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Category Archives: Posthuman
Posted: June 24, 2017 at 2:35 pm
Philosopher Nick Bostrom published a rather convincing argument in 2003 that insisted that were probably living in a computer simulation. Read it and youll understand why Elon Musk says the odds that were living in base reality is one in billions.
In short the argument goes like this:
A lot of people think were on the brink of creating super-powerful computers and A.I.
If we are, then well soon have the ability to create vast simulations of reality, populated with simulated people who are conscious yet dont know they are simulated.
If we can create real-world simulations, we probably will.
Scientists might run simulations of history with different variations to see how things play out. Gamers might do the same. Wealthy people might create fantasy worlds for themselves. If its cheap enough, many people might do it. Who knows; conscious machines might do it to distract the humans whose bodies they are using to generate power. Whoever creates these simulations, its fair to assume they might create very many.
Given that one base reality (the reality that developed this technology) would lead to countless simulated realities (populated, again, with conscious beings), then odds would be that we currently live one of the simulated realities.
There are some ways around this conclusion, but they range from unnerving to unsatisfying.
On one hand, we might be overestimating the likelihood of mankind reaching that super-computer-powered posthuman state.
If we are probably not on the brink of a computing breakthrough either because the technology is unexpectedly complicated or because weve underestimated the existential risks facing mankind then the odds shift back in favor of us living in base reality. A naive, overoptimistic, and possibly doomed base reality.
Another argument against us living in a simulation is that, even if a posthuman state is likely, posthumans wont have much interest in simulating reality.
Futurist and Age of Em author Robin Hanson made this case in a recent exchange with Inverse. We are not actually very eager to simulate our past, except for the few parts of the past that have the most cultural resonance to us, Hanson wrote. Pick a person in the past, and we do almost nothing like simulating their world. Not in novels, in plays, in video games, nothing.
But, uh, count us among the people who would eagerly create simulated realities to play around with and if there are many people like us, and this technology is realistic, then yeah, were back to probably living in a video game.
So what if we do live in a simulation? It might actually be a moot point, Bostrom argues. After all, the reality we live in appears to follow predictable rules, and our way of living and understanding of the universe is built around those rules.
Properly understood, therefore, the truth should have no tendency to make us go crazy or to prevent us from going about our business and making plans and predictions for tomorrow, Bostrom writes.
Dont Miss: Experts Predict When A.I. Will Beat Humans in Everything
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Posted: June 14, 2017 at 4:29 am
Milano Arch Week The week dedicated to architecture June 1218, 2017
Triennale di Milano Viale Alemagna, 6 20121 Milan Italy
Click here to download the full program
Milano Arch Week, sevendays in which Milano will host events dedicated to the future of architecture and of cities, with Stefano Boeri as curator and promoted by the City of Milan, the Politecnico di Milano and the Triennale.
The events start on Monday,June 12 with a pre-opening party at Fondazione Catella. From that moment on the Milano Arch Week will be hosted at the Patio of the Architecture School of the Politecnico di Milano on Tuesday, June13with the attendance of Chancellor Ferruccio Resta and the Triennales Vicepresident Clarice Pecori Girardiand from Wednesday, June14to Saturday, June 17will occupy both the garden and the internal spaces of the Triennale di Milano located in viale Alemagna.
Milano Arch Week will be characterized by the participation of many leading actors in the international architectural scene, such as the Catalan RCR, Pritzker Award winners of 2017, and the North American Master Peter Eisenman. The list of attendees continues with Elizabeth Diller, designer of the renowned New York City High Line and Francis Kr, the Burkina Faso architect designer of the future Serpentine Gallery Pavilion in London. The events will host also many other well-known international architects like Winy Maas (MVRDV), Giancarlo Mazzanti, Philippe Rahm, Sam Jacob, Martin Videgrd, Petra Blaisse (designer of Milans new Porta Nuova Park), and the Chinese urbanist Lee Xianing.
Many worldwide known Italian architects will be involved in the initiative as well: Alessandro Mendini, Cino Zucchi, Michele De Lucchi, Benedetta Tagliabue, Italo Rota, Carlo Ratti, Patricia Urquiola, Mario Bellini, as well as Archea, TAM associati, AouMM, Baukuh, Piuarch, 5+1 aa, OBR, Metrogramma, Startt, LAN, Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli from OMA and many more.
