Hope for a Global Spring?

Brenda Cooper @ 14-03-2012

Perhaps it’s because of the economy is beginning – finally – to pick up in the US. Perhaps it is because I’m sick to death of bad election-year politics, so I’m looking at anything else that comes along of interest. Maybe it’s even because I wrote about creative destruction the last time I did a column here, and I’m ready for the transformation that follows that practice. But I’m feeling a bit more hopeful this month, and I’m seeing signs that I’m not the only one. Continue reading “Hope for a Global Spring?”


The only way to change your past is to steal someone else’s

Paul Raven @ 08-03-2012

I get a fairly regular flow of emails about independent film projects. Most of them, to be honest, bounce straight off me – which says less about their quality than it does about my own taste in cinema. Independent cinema – like independent music and literature – has lots of promise over the long term, but a lot of what I see is people trying to replicate Hollywood aesthetics on a budget, rather than turning their back on Hollywood and seeking something new, something different. Which is fine, of course. Just doesn’t push my buttons enough to mention it, is all.

Anamnesis, however, looks very different. They’re looking for postproduction funding on Indiegogo (which is a Kickstarter equivalent); take a look at what they’ve done so far, what they plan to do, and why they want to do it. Then chuck ‘em a few dollars if you think you’d like to see it finished the way they want it.


Censorship: I’m guilty as charged

Paul Raven @ 05-03-2012

So, I stand accused of censorship by someone whose comment I declined to approve on this post. I figure anyone willing to throw around accusations of censorship is probably a big fan of radical transparency; hence, by way of amelioration, here is the digital papertrail for the full exchange. (Email headers available on request; they’re all archived. I’ve been doing this for a while, and some lessons get learned early.)


Unapproved comment left on The Future Always Wins, 8:27am PST, 24th February 2012:

  • Comment author name: “xd”
  • Comment author email: ~ELIDED~@hotmail.com

Comment body:

wow. The video is so full of holes it’s unreal.

1. US oil production isn’t in permanent decline. Decline halted seven years ago.
2. Roads aren’t only made of asphalt. They’re also made of brick and/or concrete.
3. She says one year’s worth of oil is the same as fifty years of fifty nuclear reactors and yet she then says later than you need 10,000 nuclear reactors to cover one year’s supply of oil. So which is it? Sloppy math.
4. She points out that 95% of transportation energy depends on oil and there are substitutes in other areas. OK. Electric transportation works though is expensive. Electric transportation is also at least twice (and some would argue four times) more efficient than oil based. Thus we need HALF the current oil use to provide the same motorized transportation. Not to mention substitution to mass transit or bicycles. Or living closer to work.
5. She says that when you are using more energy to get a barrel of oil out than it contains, it will no longer be done. Wrong. We will use more energy to get a barrel of oil out than it contains if you can sell it for more than you can sell the energy used for extraction for.

I could go on, but why bother. The whole thing is ludicrous and full of holes if you think it through. Most people won’t though.

Which is not to say peak oil is a big joke. It’s not. If we don’t make necessary substitutions in time AND depletion is fast enough then we will see severe dislocations in the economy and perhaps large sections of the global economy collapsing accompanied with mass starvation. It is that serious. BUT there are solutions if we get our heads out of the sand.


Email from: paul.raven@futurismic.com

To: ~ELIDED~@hotmail.com

Email body:

Hi Dan (I’m guessing that’s actually your name, so apologies if not!);

Thanks for your comment on the There’s No Tomorrow post from a few days back; I’d like to ask you to resubmit it with links or citations of your refutations, most importantly the one re: halt in discovery decline. Not picking on you individually here, but as I said in the post, I’m all done with hosting claims without citatitions after years of debating this stuff on Futurismic and elsewhere, but if you’ve got real data, I genuinely want to see it! (I work in infrastructure futures, so it’s not just point-scoring or pettiness; I need and want to see references when it comes to energy supply and consumption!

Re: your other points:

2 – well, yes, but ask any driver whether they’d rather drive on brick or concrete or asphalt. The former don’t handle heavy or fast traffic at all well; the latter is a crucial component of a car-based economy.

3 – I don’t see that those statements are necessarily mutually exclusive, as one is durational (50 reactors over 50 years) while the other is a straight like-for-like without temporal constraint; I’ll concede it’s poorly stated, but then it’s aimed at a lay audience, and the assumption (on both sides of the debate!) regrettably still seems to be that talking down to the public is the way forward.

