[…]“transhumanism,” a zealous type of utopian thought underwritten by the belief that day by day we are getting closer and closer to building a better human. Like believers in libertarian free will, transhumanists believe we can make ourselves. But this is impossible. Because of evolution, we got made. We did not bring ourselves out of the primeval ooze. And everything we have done since we became a species has been a consequence of being made. No matter what we do, it will be what we were made to do—and nothing else. We may try to make something of ourselves, but we cannot take over our own evolution. We made antibiotics because we were made to be the kind of beings who make such things as antibiotics. That changed our condition without changing us, being as we are the kind of creatures who do things and make things, yet are not in the business of getting ourselves made. Nature had plans for us and still does. One of those plans seems to be the dream of transhumanism, which may just be a plan to unmake us. If so, we are not going to alter that plan simply because we imagine we can make a new person with new evolutionary programs that we will write. We know how to survive and we know how to reproduce. We know how to do many things, but we do not know what to do with ourselves that is over and above our preset patterns. Some of us only think we do. We are not even part of the process of getting remade. We are following orders, as we have always done, that nature is forever barking out.
—Thomas Ligotti, The Conspiracy against the Human Race: A Contrivance of Horror (via suicidalswan)
"While dystopic sci-fi certainly certainly has its usefulness in calling out social ills and institutional abuses, like Orwell’s 1984 warning us against totalitarianism, the Mad Max comics highlighting over consumption, and Philip K. Dick taking on a variety of dark societal issues in Solar Lottery, these kinds of stories can only inspire the type of change that comes through fear. The Hieroglyph collection takes a different tactic and encourages people to innovate by illustrating the positive outcomes of these actions."
I say all this because I’m about to recommend a book which most people shouldn’t read—Samuel R. Delany’s About Writing. This is the best writing book I’ve ever read. I can’t recommend it enough.
Except that most people probably shouldn’t read it. If you’re not a fiction writer, don’t read it….
Erik Vance on why real working archaeologists don’t care for Indiana Jones.
"Oh God," he groans, "Don’t even go there. Indiana Jones is not an archeologist."
It’s not surprising that academics — hell bent on taking the fun out of everything — would hate our beloved and iconic movie version of…
So basically this is franwilde's fault, because I was on a tear about it the other night and she told me I needed to write a blog post. So here's a blog post. (Does anybody even read blogs anymore? Tap, tap, is this thing on? “140 characters is all anyone will ever need.”)
My Least Favorite…
Today’s belief in ineluctable certainty is the true innovation killer of our age. In this environment, the best an audacious manager can do is to develop small improvements to existing systems— climbing the hill, as it were, toward a local maximum, trimming fat, eking out the occasional tiny innovation— like city planners painting bicycle lanes on the streets as a gesture toward solving our energy problems. Any strategy that involves crossing a valley— accepting short- term losses to reach a higher hill in the distance— will soon be brought to a halt by the demands of a system that celebrates short- term gains and tolerates stagnation, but condemns any-thing else as failure. In short, a world where big stuﬀ can never get done.
Neal Stephenson’s foreword to the new collection Hieroglyph is excellent.
We aren’t doing big things badly, we’re just not doing them.
Looking forward to this collection.
The Stephenson piece from Wired that may or may not have been edited much for this collection’s introduction is here.(via brevetcaptain)