A section of Milano Arch Week is dedicated to emerging Italian architecture groups, including Parasite 2.0, Raumplan, Small, Fosbury Architecture and Waiting Posthuman Studio, that will take place inside the Triennale garden.
The week will be characterized also by times of reflection dedicated to great Masters of Italian architecture and culture, such as Aldo Rossi (commemorating 20 years from his passing with a reading session of Giovanni Testori texts) and Ettore Sottsass (as an anticipation to the planned autumn exhibition at the Triennale). An exhibition will be dedicated to the Florentine architect Vittorio Giorgini, precursor of zoomorphic architecture, curated by Emilia Giorgi, will be exhibited at the Quadreria.
On Friday, June 16, at 6:30pm, the Triennales Salone dOnore will house a great party, a tribute to Gillo Dorfles, 107 years old, and attended by Milanos mayor Giuseppe Sala.
Milano Arch Week will then end on Sunday morning with a preview visit to the new swimming pools building within the bounds of Franco Parentis Theatre. Many additional events related to architecture will be held in other city locations for the entire week, such as walks, VespArch scooter excursions, guided visits to Milans architecture by architects, open studios, and more.
Particular attention will be given to the relationship between architecture and other arts, such as cinema, through the contributions of Amos Gitai, Paolo Vari and Davide Rapp with Giorgio Zangrandi; ohotography, with the participation of Oliviero Toscani, Paolo Rosselli and Antonio Ottomanelli; art, through the involvement of artists such as Adrian Paci; and theatre, with a special event dedicated to Luca Ronconi, at Teatro dellArte, directed by Margherita Palli and Giovanni Agosti, and an unique show schedule directed by Umberto Angelini.
Many themes will be discussed and examined during Milano Arch Week, such as the periphery of contemporary cities, social differences, urban transformations and the great challenge of the Central Italian reconstruction (attended by, among others, Commissioner Vasco Errani). Other themes that will be analyzed and include international conflicts (through the participation of the Israeli architect Eyal Weizman) and the relationship between Architecture and Geopolitics in the development of African cities.
In the evenings the Triennales garden will light up and house reflective moments interlaced with shows and entertainment.
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Posted: June 8, 2017 at 11:27 pm
At the gym, The Observer understands the utopian optimization of surveillance. Each day, The Observer goes and thinks back to videos consumed on how to move the arm (locked at the elbow) to locate the muscle, and then we do our three sets of 12. Then, like the scientist with his rat, we record the data.
Though in other parts of life, The Observer freaks out a bit about the constant uploading of the self to the cloud, still we think how nice it would be to have a theoretically benevolent electronic overlord biologically monitoring all of our movements. It could track The Observer’s exact flailings and calculate their burn, their productivity and their production. It would weigh this against The Observer’s eating and give a clean regression of whether or not we are, or not, a fatty. Our little ombudsman. Can knowledge eradicate the sin of sloth? More importantly: Wouldn’t it be nice, sometimes, to not have a body?
By uploading, The Observer can put the most basic human annoyances of the body’s needs into a system. For example, The Observer keeps a log of our exercise in a phone application that is combined with a food diary. To track the food, The Observer takes photos of the bar codes of items (for example, sandwich: photo of Swiss cheese code, photo of turkey code) to create nutrient and caloric tabulations. Throughout the day, The Observer will check the caloric count, from which is subtracted calories burned by the exercise The Observer logs, to see whether we’re in spitting distance of our goals. Or, The Observer will slide over to a section titled “Macros” that via pie chart lets us know if we are consuming the proper percentages. As in, is our diet 20 percent protein? All of this satisfies the part of The Observer that grew up playing video games and enjoys the setting of goals and making of lists.
Not that it’s really about production. The hope is to be happy. Which is simple to say, but so inherently biological and personal that you have to figure out how your brain chemistry ticks and tocks until it hits joy. Some people really want to go all robot, go past their humanity to felicity. The Observer shares this dream only sometimes, mainly when finding the body disappointing. Or, after being grumpy all day and then running for 10 minutes and feeling calm sweep over us almost immediately.
A recent essay in the magazine n+1 talks about “transhumanism.” The idea is that there will be a singularity where we, as humans, merge with technology to become “posthuman: immortal, limitless, changed beyond recognition.”