4 – I’m not quite sure where you’re going with this one; can you expand?

5 – Oh, I fully agree that scenario might well occur, yes. But in my opinion that possibility only serves to validate the complete insanity of our hunger for petrochem, and the dichotomy as seeing it as anything other than one very out-dated energy source among many more suitable alternatives. It’s an issue of myopia, I think; same reason so few people save for the future, even though they know they should. If it’s there to use, we use it, and we only start thinking about alternatives when we’re down to the vapours. :)

Like I say, would love you to resub the comment with a cite for the first point so we can have it up there for everyone to engage with. In the meantime, thanks again for taking the time to drop by. :)

Best…


After that, heard nothing. Until this evening, in fact, when this arrived:

  • Email via Futurismic contact form from: ~ELIDED~@hotmail.com
  • Subject: censorship

I’m going to respond to this in chunks; blockquoted material is courtesy Mr Browne:

I made a post taking apart the peak oil spiel using logic. You chose not to publish it.

Actually, you made a comment poking at the peak oil spiel using uncited claims, in direct contravention of my explicit request in the post in question for all debunk-type responses to include links and citations, and I emailed you politely to ask you to expand it to meet my criteria for publication.

Here’s the thing: if you don’t publish posts that don’t agree with your position you are effectively part of a “groupthink” and not coherent.

No, here’s the thing, my friend: you roll up to my blog and make an [an/pseud]onymous comment that completely ignores not only my request in the post body that counterarguments should contain citations, but also my clearly linked and labelled comments policy (which clearly and explicitly reserves me the right to publish – or not – any damned comment I so choose), using an email address that either doesn’t work or doesn’t exist (or that you just don’t check, perhaps); when said comment isn’t published, the same anonymised identity emails me to accuse me of censorship and groupthink.

Censorship I’ll cop to; says right there in the comments policy that I’ll do it, and even suggests as to what might provoke me to do so, and this is a classic case thereof. I’ll publish any comment that comes with data or research to back it up, though. Have a trawl through some old posts on this very site if you don’t believe me.

As to groupthink, here’s the definition from Merriam-Webster’s:

a pattern of thought characterized by self-deception, forced manufacture of consent, and conformity to group values and ethics

As I have a horse in the race, so to speak, I’ll leave the general public to decide which of us - if either – has earned that badge.

From that point of view you have no scientific validity and your blog is a waste of time reading.

So, hey – don’t read it. After all, my loss, right? If you wanna comment here, you play by house rules… and I’m all done with apologising to folk who want me to further their own agendas to the detriment of my own. My house, my rules. Suck it up.

To be doubly clear: the editorial policy of this blog is that climate change is demonstrably occurring, and demonstrably linked to human activity, with emphasis on the combustion of fossil fuels. Counterarguments are genuinely welcome, but without citations or references to back up what you say, you’re just another pseudonym with an unfounded opinion. The burden of proof lies upon those making extraordinary claims counter to the collective opinion of the vast majority of experts in the field. That may not seem fair, or nice. But that’s just the way it is round here.

Your First Amendment (or local equivalent) rights remain intact; the glory of the internet is you can set up your own soapbox for virtually zero cost and say anything you like to the whole damn world.

But this is my soapbox. Here, what I say goes. I stand by every word I’ve written here, under my own legal name. I stand by and take ownership of my errors as well as my successes. If you want to prove me wrong, then you do it with facts and citations (and you prepare to have their veracity probed); if you’ll spar with honour and integrity,  I’d be glad to enter the ring. If that doesn’t suit you, you should feel free to go elsewhere.

I’m all done with “balance”. You wanna throw around accusations of a lack of scientific validity, then be prepared to play the game that scientific validity hinges on: citation, citation, citation.

The ball appears to be in your court, Mister Browne.


The Future Always Wins

Paul Raven @ 22-02-2012

Soooooo, yeah – I’ve been busy. Did you miss me? New job, Masters degree… doesn’t leave a lot of spare time, so it doesn’t. But it’s been quiet here too long, so it’s time to dust down the soapbox and run a mic-check. One-two, one-two.

The Future Always Wins

OK. So you may have caught wind of the launch of ARC, which is a new sf and futurism e-magazine from The People Who Bring You New Scientist; issue 1.1 was launched on Monday, and the various ways you can buy it are listed on its masthead website. Yes, it comes via an app or via the Kindle, and as a result it’s DRM’d; this is not ideal, I know, but this ain’t an ideal world. You can buy a POD dead-tree version, too, but it’s fairly pricey by comparison.

