’t seen, we buy DVDs of movies we already love.
File-sharing is acting as free-radio. It’s not something you can control, and if you try, you will become ugly and people will hate you.
3) I’m a sci-fi fan. We don’t watch sci-fi movies, we have relationships with them. I will probably see this movie about once a year for decades to come – on TV when it’s showing, on aeroplanes, when I’m stuck in hotels, from DVD stores to share with other people when I can… maybe even at the cinema to see what it’s like on a big screen. And I will blog about it.
Watching a file-shared version is part of this process. It’s part of the culture. Get used to it. Use it.
If you’re lucky, people will copy you – they will make spin-off films. They will dress up as you and turn up to conferences looking like dipshits, and people will take photographs of them and go LOL, and more people will see the dance-remixes of the LOL-cat version than the original film. History is repeated as farce, but if you haven’t reinvented yourself or moved on by the time that happens… then you are (deservedly) part of the farce, or a forgotten backwater thereof.
4) The other day, this film-group I’m tangentially involved with pointed me to a list of all the movies for sale last year at Cannes.
There are fucking hundreds of them! And these are NOT actually all the movies for sale at Cannes, these are just the British ones. Moon is on the list. “For Sale”? What does that mean? Do they sell it to a distributor or something?
So you spend years, millions and… whatever, making something in the hope that someone might buy it? Notice a potential, unfair imbalance of power here?
So the third thought… distribution: You don’t really appreciate just how much the traditional distribution bottle-neck is choking the culture until you start pirating – and find out that the movies available are a tiny tiny subset of those made. I think it’s fucking criminal to be honest. This top-down control is impoverishing.
5) So enough about that, back to Moon and Bruce Sterling.
I think this movie is a classic piece of neo-paleo-futurism… ie: Something that’s been made to look like yesterday’s idea of the future.
It’s classic (it says so at the beginning) because it’s a classic period – the 70s… the computers and technology all look a bit like 70s technology – it’s got that whole Kubrick vibe going – Apollo Punk. In the future people will do their houses up to look like this – once the Favela Chic thing gets truly underway.
It’s a byproduct of what I call The Science-Fiction Singularity – a not entirely new notion… that we’ve hit a point where we can’t believably predict what the future holds because it’ become too unstable. Our trends have gone exponential – so this film has cloning… which is predictable enough, but the other technology is all very linear and uni/bi directional. The social constructs (such as they are) are all from the uni-tasking broadcast-era rather than the massively networked era that we currently creating. It’s a film from the 70s – which is (in my opinion) the period when movies were still art – before the whole industry turned into an exercise in selling Genre, then Franchise.
The movie industry appears to be in a Emmerson Lake And Palmer phase… and it’s badly in need of some Velvet Underground… as a culture we don’t need films like Avatar (which make billions, and make everyone go “oooooh”), we need films that make everyone think “I could do that”.
I’m not sure if Moon is one of these so much as a (classic) homage to a period when classics were… classics… and maybe that’s what atemporality is about… you can’t tell if this film is from the future or the past. You can’t really tell if it’s even set in the future or the past – though it claims be the future.
This film comes from an era (spanning future and past) when what made a great movie wasn’t special-effects (or being pinned to the ground while angry dishwashers shit on your face for two hours) – but intelligent… premises? derivations? It’s from an era when exploration of the vocabulary of film was fairly virginal territory, so could throw up surprises in its own right. Angry dishwashers are so yesterday.
I think gloss is a negative now. We’re post-gloss. Moon is a post-gloss film that is constructed from the sets of 1970s classic sci-fi. It’s historical.
I really do hope there are loads more like this. Whole worlds of them. Cool film. Makes you think dunnit. Makes you think “what if, what if…”.
Now go back and listen to the Bruce Sterling thing again – and forget all this crap you’ve been hearing about “Free” destroying culture. It’s not – it’s just freeing us from the puppet-strings of middle-men… we haven’t figured out how to walk on our own yet, but we will. It’s getting easier.
Culture is like quicksilver – it will live. What you’re seeing now isn’t Culture being attacked by the Internet, but Culture itself using the Internet to attack the Yoke-Meisters. They protesteth, but then they would.
It’s a massive list of predictions made in science fiction… tracking which ones are coming true. The military bit reads like a Pentagon shopping/fantasy list.
