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Technosphere

Six science-fiction authors parse the implications of our unhinged era

From Nature: Science fiction is increasingly in the here and now. With technological change cranked up to warp speed and day-to-day life smacking of dystopia, where does science fiction go? Has mainstream fiction taken up the baton? Six prominent American science fiction writers reflect on what the genre has to offer about our common future.

Energy, money and technology – From the lens of the Superorganism

In this keynote address delivered at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, the Post Carbon Institute’s Nate Hagens discusses how our lives will be influenced by how we react to the coming era of harder to extract and more costly fossil fuels that will be combined with cleaner but less concentrated energy types.

Tribute: Vladimir Vernadsky on the Biosphere and the Noösphere

Russian geochemist Vladimir Ivanovich Vernadsky (1863-1945), founder of biogeochemistry, also laid the foundations for the ‘Gaia hypothesis’ with his idea that life is a geological force that can change Earth’s landforms, climate, even the contents of its atmosphere. “What Darwin did for life through time, Vernadsky did for life through space on a geological scale”.

Film: Schooling the World – The White Man’s Last Burden

If you wanted to change a culture, how would you do it? You would change the way it educates its children. ‘Schooling The World,’ a film by Carol Black, takes a challenging, sometimes funny, ultimately deeply troubling look at the role played by modern education in the destruction of the world’s last sustainable land based cultures.

Junk Planet: Is Earth the largest garbage dump in the Universe?

Robert J. Burrowes writes: Just listing the types of rubbish generated by humans is a staggering task. Nevertheless, I will give you a reasonably comprehensive summary of the types of garbage being generated, the locations into which it’s being dumped and some indication of what’s being done about it and what you can do too.

Slaughterbots: How autonomous weapons endanger our future

From CNet/Future of Life Institute: Autonomous weapons use Artificial Intelligence to select and engage targets without human intervention. Now, a think tank backed by scientist Stephen Hawking and entrepreneur Elon Musk, among others, offers a graphic warning against machines that decide whom to kill. This fictional video underscores how seriously these experts view the issue.

Shriya Mohan: The Aadhaar of all things

From The Hindu: From a severely critical stand against Aadhaar in 2014, the Modi-led BJP in power has made a sharp U-turn to bulldoze its way into having every Indian scanned, tagged and labelled. As the Supreme Court begins hearing of petitions that challenge Aadhaar, a timeline of the country’s chequered date with the project.

Claude Alvares: How to sponge off your loved ones and save the world while you’re at it

This article is not about giving anyone a sponge bath. But it’s about cleaning up your family networks of purposeless cash lying around in those quarters which, if not salvaged and used for your personal learning and liberation, will invariably get squandered on some new discount racket at the mall-next-door or Ponzi schemes like bitcoins.

On the wildness of children

Carol Black writes: Some of our children, it turns out, are more like pigeons and squirrels, and some are more like bears. Some of them adapt to the institutional walls we put around them, some pace till their paws bleed. The bleeding of these children, if we listen, can tell us many stories about ourselves.

The first Ecosocialist International is born!

From Ecosocialist Horizons: The First Ecosocialist International is not just another gathering, nor another reunion of intellectuals to define ecosocialism. Neither is it a single organization with a seal, or with the omnipresent danger of becoming a bureaucracy. It’s simply a common program of struggle, with moments of encounter and exchange, which anyone may join.

Blade Runner 2049 gets it wrong: Technology cannot defeat nature and still exist

James Kunstler writes: I watched Blade Runner 2049, the latest from Hollywood’s dream-shop. It was an excellent illustration of the over-investments in technology with diminishing returns that are dragging us into collapse and of the attendant techno-narcissism that afflicts the supposedly thinking class in this society, who absolutely don’t get what this collapse is about.

The high cost of an easy-care, low-maintenance world

Kurt Cobb writes: We’ve created a world of low-maintenance objects which are low-maintenance merely because they are disposable… Philosophers bemoan our love of material things. But I believe that we modern, industrialized people don’t actually love material things. We wouldn’t treat material things the way we do if we truly loved and cared for them.

Puerto Rico: When the electricity stops

Hurricane Maria, which has devastated Puerto Rico, has left 97% the island’s population without power. Electricity is the essential pillar upon which the operations of all modern industrial societies depend. When electricity stops, pretty much everything else stops, as Puerto Rico demonstrates. Given an increasingly unstable climate, it’s a warning for everyone, writes Kurt Cobb.

Why climate change isn’t our biggest environmental problem, and why technology won’t save us

Richard Heinberg writes: Over the past century-and-a-half, fossil fuels enabled the rapid growth of resource extraction, manufacturing, and consumption; and these in turn led to population increase, pollution, and loss of natural habitat and hence biodiversity. Our core ecological problem is not climate change. It is overshoot, of which global warming is only a symptom.

Humans are creating a new geological layer of techno-fossils

From Slate.com: Industrial civilisation’s impact is so massive that it goes way beyond climate change. Earth scientists now suggest that it is creating a distinct geological layer made of ‘technofossils’. The scale of our stuff is so gargantuan, that it is throwing off the quite robust balance of our natural systems—that’s how powerful it is.

Richard Heinberg: Ecological collapse? There’s no app for that

Even when we question the personal impacts of modern technology, how many of us consider how our dependence on technology might be harming us? Or question the belief that technological advances will save us from our most pressing environmental and societal challenges? Richard Heinberg tackles this thorny issue in this brilliant essay and animation feature.

This Swiss company aims to capture 1% of global CO2 emissions by 2025

CarbonBrief reports: On the roof of a waste incinerator outside Zurich, the Swiss firm Climeworks has built the world’s first commercial plant to suck CO2 directly from the air. They claim that their direct air capture process –a technology often considered too expensive– aims to capture 1% of global CO2 emissions each year by 2025.

Where’s the energy for “the fourth industrial revolution”? Don’t ask.

Bart Hawkins Kreps writes: Will we have plenty of affordable energy to power communications among trillions of internet-connected sensors in the “Internet of Things”? Will our new fleet of self-driving cars have plenty of fuel to keep us moving en masse? The uncertainty of our long-term energy supply is not even mentioned in this book.

Are we about to witness the most unequal societies in history?

Best-selling author and historian Yuval Noah Harari writes: As we enter the post-industrial world, the masses are becoming redundant.  Biotechnology and the rise of Artificial Intelligence may split humankind into a small class of ‘superhumans’ and a huge underclass of ‘useless’ people. Once the masses lose their economic and political power, inequality could spiral alarmingly.

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