Why would you want to buy it? Well, it contains fresh new fiction by Margaret Atwood, Stephen Baxter, M.John Harrison, Hannu Rajaniemi and Alastair Reynolds, and non-fiction essays and articles by Simon Ings, China Miéville, Sumit Paul-Choudhury, Leigh Alexander, Simon Pummell, Adam Roberts and Bruce Sterling… oh, and some guy called Paul Graham Raven, too, but don’t let that put you off.

ARC is being touted as something a bit like OMNI reborn. The important thing to note here is that this is a proper paying market for both fiction and non-fiction, and it’s a professional Big House magazine publishing fresh stories by Big Name science fiction authors. So here’s my request, which I’d be making even if I weren’t enjoying the privilege of being on that TOC: buy a copy.

Seriously. If you’ve ever lamented the dwindling number of venues for professional sf sales, or the editorial policies of the Big Three magazines, or if you’ve ever thought that you’d like to read a magazine that took a long professional look at the sort of stuff Futurismic talks about – buy a copy of ARC, and keep buying them. £4.99 in Airstrip One money, which is maybe eight of your Yanqui Dollah; that’s not a bad quarterly price for what you’re getting, I hazard to suggest, and comparable to the prices of extant magazines. So support a brave new market, why don’t you? By doing so, you also support writers and the sf short fiction scene in general.

OK, plug over. :)

There’s No Tomorrow

My article in ARC1.1 is about the Collapsonomics crowd – those voices online and on the ground who’re insisting that Capitalism1.0 is nothing but a shambling zombie of a thing, and trying to map a way forward into a very uncertain future. (Long-term followers of this here blog will certainly recognise some of the names and ideas that get mentioned.)

Due to the nature of the publishing process, most of the research took place in the latter half of last year, in the aftermath of the London riots and the emergence of Occupy, and all the other upheavals that will make 2011 a banner year for the historians of the future… provided, of course, that we actually get a future wherein “historian” means what we currently think it to mean, rather than “addled bard with vague handed-down memories of life before The Fall”.

Ah, it’s still so easy to joke blithely about imminent civilisational collapse… but it feels more and more like gallows humour every time. As a species, as a race, as an ecosystem, a civilisation, a genome, however you want to categorise it – we’ve grown right up to the edge of the petri dish. Everything is running out, including – or perhaps especially – time. Peak Oil is just the start, but it’s an exemplary start. The assumption that infinite exponential growth is not only possible but laudable is very close to running into the brick wall of reality, if it hasn’t already.

I want you to watch this [via ClubOrlov]. It’s not cheerful, but that’s why it needs to be watched. We can’t pretend this stuff isn’t true any more.

I’m sure some of you will have refutations of things that get mentioned in that video; if so, I’m happy to see them in the comments, but they’ll need to be supported by links and citations. Any “[x] is a Liberal Leftist Conspiracy OMFG!!!” stuff will be deleted without prejudice; I’m all done tolerating scientific myopia and wilful ignorance in the name of politeness and deference to the shibboleth of “balanced debate”. This isn’t about left and right any more. It’s about what Bill Hicks memorably referred to as “working out this whole food/air deal”.

One planet, folks. That’s all we’ve got. The way I see it right now, that leaves us two basic choices: either we stay here on the mudball, which means we need to sort our shit out with respect to the distribution of resources before the ecosystem around us takes population adjustment into its own hands (which won’t be any more pleasant than a global war for survival), or we scramble out of the gravity well to an environment where our greatest addiction – energy – can be sustained for (maybe) long enough to solve said addiction.

Make no mistake: if you want a future humanity that has all the fun things and glorious technologies we enjoy at the moment, and if you want that future humanity to last for more than a couple of centuries, then we have to recognise the limits of our environment, and either work within them or work to transcend them.

The universe doesn’t care whether we live or die. I don’t want to hear that any more than you do, but that doesn’t make it any less demonstrably true.

There is no “business as usual” any more. Deal with it.


New Economies

Brenda Cooper @ 08-02-2012

Last month I pondered the extent to which the Arab Spring and Occupy Everything are socially-driven acts of creative destruction. Creative destruction is defined as a “process of industrial mutation that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one.” The mutation, in this case, is reactionary responses to established interests, mostly driven by or assisted by social media. Governments and power structures are falling, but the replacements aren’t immediately ready in the wings. Continue reading “New Economies”


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