Generally, The Observer is fearful of such talk, having watched the Edward Snowden documentaries and seen Facebook rants after someone reads “1984.” Also, it’s mostly touted by strange Silicon Valley-types like Peter Thiel (who, no joke, talks about transfusing blood from the young to live longer). The Observer has no twinkle in our eye about living to 120.
But, the essay reminds us all that these ideas about transhumanism “are a secular outgrowth of Christian eschatology.” What happens after we die? Well, what if technology lets us be born again? Born better … that’s something every Bible reader can understand. If The Observer goes to the gym every day, tracks the food every day, and is persistent, can The Observer be born better, too? It’s a nice thought to be able to hack happy, but probably just a thought.
Posted: May 26, 2017 at 4:22 am
Inaugural Milano Arch Week June 1218, 2017
The Milano ArchitectureWeek, promoted by the Municipality, the Politecnico and the Triennale, is about to take off.
The Milano Arch Week, a week full of events dedicated to architecture with the artistic direction of Stefano Boeri, will be characterised by the presence of top-level architects, including: the Catalan office RCR Arquitectes, winners of the 2017 Pritzker Prize; the great North American maestro Peter Eisenman; Liz Diller, designer of the New York High Line; and Francis Kr, an emerging African architect in charge of designing the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2017. There will also be well-known international architects such as Winy Maas, Philippe Rahm, Sam Jacob and Petra Blaisse (author of the new Porta Nuova Park), as well as Italian architects such as Alessandro Mendini, Cino Zucchi, Benedetta Tagliabue, Italo Rota, Mario Bellini, Michele De Lucchi and many more.
A section of the Milano Arch Week, located in the Triennale gardens, will be dedicated to young emerging Italian and international groups, such as, Fosbury Architecture, Raumplan, Baukuh, Parasite 2.0 and the Waiting Posthuman Studio.
The Milano Arch Weekopens on Monday, June 12with a party at the Catella Foundation and will take place in two locations: on Tuesday,June 13 in the Patio of the School of Architecture of the Politecnico di Milano and from Wednesday, June 14to Saturday, June 17in the halls of the Triennale and in Teatro Burri inside Parco Sempione.
Mornings will be dedicated to walks, scooter forays (Stefano Boeri has created the VespArch formula) and guided tours to Milans architectural beauties and to the city itself. These itineraries will unwind among the House-Museums of Milan designers (such as Castiglioni, Albini, Magistretti, Portaluppi), as well as new cultural locations, disused freight terminals and urban suburbs. There will be events organised by the Architects’ Professional Association, which will also look after the opening of professional studios in Milan on Friday and Saturday.
Artists and designers from other disciplines such as director Amos Gitai, photographer Oliviero Toscani, Albanian artist Adrian Paci, will be involved.
There will also be moments of reflection dedicated to the great Masters of Architecture and Italian Design such as Aldo Rossi and Ettore Sottsass. And there will be moments of celebration such as the one dedicated to celebrating Gillo Dorfles 107 years.
Milano Arch Week will host various debates concerning the problems of contemporary citiesthe suburbs, poverty, social inequalitiesurban transformation and the vast theme of rebuilding Central Italy, with the presence of Commissioner Vasco Errani and the coordinator of Casa Italia Giovanni Azzone.
Among the many entertainment moments linked to major City and architectural issues, there will also bean evening dedicated to Renato Pozzetto and to his thoughts on the city and architecture, a Metropolitan Night by Zero staged at the Teatro Burri, a Botanica event with plant neurobiologist Stefano Mancusoand a final evening dedicated to Suburban Culture with artists and designers.
Milano Arch Week will end on Sunday morning with an ArchiBrunch held at the Bagni Misteriosi in the former Piscina Caimi and a preview visit to the new Palazzina constructed within the perimeter of the Teatro Franco Parenti.
For further info: http://www.milanoarchweek.eu
Municipality of Milan Press Office Secretariat: T +39 02 884 50150 /comunicazione.ufficiostampa [at] comune.milano.it
Politecnico di Milano Media Relations Office:T +39 02 2399 2508 / relazionimedia [at] polimi.it
The Triennale di Milano Media Relations and Press office:T +39 2 7243 4247 /press [at] triennale.org
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Posted: May 23, 2017 at 11:07 pm
As Walter and David dance around one another, the ship with beautiful golden sails hovers in space. A covenant is a promise, and the word here recalls the Ark of the Covenant, the wooden chest containing the Ten Commandments tablets. By shifting the intellectual focus of the movie away from the human and towards the machinethereby redefining the very idea of monsterAlien: Covenant breaks with the franchises tradition of leaning towards the female lead as its center. Why?
