FUTURE FOSSILS

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47 - Eliot Peper (The Weird Turn Pro: Sci-Fi & Scenario Planning)

Ep. 47

In one of the most QUOTABLE episodes of Future Fossils yet, this week’s guest is Eliot Peper – a “novelist and strategist” writing fiction and consulting businesses about the social implications of disruptive technologies. In addition to writing a steady stream of sci-fi inflected techno-thrillers like True Blue and Cumulus, he’s an editor at Scout.AI (one of the cooler speculative fiction websites I’ve seen out there).

 

http://www.eliotpeper.com/

http://scout.ai/

 

We Discuss:

• The power of science fiction to help us imagine future scenarios;

• The possible social impact of radical life extension (gerontocratic radical conservatives vs. an emergent mature wisdom culture);

• The Superstar Effect and how it might play out in the digital age;

• The awesomeness of Cory Doctorow’s latest novel, Walkaway;

• Eliot’s skepticism of mind uploading and conscious AI;

• The specter of technological unemployment;

• Science fiction’s growing significance to corporate think-tanks and creative labs in a future-facing society;

• How science fiction is like traveling to a foreign country – and teaches us more about our own moment than it does about the future;

• And More!

 

Quotes:

“We don’t call it ‘life extension,’ we just call it ‘healthcare.’”

“I think there is a very misleading public discussion going on around these topics [mind uploading and conscious AI], for a very simple reason. And that is – and I know this as a storyteller – metaphors matter…the human mind is very poor at distinguishing metaphor from reality. That’s what makes art fun! That’s what makes novels entertaining. We experience them as if they are real. Money is that. It only exists because we can build these complex shared fictions. However, those fictions can come back and bite you in the ass. And one of the ways they do it is, we take the metaphor too far.”

“[Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein] takes the extension of the Industrial Revolution into the imagination of dystopia. And I think we’re doing that right now when we’re talking about uploading our minds, and about creating general AIs…I just think we’re taking the computer analogy too far.”

“Technology is most useful to the extent that it is inhuman.”

“The whole point of technology is that we can accomplish what we want to accomplish more effectively – or, said another way, we can do less of what sucks.”

“Getting better at the skill of putting yourself in another person’s shoes is really important, and fiction is a great training ground for that. It can illuminate so much about why we do what we do that we can apply in our lives.”

“I think what makes science fiction as a genre interesting is its insights about the PRESENT.”

“I seek out discomfort. I seek out novel experiences that challenge me and that are not always fun. And I try to talk to people from different fields and learn from them, because I’ve learned that in my own life that having a really strange and somewhat random set of life experiences allows me to have a fresh perspective sometimes on a new problem.”

“The most important things about the world and about what it means to be human are very obvious and very old. And I think it’s especially important to remember that when we feel like we’re in the midst of a whirlwind of change that we don’t understand. And that the world we want to build and the lives that we want to lead – either today in 2017, or in 2117 – is that we need to be kind to each other. We need to help our friends out. Even more important, to help out strangers. To pay things forward instead of trying to think about the benefits that accrue to us. To make sacrifices – meaningful, painful sacrifices – financial, emotional, or otherwise – to help each other out. I think that building a better world is just a thousand small acts of kindness.”

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7/3/2022

188 - LARPing as a Nation-State with Jon Hillis & 0xZakk of CABIN DAO and Christian Lemp of Diamond DAO

Ep. 188
Complete, EXTENSIVE show notes at Patreon.com/michaelgarfield!As guest 0xZakk says at the very end of this conversation, most of the construction projects throughout the history of civilization have been coercive. What does it look like when we actually build things in a really cooperative way? This episode was recorded in November 2021 when the cryptocurrency markets were insanely bullish and the world relatively stable…but releasing it now, in July 2022, seems more aptly-timed than I could have anticipated.The United States Supreme Court has failed the great majority of American citizens not just once but several shocking and historic times in one week, hacking away at women’s reproductive rights, the EPA, and gun safety all at once. The Supreme Court majority was largely appointed by presidents that lost the popular vote, our nation is embroiled in hearings about a violent coup attempt spearheaded by the former President, and people on both sides of the constructed political divide seem more desperate than ever before in living memory. At the same time, both stocks and digital currencies, and the economic possibilities they support, are suffering through what seems like it will be a protracted winter. So it’s a PERFECT moment to talk about the visions we commit to building through the hardship, and the new responsibilities we must assume as citizens — not just of nation-states, but of the digital communities and cultures that we voluntarily participate in, the neighborhoods and cities that we live in.When a big tree dies in the forest, its falling lets in light that stimulates a contest between saplings — and we’re seeing something similar now in this rapid blooming of experiments in governance and finance, legal regulations and privately-organized society. Suddenly projects like the CABIN DAO seem prescient and urgent, so I’m glad to share this potent conversation with Jon Hillis and @0xZakk of CABIN DAO and Christian Lemp of Diamond DAO —three of the many people working hard at the frontiers of blockchain-based social innovation. In this episode we talk about what it means to live-action roleplay as a city-state, how physical geography and online culture overlap in their experiments, and what should stay illegible and wild amidst this wave of techy change…If you enjoy this show, please take a moment to subscribe, rate, and review wherever you prefer to listen. I’ve been extremely busy backstage working on a suite of Future Fossils projects that extend beyond the podcast, some of which you can glimpse on my Instagram and Twitter feeds…big changes coming soon, and inspiration’s flowing. If you want the inner track on all the music, art, and writing I am cooking up — or if you simply see the value in these conversations and my work at large, I hope you’ll join the other awesome people chipping in with listener support at Patreon.com/michaelgarfield— where I’m sharing an enormous folder of new A.I. artwork, updated every day.Lastly, I just re-launched my now thirteen-year-old blog on Substack — for roughly monthly digests of new work, join 7,500 other readers at michaelgarfield.substack.com. More soon.
6/10/2022

187 - Fear & Loathing on the Electronic Frontier with Kevin Welch & David Hensley of EFF-Austin

Ep. 187
Find the complete show notes for this episode on Patreon. This episode was recorded live in Austin, Texas at the West China Tea House in partnership with EFF-Austin, a non-profit committed to the establishment and protection of digital rights and defense of the wealth of digital information, innovation, and technology. Founded in 1991 as a local sub-chapter of The Electronic Frontier Foundation and run as an independent organization, EFF-Austin promotes the right of all citizens to communicate and share information without unreasonable constraint— as well as the fundamental right to explore, tinker, create, and innovate along the frontier of emerging technologies. In this episode, I talk with Kevin Welch and David Hensley about why digital rights matter to our analog lives; whether and how the genies of rampant technological innovation can be forced back into the bottle; how to think about the inherent tensions between individuals and institutions; what esoteric traditions and superhero movies may have to teach us about living in the 21st century, and considerably more. I also make entirely too many references to Michael Crichton novels.I’ve collaborated with EFF-Austin on previous episodes of Future Fossils you may also enjoy:33 - Jon Lebkowsky (Pluralist Utopias & The World Wide Web's Wild West)92 - Panel: The Pre- and Post-History of VR, Surveillance, and Swarm IntelligenceAgain, Patreon is really the place you want to be checking out the resources for this show (and, of course, it's the place to go to take a shower in the awesome stuff I reserve for supporters).

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