Here for example is a thing about Read/Write brain electrodes:
As forecast in:
and now “IMEC, a nanotechnology company out of Leuven, Belgium, reports that it has developed a new process that supposedly can improve electrode resolution and sensitivity. Using the new technology, the company built a prototype probe that can simultaneously read and stimulate brain neurons, paving way for smart neurological implant systems that can quickly react to a detected stimulus.”
Although this still looks pretty invasive and scary to me. Wouldn’t it be better to de-couple the plug from the probe?
Anyway – www.technovelgy.com is devoted to a couple of my favorite concepts – that everything comes true in the end… and that any artifact imagineered in a science-fiction story is automatically a self-fulfilling prophecy – assuming the story becomes popular enough.
Ironically, William Gibson from the list above says that he’s not going to write Science Fiction any more because the future has become too unstable to make predictions about – The Science-Fiction-Singularity. It’s here – the present has caught up with the future… and it won’t be long before it leaves it behind.
One of my favorite concepts is that anything that turns up in a Science Fiction movie will eventually be made… probably by fans of the movie. It will probably be made repeatedly, with better and better fidelity as technology improves.
In a funny sort of way this extends to the Movies themselves. One day someone will make Dune… and pull it off – in the same way that there were a couple of goes at Lord of the Rings before someone got it right. Not to trivialise the efforts of others – the existing attempts at Dune are so much better than I could do, it’s embarrassing in some ways even to comment – but face it, every Dune fan is still waiting for the definitive version. Casting Paul Atreides is always going to be hard.
Still, never mind about that, check this out:
Somebody’s actually built the house from Mon Oncle – a Jacques Tati film from 1958 which I saw when I was about 14. While not Science Fiction exactly, it’s about the old world meeting a vision of the new world in which every possible aspect of plastic modernity is pushed to a ridiculous extreme
And danged if it don’t have pretty much the same level of starkly minimalist design-fetishism that the pre-crash 21st Century had. The kitchen looks like an ipod.
This is also another interesting example of this trend where a piece of work is not presented as a fait accompli – but rather the whole production history (or edited highlights thereof) are also presented. It’s like art/craft has acquired a new dimension along the time axis.
Another tiny step for man etc. Home-Made Space Travel – There’s this weird aspect of the Science Fiction Singularity – where every science fiction artefact is eventually created (usually by fans who are also engineers) in real life. I’m not sure how this fits into that, but it’s related.
Further to the Open-Source Space Travel thing…
… some peeps have built a 1/10 scale Saturn V Rocket (36 ft tall) and are launching it in Maryland US on the 25th of this month.
Which is pretty cool.
I can remember when the first one went up – I was at kindergarten in New Zealand… and the teachers made a giant one that went all the way up to the ceiling. I was incredibly impressed.
This is almost a continuation of “everything comes true in the end”… the thing where every science fiction technology is eventually created… only this one isn’t science fiction… unless you talk to conspiracy theorists etc. It would be quite funny if a load of amateurs did go up to the moon to find that actually, the first time was staged, and actually, they’re the first ones there.
This is quite cool… or kindof a taste of things to come maybe
It’s a QR code on a wine label – so your cellphone can read it and point you at a website with more information. A really primitive (dare I say it?) early implementation of Augmented Reality… and another example of the Science Fiction Singularity… where we can recognise something that’s actually mind-bogglingly advanced, and only just been invented… as a primitive early stage of something.
This comes from Bruce Stirlingland as part of his Spime-Watch thing… the idea of a Spime (I think) is an artefact that primarily exists in virtual space, and is occasionally precipitated out into a real-world product. Being a virtual thing, it has it’s entire history / designs / bills-of-materials / documentation etc etc online.
I think he’s overcomplicating it… I think that all it is, is giving real-world objects URIs – Unique Resource Identifiers. These then link to various data silos etc on the web. The truth is far scruffier than fiction.
This is what various governments round the world want (especially the British, Oh dear lord yes, they wants it, they wantsss it, they waaaantttsss it) to do with people. They want a unique ID on all people, with associated data trackable, traceable etc.
In many ways it’s not a bad idea, but it shouldn’t be the government that does it – they simply aren’t trustworthy enough – it needs to be open-sourced.
Till, then, chin chin etc.