Alien: Covenant marks the sixth movie in the franchise, and a return to tradition after some strange (though valuable) sideways wanderings. Aliens (1986) was just as good as the original Alien (1979), but Alien 3 (1992) was a little ropey and Alien: Resurrection (1997) may as well have been from a totally different universe, though it was fun. Prometheus, helmed by original director Ridley Scott, was meant to restart the Alien engine, replacing the dynamo of Ellen Ripley with a newer, firmer mythology but keeping many of the same beloved hallmarks. Many viewers found Prometheus over-elaborate and beset by throat-clearing. It took too long for us to see Noomi Rapace rip a squid out of her own abdomen, some critics felt. The film was too much about history, not enough about abdomen squids.
Many traditions are revived in Alien: Covenant. Torsos are busted, a character named Tennessee wears a hat, an alien gets squished by a bit of factory equipment. But this movie marks a shift away from the human. The motifs of the movie further clarify this new focus. We see moss on rocks, and think of geological time. We see a planet full of green leaves and water, but silent of birdsong and totally without animals. Alien: Covenant contains multiple apocalypses within its narrativesome in the past, some in the present, some in the futureand each is about the extinction of a race or civilization.
This is a movie, in other words, about climate change, the anthropocene, and the posthuman. The ravaged planet that hosts the crew of the Covenant looks so much like our own, and yet it has violence and death lingering on its surface. Because it is a prequel, Alien: Covenant does some fascinating things with time. Without the earth to orient these human stories in history, where does the era of human supremacy begin, and where might it end? Has it ended already? The androids live for so long and the aliens are so pervasively murderous that the human lifespan seems to lose all its meaning. How do you feel? Peter Weyland asks his creation, at the start of this new film. Alive, David replies.
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Posted: May 20, 2017 at 7:07 am
Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution is a 2002 book by Francis Fukuyama. In it, he discusses the potential threat to liberal democracy that use of new and emerging biotechnologies for transhumanist ends poses.
From the back cover of the paperback edition:
A decade after his now-famous pronouncement of “the end of history”, Francis Fukuyama argues that as a result of biomedical advances, we are facing the possibility of a future in which our humanity itself will be altered beyond recognition. Fukuyama sketches a brief history of man’s changing understanding of human nature: from Plato and Aristotle’s belief that humans had “natural ends” to the ideals of utopians and dictators of the modern age who sought to remake mankind for ideological ends. Fukuyama argues that the ability to manipulate the DNA of all of one person’s descendants will have profound, and potentially terrible, consequences for our political order, even if undertaken with the best of intentions.
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Posted: May 13, 2017 at 6:05 am
Rett Terrell is playing the title character in the Oklahoma-made short film “The Grave.” [Photo provided]
Perched in a tall chair and dressed in a snazzy suit, Rett Terrell sits still as makeup artist Krystal Rose McKinley dabs thick layers of black greasepaint around his eyes.
Only the actor’s mouth is moving as he cracks wise through preparation for the lengthy final day of location filming on The Grave, an Oklahoma-made short film he waited two years to bring to life.
It’s definitely the eye makeup, Terrell jokes. No, when I was a kid, I grew up reading comic books and everything about this story spoke to me.
Dressed in the olive-drab uniform and wide-brimmed hat of a World War I doughboy, Collin Place awaits his turn in the makeup chair, scanning his script as strong late afternoon sunshine beams through the wide windows of PhotoArt Studios in the Plaza District.
I’m supposed to be his best friend from the war who he couldn’t save. So his guilt from his death weighs on his shoulders and that’s a lot of his motivation to become The Grave,’ Place says.
My dream was to be Rett, he quips, but for this project, he settles for haunting his co-star and pal.
You need to dream bigger, my friend. Aim higher, Terrell replies.
It may be a small, homegrown project, but Place says he’s excited to finally reunite with Terrell, director Kyle Roberts and screenwriter (and The Oklahoman features editor) Matthew Price, of the award-winning Oklahoma feature film The Posthuman Project, for The Grave, a film-noir comic-book movie set in 1920s Oklahoma City.
