What is the Buxton index?

Tom James @ 16-02-2009

buxtonAn interesting science-fictional concept concerning intitutional longevity, via the late pioneering computer scientist Edsger W Dijkstra, in this essay (EWD 1175):

The Buxton Index of an entity, i.e. person or organization, is defined as the length of the period, measured in years, over which the entity makes its plans.

For the little grocery shop around the corner it is about 1/2,for the true Christian it is infinity, and for most other entities it is in between: about 4 for the average politician who aims at his re-election, slightly more for most industries, but much less for the managers who have to write quarterly reports.

The Buxton Index is an important concept because close co-operation between entities with very different Buxton Indices invariably fails and leads to moral complaints about the partner.

This is an interesting concept: and one that helps explain a lot of attitudes and responses towards issues like climate change, environmental destruction, and DRM.

In each case there are two different parties that are thinking in terms of two completely different Buxton indices. Short term profit vs. longterm survival in AGW or short term data security vs. longterm preservation of cultural artefacts in DRM.

[via this comment in Charlie’s Diary][image from Parksy1964 on flickr]

Big blue publishes big five innovations list

Tom James @ 26-11-2008

IBM has published it’s third annual Next Five in Five list of innovations that they believe are going to change the way people work, live, and play over the next five years. They are:

  • Energy saving solar technology will be built into asphalt, paint and windows
  • You will have a crystal ball for your health
  • You will talk to the Web . . . and the Web will talk back
  • You will have your own digital shopping assistants
  • Forgetting will become a distant memory

Read the full lowdown on each entry here.

[via Physorg][image from Looking Glass on flickr]

A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century

Tom Marcinko @ 07-10-2008

Chuck Klosterman tells all. Snip:

JUNE 11, 2041: In a matter of weeks, the entire Internet is replaced by “news blow,” a granular microbe that allows information to be snorted, injected, or smoked. Data can now be synthesized into a water-soluble powder and absorbed directly into the cranial bloodstream, providing users with an instantaneous visual portrait of whatever information they are interested in consuming. (Sadly, this tends to be slow-motion images of minor celebrities going to the bathroom.) Now irrelevant, an ocean of Web pioneers lament the evolution. “What about the craft?” they ask no one in particular. “What about the inherent human pleasure of moving one’s mouse across a hyperlink, not knowing what a simple click might teach you? Whatever happened to ironic thirty-word capsule reviews about marginally popular TV shows? Have we lost this forever?” “You just don’t get new media,” respond the news-blowers. “You just don’t get it.”

[2005 map of the Internet by matthewjethall]

MAQUECH by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Paul Raven @ 01-07-2008

First of the month means fiction time at Futurismic; this month’s offering is “Maquech” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, a haunting and darkly beautiful tale of dreams and desperation set in a scarcity-riddled near-future Mexico City.

So get stuck in, and don’t forget to leave Silvia some feedback in the comments at the end!


by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

The jewel encrusted beetle walked slowly across the table, dragging its golden chain behind. It was bigger than any other maquech he’d ever seen before and more richly decorated.

Gerardo put down the eyeglass.

“It’s not my usual purchase,” he said.

“It’s rare,” Mario replied. “This is the last one my grandfather made before he passed away.”

“Monkeys are the thing now. Everyone wants a monkey.”

“But it doesn’t need a lot of food or water,” Mario protested. “That’s a benefit.”

“Do you think my clients worry about things like food or water? Listen, I sold five ostriches two months ago. People want large animals now.”

It was a lie. He sold fish and birds and maybe a reptile or two. He could not afford extravagant purchases like ostriches.

“I need the money,” Mario confessed. “I want to go to Canada.”

“What for?”

“I want to see the polar bears before they disappear. Before all the ice melts away.” Continue reading “MAQUECH by Silvia Moreno-Garcia”

Things can only get better

Tom James @ 30-06-2008

The sense that things are getting worse and worse is supported by the various imminent cataclysms of global warming, peak oil, antibiotic resistant diseases, fundamentalist terrorists, social collapse and an intrusive state.

However it seems people have been getting happier, from researchers at The World Values Society at the University of Michigan:

Economic growth, democratization and rising social tolerance have all contributed to rising happiness, with democratization and rising tolerance having even more impact than economic growth. All of these changes have contributed to providing people with a wider range of choice in how to live their lives—which is a key factor in happiness.

This is just fine and dandy. But when Tom Harris MP suggested that people should be grateful for their increased wealth (the UK) and freedom (many other places) he was mauled by the Press.

It is interesting that on the one hand people are predicting all the ills I mentioned above, and on the other you have Ray Kurzweil and the World Values Society pointing out that things are about to get a lot better and that people are feeling happier respectively.

I look forward to finding out who is correct.

[story via PhysOrg]

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