Charlie Stross on the stop/go nature of technological change

Charlie Stross's keynote speech to the Yet Another Perl Conference is an inspired riff on the weird, gradual-then-sudden nature of technological change. As Charlie points out, almost everything today -- including the people -- was around 20 years ago, and most of what's around now will be around in 20 years. But there will be some changes that would shock your boots off. Improbably, he manages to tie this all into perl programming, which, apparently, is the future of smart sidewalks. Charlie's thoughtfully provided a transcript of his talk, and there's a video for those who prefer to hear his rather good comic delivery.

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Podcast: News from the future for Wired UK

Here's a reading (MP3) of a short story I wrote for the July, 2014 issue of Wired UK in the form of a news dispatch from the year 2024 -- specifically, a parliamentary sketch from a raucous Prime Minister's Question Time where a desperate issue of computer security rears its head:

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Profile of Norman Bel Geddes, creator of the 1939 New York World's Fair Futurama


Writing in The Believer, B. Alexandra Szerlip offers a fascinating profile of Norman Bel Geddes, the man who built the Futurama at the 1939 New York Worlds' Fair. I didn't know that Bel Geddes had started out with elaborated electro-mechanical games and that these game him the skills and insights he needed to build the Futurama.

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How science fiction influences thinking about the future


Eileen Gunn writes, "What's science fiction good for? The May issue of Smithsonian magazine has an essay on the relationship between science, science fiction, and the future by Boing Boing buddy Eileen Gunn. Major writers -- Ursula K. Le Guin, William Gibson, Neal Stephenson, Samuel R. Delany, Kim Stanley Robinson, Cory Doctorow and others -- talk about why science fiction likes to think about the future and how SF can be used to help scientists think about the uses and ethics of their inventions. The rest of the issue covers science and ethical issues of the near future."

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Game developers as brutalized industrial attention-farmers: a look back from tomorrow


Writing to us from the distant future, Ian "Cow Clicker" Bogost describes our modern games industry and the role it will play in the coming downfall of civilization: "Working long before sustenance powders, developers were easily seduced by appeals to their physical urges. Overseers plied them with sugars and salts during the day and forced them to engorge on extravagant meals at night. Shifts extended for days at a time."

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Physics of Star Trek author on flying cars and optimism

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Over at National Geographic, theoretical physicist Laurence Krauss, author of The Physics of Star Trek and A Universe from Nothing, gives his quick take on flying cars, space travel, and pessimism:

I'm not very hopeful that humanity can act en masse to address what are now truly global problems that require a new way of thinking. As Einstein said when nuclear weapons were created: "Everything's changed save the way we think."

I think we need to change the way we think to address these global problems. Will it happen? Maybe kicking and screaming. My friend, the writer Cormac McCarthy, told me once: "I'm a pessimist, but that's no reason to be gloomy." In a sense, that's my attitude.

"Sci-Fi Is Cool (Flying Cars! Life on Mars!)—But Real Science is Cooler"

Video: the lab of the future

Timo writes, "Digital Science Concepts showcases our thinking on how technology might shape the laboratory of the future. These are products that are not currently under development but one day they might be commonplace in laboratories...who knows? See how we imagine the lab of the future..."

In this video, the second in the Digital Science Concepts series, we take a look at how voice and gesture activated video augmented glasses might enhance the way we work at the bench. Such technology could allow scientists to view a protocol, check availability of reagents, book equipment, check the status of equipment in use, as well as checking email and video calling colleagues - all from your bench.

Digital Science Concepts: Protovision. Imagining the laboratory of the future [Laura Thomson/Digital Science]

Bruce Sterling's state of the world, 2014 edition

Every January, Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky take to the WELL's public "Inkwell" conference for a "State of the World" discussion that ranges far and wide over the previous year and the year to come. Reading this is one of the highlights of my new year, every year, and this year is no exception.

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Bruce Sterling's Slashdot interview

Bruce Sterling is in particularly fine form in this Slashdot interview:

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Institute for the Future forecasted Amazon's drone delivery in 2012

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At the nonprofit Institute for the Future thinktank where I'm a researcher, we always say, "Never believe anyone who says they can predict the future, especially if they're from California." We don't make point predictions but rather describe future forces we think will have big impacts on the way we live. Sometimes though, IFTF just nails it. The image above is an "Artifact from the Future" that my colleagues Jason Tester and Nic Weidinger created during the fall of 2012, more than a year before Jeff Bezos announced Amazon's drone delivery plans. We use these physical mock-ups and prototypes of imaginary products, objects, and services to make our forecasts more tangible. The above artifact was part of our Future of Coordination research you can check out here. Here's the artifact description:

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Saturday in SF: Dissident Futures Festival (with Pesco)

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San Francisco's Yerba Buena Center for the Arts is presenting a fascinating art exhibition titled Dissident Futures, showcasing artists exploring the unknown of tomorrow. The contributors include quite a few provocative artists we've previously featured on Boing Boing including Trevor Paglen, Paul Laffoley, Lynn Hershman Leeson, and many others. The exhibition runs until February 2, 2014 but this Saturday there's a special "Dissident Futures Art and Ideas Festival" from noon to 9pm at YBCA. It's free with RSVP! The day includes music, performances, a mini Maker Faire, and artists booth by Fantastic Futures, Takehrito Etani, Young Gifted and Black, and my colleagues at Institute for the Future (IFTF)! There are also a number of presentations and panels including a session that I'll be moderating with IFTF exec director Marina Gorbis and our Institute for the Future Fellows. And of course you can check out the full exhibit! I hope to see you there! More details and RSVP info here: "Dissident Futures Art and Ideas Festival"

Futurists try out less-boring, funnier Singularities


Alternatives to the Singularity is a funny, crowdsourced, extended piss-take on the idea of the Singularity, created through futurists' challenge. A bunch of funny people, futurists, and weirdos created 80+ variations on the theme of Singularity. They go on a bit, but they range between mildly funny to genuine ROFL, and are worth the time.

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Brian Eno doing A/V for Long Now Salon in SF

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Long Now Foundation is building out a new Salon in San Francisco as a library/cafe/bar/event space for ruminating on "deep time." It's just been announced that Brian Eno is doing the sound design for the Long Now Salon and creating a permanent audiovisual artwork in the space. Long Now Salon

Preview video for Epcot Center, 1978

This 1978 preview video for Epcot Center features Card Walker, unquestionably the worst chief executive the Disney company ever had at the helm. It's a trove of awesome flat-pack futurism and great haircuts.

Epcot Center 1978 Preview Video Featuring Card Walker

Flat-pack futures: the insufficiently weird, bland corporate view of tomorrow

Scott Smith's presentation "Beware of Flat-Pack Futures" is a stinging critique of thoughtless corporate futurism, that he delivered at Media Future Week in Almere, Netherlands. His "flat-pack futures" are the insufficiently weird, bland, like-today-only-moreso futures we see depicted all around us. He proposes a weirder, more textured, more contradictory future and a toolkit for thinking about it. It's a whole hour, but it's an hour very, very well spent.

Scott Smith (Changeist) @ MFW13 (via Beyond the Beyond)