With Posthuman’ we made all those great connections and great friendships with people. Just being able to get back together and get back into the craft with the people you love to work with is one of the greatest things about doing this, Place says.
I just think it’s awesome to be able to bring a period piece like this to life, because you really don’t see a lot of that nowadays, especially in Oklahoma City. I think it’s unique.
The black makeup sets off the skull mask and black hat Terrell has donned for the title character of The Grave, a journalist and WWI veteran named Walter Crim who takes up the mantle of a vigilante.
It’s kind of our version of Batman in a way, but he’s not a millionaire, Roberts says. Through Oklahoma City in the ’20s where we’re located there was a lot of smuggling and crooked cops and other stuff going on because of Prohibition. And he’s basically taken it upon himself to go after these guys.
The Grave is out cold and bound to a chair as Roberts barks action! on the first take of the day.
Better wake up. If you don’t wake up, you’re gonna end up like me, Place’s Ross yells, snapping in the unconscious hero’s face.
Tied up next to the masked man, good cop Sgt. Stone (Stephen Goodman), stalls for time as a nattily dressed baddie named The Torch (Jacob Ryan Snovel) and two other thugs converge menacingly. Suddenly, The Grave is awake and in full heroics.
Cut! Nice, Roberts says. Guys, that was awesome. Let’s go again.
It takes a few tries, but with an escape, a gunshot and a punch, the film’s action-packed opening scene is in the can.
Of course, getting that point of actually rolling camera on the project wasn’t so easy.
Hoping to follow up the success of his teen superhero feature “The Posthuman Project” with another indie Oklahoma superhero story, Roberts kicked off a Kickstarter campaign for The Grave in fall 2015. Although the project raised $22,000 of the $30,000 goal, it fell victim to Kickstarter’s all-or-nothing rules.
It was still a lot of money, but you don’t get any of it when you don’t raise the full amount. With the heartbreak of that, it’s just like, Is this dead or what?’ Roberts said.
Last October, he resurrected The Grave, launching his own online crowdfunding campaign, which didn’t raise as much but brought in enough to get the project off the page and into preproduction.
In some ways Posthuman’ was superpowers as a metaphor for adolescence, and this is kind of a metaphor of adult life. When life gets you down and kicks you around, what do you do? Really, that’s parallel to what our last four months have been, the director said.
The good thing and it was the same thing with Posthuman’ and filmmaking in general is that in Oklahoma people are very loving and supportive of each other.
For Goodman, another Oklahoma actor, The Grave was the most fun he’d ever had on a film set.
This is a short comic book, and it also is a short film. To fit everything we have done with this that’s why Kyle can always round up the best crew, in my mind, because everyone works off of everyone, he said. We’ve gotten to do action stuff that I don’t know how we’re pulling off, to tell you the truth.
The night is shrouded in full darkness and Goodman is dressed in full police uniform as he walks into the lot behind PhotoArt to film his last scene. His vigilant officer is called upon to step out of a vintage patrol car, draw his gun and pursue a mysterious noise on foot.
Goodman said his cop, the title character and the story’s main antagonist, Groom (Adam Hampton), all have been shaped by their wartime experiences.
Groom said, I should be owed something for fighting.’ We can see what happened to Walter, putting on the mask of The Grave. … And I think Sgt. Stone said, Well, it’s just time to put on another uniform,’ he said.
Steve Mathis, the gaffer in charge of lighting the dark parking lot and the rest of The Grave, has worked on more than 80 films, including major movies like Back to the Future, Moulin Rouge! and the new Power Rangers. Although he left Oklahoma for Hollywood as soon as I could, he moved back to his home state in 2013.
One of my goals is to impart some of the experience and knowledge that I’ve accumulated over 40 years of doing this here, he said.
I do find myself getting ready to do something and realizing I don’t have what I would normally have. But the politics are smaller on a small film; the politics are huge on a big film. And I wouldn’t do it here if it wasn’t fun, because I don’t need to.”
He said he particularly enjoys working on period pieces like The Grave, which started as an original character Price invented. The writer based the film on his comic book originally illustrated by Hunter Huskey and Jerry Bennett. Roberts is making it as a new media project.
Essentially, it’s a short film, but it’s kind of a pilot, Roberts said. The plan is to do festival stuff and then, of course, pitch it wherever we can and get it online somewhere to where it’s not just like we post it on YouTube but to have someone pick it up.
It’s close to midnight as Terrell tosses and turns in the bed in the corner of the art studio, where his character awakens suddenly from a nightmare and sees his dead pal in the mirror.
Put on the mask, Place’s Ross orders, urging Walter to seek justice as a vigilante.
The last scene to be filmed for the project reflected reality for Terrell, who appeared in publicity photos as The Grave back in 2015 and stayed with the project because he couldn’t imagine anyone else playing the role.
I didn’t sleep the night before. Usually you get a job and then you’re on set. I’ve been attached to ‘The Grave’ forever it feels like, and the night before, I was like, We’re really gonna do this.’ It was like my first project all over again. It was like those butterflies and then being giddy and excited. Then we show up, and I’m not sure, but I think maybe my first line, my voice cracked, he said with a laugh.
But then you take a breath, you see the people that you’re around, that you trust, which is the reason that I’ve stuck with a project like this this long, with everyone involved. And then you kind of relax. Now I’m in cruise control, more or less, in work mode. I’ll probably have another little weird moment once it’s all done. We did it. I can’t believe it.’
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Posted: April 27, 2017 at 2:26 am
ARCH+ 228: “StadtlandThe New Rurbanism” Spring 2017
“ARCH+ features 60Stadtland”: April 27, 79pm silent green Kulturquartier, Gerichtstrasse 35, 13347 Berlin
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The new issue of ARCH+ Journal for Architecture and Urbanism, entitled “StadtlandThe New Rurbanism,” investigates the dialectical relationship between city and countryside. (The word Stadtland is a portmanteau of the German words for city and countryside originally coined by Martin Wagner in the 1930s.) This is a relationship that has always been ideologically contested. Yet with the steady advance of urbanization, the antithetical distinctions between city and countryside, center and periphery, culture and nature have increasingly dissolved. Simultaneously, the romanticization of rural space as a site of the natural and authentic, as a victim of industrialization and urbanization, is coming into question. The countryside is becoming an ambivalent actorin certain respects a culprit, in others a forerunner.
According to philosopher Armen Avanessian, to whom this issues special feature is dedicated, Today, city and country(side) must by necessity be thought as technological and computational. He argues that cities today should be viewed more from the perspective of the countryside, and that this countryside is as far from natural as the rest of nature.
Under the spatial regime of Stadtland, there is no return to the landand above all no return to nature. Indeed, more than anywhere else, its the countryside that attests to the looming technological revolutions that challenge our ways of life and even our very humanity.
Avanessian continues: In the countryside of the future, which has already begun, we also find the server farms that have recently prompted Rem Koolhaas to think about a posthuman countryside and an architecture without human occupancy. Beyond questions concerning the aesthetics of posthuman architecture, I am interested in the effects server farms have on the countryside or, in more precise and metonymic rather than metaphorical terms: I am interested in how a new paradigm of computation does not simply change living and thinking in our software society but affects the smart cities and countrysides themselves where we live and work.
“The taskfor architecture as for the theory of architecture, for politics as for philosophyis to live up to the challenge of this spatially and temporally complex social landscape where the human can no longer claim epistemic primacy over against computers or algorithms. For that reason and because algorithms have no presentneither an aesthetic nor any other kind of presenceit is nostalgic and regressive to posit the living present of human beings, their aisthetic presence and aesthetic concerns, as the exclusive criterion for thinking architecturally about city and countryside.
Read the English translation of Avanessians essay Whole Cities and Divisible Countries, or Speculative Thoughts on a New Mereo(to)politics for the Twenty-First Century here.
The issue is published in German, and includes contributions from Armen Avanessian, BeL Soziett fr Architektur, Pierre Blanger, Giorgio Ciucci, Marta Doehler-Behzadi, Kerstin Faber, Ulrike Gurot, Peter Haimerl, Thomas Krger, Achim Menges, Philipp Oswalt, Rural Urban Framework, Christian Schmid, Manfred Speidel, Issei Suma, Stephan Trby, Zhang Ke, Juli Zeh, among others.
Table of Contents
ARCH+ features 60: Stadtland On April 27, 2017, coinciding with the publication of the ARCH+ issue “Stadtland Der neue Rurbanismus”, as part of the ARCH+ Features series, the event ARCH+ Features 60: Stadtland will be held in Berlins silent green Kulturquartier. With architects Peter Haimerl, Thomas Krger, and Marta Doehler-Behzadi (Managing Director of IBA Thringen), moderated by Kerstin Faber (IBA Thringen)and Anh-Linh Ngo (Editor, ARCH+).
ARCH+ is Germany’s leading publication for discourse in the fields of architecture, urbanism, and related disciplines. Founded in the wake of the student protests of 1967, ARCH+ continues to situate the built environment within its social context. Quarterly issues examine a diverse range of topics to decipher the cultural and political conditions that produce space. In print and online, through projects and events, ARCH+ functions as an independent platform for critique. ARCH+ is edited by Nikolaus Kuhnert, Anh-Linh Ngo, and Christian Hiller. Art direction by Mike Meir.
Posted: April 14, 2017 at 12:01 am
Even though it may have been one of the most controversial titles of 2016, I have a sneaking suspicion that the best video game science fiction plot last year was in No Man’s Sky.
No Man’s Sky is an acquired taste. It’s not a space combat simulation, or a hardcore physics simulator. Its standard mode isn’t even really a challenging survival game, although it does have some survival elements. Instead, No Man’s Sky is a combination of the mission statement from Star Trek and a restful camping trip: it gives the player an entire galaxy to explore, without any time limits or urgency. It may not be for everybody, but for somebody like me (particularly with how badly 2016 turned out), wandering around alien planets and playing Charles Darwin is a much needed relaxing game experience.
But, there is a story there, if one is inclined to follow it – and it’s even a brain-breaking one, which the ending complements perfectly. Unfortunately, in large part due to a misstep by Hello Games that made the entire Atlas storyline look like the beginning tutorial, it’s one that many players missed. And it’s all about the simulation hypothesis.
The simulation hypothesis is the theory that our entire reality is a simulation of a universe in an alien computer. Variations on this theme – reality as an illusion – have been around for a very long time. The modern theory began with a paper titled “Are You Living in a Computer Simulation” by Oxford University philosopher Nick Bostrom.
Bostrom’s argument was, in his words:
A technologically mature “posthuman” civilization would have enormous computing power. Based on this empirical fact, the simulation argument shows that at least one of the following propositions is true: (1) The fraction of human-level civilizations that reach a posthuman stage is very close to zero; (2) The fraction of posthuman civilizations that are interested in running ancestor-simulations is very close to zero; (3) The fraction of all people with our kind of experiences that are living in a simulation is very close to one.
It’s an interesting argument, and one that has found support in a some surprising places – both Elon Musk and Neil DeGrasse Tyson have expressed support for it (although, to be fair, a closer reading of both Musk and Tyson suggests that they have not adopted the idea beyond a thought experiment). The question is how to prove it, with the best suggestion being to look for glitches in our reality that can only exist because of imperfections in the simulation, and the most common proof being considered our creating a simulated universe of our own (based on point #2 of Bostrom’s argument).
I am not a supporter of this hypothesis, and I think there are problems with it on just about every level. For one thing, it represents a reintroduction of mysticism into science after centuries of removing it, with God being swapped out for an alien computer. For another, the proof of creating a simulation ourselves begs a massive question of just how many simulations deep we are. It also makes huge assumptions about what a post-human society would look like and do – simulating a universe to understand our own makes perfect sense right now from a pure research point of view (consider for a moment how many things we simulate today), and that’s not likely to change for any civilization with sufficient curiosity about how their universe works. Or, put another way, as we develop better tools for theoretical research using simulation, those tools will invariably be used.
And then there’s the issue of games and gamers, which might best be illustrated by a scene from the Ender’s Game movie. There is a moment where, facing a simulation where a giant offers Ender a choice between two poisoned chalices, Ender brutally murders the giant instead. The administrators monitoring the simulation are shocked because nobody has ever done this before – except this holds no water. Anybody playing the game would have seen the giant as a puzzle to be solved, and once it was clear that both chalices were poisoned, would have moved on to other solutions. In reality, the administrators would have been inundated with cadets finding new and creative ways to kill and otherwise get around this giant, because that’s what people do when they play games.
Likewise, if you look at video games as an example, we’ve simulated almost everything one could imagine. Alien planets – done that (Alpha Centauri). The Medieval past – meet Shadowlands, Total War, and any other number of historically based Medieval games. The entire Milky Way galaxy – meet Elite Dangerous, whose galactic model is so sophisticated that it has successfully predicted exoplanets. The entire history of a world created at the beginning of each playthrough – welcome to Dwarf Fortress. We don’t just simulate things and places for pure research, we do it for recreation. The only reason we have yet to create an entire simulated universe to play in is that a computer powerful enough to do so has not hit the general market.
And this is where the story built into No Man’s Sky becomes an amazing and brain-breaking piece of science fiction. As the player progresses through the game, they discover that not only is the entire galaxy a computer simulation, but that the player character is an AI created by the Atlas, the program controlling the simulation, for the express purpose of mapping and expanding it. Because the galaxy is a simulation, there is no possible escape – the best the player character can hope for is to be freed after serving the Atlas’ purpose and/or to be bounced into the next simulated galaxy after reaching the galactic core.
But because it is a story of a simulated galaxy in an actual simulated galaxy, it reaches into the real world in a meta level that no other game has ever attempted, much less achieved. If you believe in the simulation hypothesis, No Man’s Sky is the first step to proving that our reality is nothing more than an illusion. If you don’t believe in it, the game affirms reality in a perfect example of why the hypothesis doesn’t work – it is a simulation of a galaxy made for no other reason than recreation that by its mere existence explodes the idea that nobody outside of a simulation would ever have a reason to create such a thing. And that is simply breathtaking.
Robert B. Marks is the author of Diablo: Demonsbane, The EverQuest Companion, and Garwulf’s Corner. His newest book, An Odyssey into Video Games and Pop Culture, is available in print and Kindle formats. He also has a Livejournal and is on Facebook.
Garwulf’s Corner is made possible by the support of readers like you (and I want to categorically deny any rumours that Patreon funds are being used to fund both sides of the Sentinel-Vykeen war). If you would like to see more content like this, please visit the Patreon, and if you can, contribute.
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Posted: March 31, 2017 at 7:27 am
The N.C.A.A. brackets have come and gone, but March Madness prevails in the meatpacking district, where a terrific group show by that name is installed at Fort Gansevoort, an idiosyncratic gallery (and occasional barbecue joint) in a three-story town house at 5 Ninth Ave. As its title implies, the shows theme is sports, which, on its own, is nothing novel. A quick spin through the Met will turn up figures of wrestlers painted on an Ancient Greek amphora in 500 B.C., a Mesoamerican stone carving of a ballplayer made roughly a thousand years later, and mid-nineteenth-century portraits of matadors by douard Manet. But Fort Gansevoort flips the script on millennia of male-dominated athletics with art works by thirty-one women made between the mid-twentieth century and now, from Elizabeth Catletts jubilant 1958 print of a barefoot girl jumping rope to a just-finished collage of a pigtailed boxer by Deborah Roberts, a young artist who borrows the Dadaist strategies of Hannah Hch for the era of Black Lives Matter.
The show (which runs through May 6) was co-curated by the artist Hank Willis Thomas and the gallerist Adam Shopkorn (who is also a film producer, with a basketball documentary under his belt). The fact that this all-women show is the brainchild of men might have drawn fire for paternalism were it not for the shows persuasive politics, at the intersection of feminism and race. The first sign that we arent in for a Leroy Neimanesque straight sports experience arrives just inside the front door: a 1:100 scale model of a two-hundred-metre track constructed from two thousand acrylic fake fingernails, painted with stars and stripes and embellished with rhinestones by Pamela Council. The sculpture is an homage to the Olympic gold medalist Florence Griffith Joyner, an insouciant monument to black power and beauty. Nearby hang two elegiac works by Gina Adams, which incorporate vintage photographs of the girls basketball team at the assimilationist Osage Boarding School, in Oklahoma, where children were forbidden to speak their native languageeven denied the right to say their own names.
There are obligatory works by the well-known, including the photographer Catherine Opies 2008 take on high-school football and a black-and-white gem from 1979 by Cindy Sherman, in Sonja Henie mode as a stocking-capped figure skater. But discoveriesand rediscoveries, in the case of a 1976 series of video drawings of televised sports by Howardena Pindelloutmatch the usual suspects. One standout is the Washington, D.C.-based performer Holly Bass, who, like Sherman, suits up for photographic self-portraits. In a quartet of studio shots, Bass styles herself as a posthuman athlete, so at one with her game that a pair of basketballs replaces her derrire. Its a joyous slam dunk of a conceita pointedly absurdist sendup of misogynist visual clichs.
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