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futuribile / curating futures - Issue #11 - #IWantToBelieve

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Aloha, Since 1977 the Voyager Golden Records travel the space aboard spacecrafts Voyager 1 and 2. The
 
September 20 · Issue #11 · View online
futuribile / curating futures
Aloha,
Since 1977 the Voyager Golden Records travel the space aboard spacecrafts Voyager 1 and 2. The two phonograph records are a compendium of our civilisation, thought for any non-human intelligent form of life which may stumble upon it. While this Seventies’ message in a bottle travels space, in 2023 human artists will have a first-hand experience of the Moon surroundings, and maybe come back with alien postcards. The japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa has indeed bought all the tickets available for the first private ride around the Moon, so that he could invite artists and become the first curator to operate in space. 🕺The project is called #dearMoon. For the sake of human ambition and grandeur, we will not stress consequences on the artists’ health. As agent Mulder teaches, I want to believe.
Marta Arniani
PS: I don’t know what you usually get for Christmas, but being visible to over 20 000 people events and 700 investors, get in an exclusive meeting at the European Parliament and travel grants are only some of the NGI Awards prizes. You have time until the 30th to apply with your startup, research project, NGO, educational venture, activist alter ego and news platform. You can also nominate somebody else, let’s get humble people under the light spot they deserve.
PPS: Don’t assume we will postpone the deadline. We won’t.

"Humans drinking, licking and eating as modes of feeding" (Voyager Record)
Blockchain ta mère
Last week at the NGI Forum in Porto we had an amazing session about the decentralised internet. I wrote a recap here. Spoiler: governance and business models come before blockchain everywhere. But if you are looking for use cases, at least do something for the planet. PwC just released a report detailing 65 use cases of blockchain for the environment. The study also identifies enormous potential to create blockchain-enabled “game changers” like: “see-through” supply chains; decentralized and sustainable resource management; automatic disaster preparedness and humanitarian relief.
To me blockchain (together with AI) are the biggest manifestation of our current technical alienation. We don’t know how most of the interconnected objects we own and digital process we execute work, concretely:
In On the Mode of Existence of Technical Objects (1958), French philosopher Gilbert Simondon noticed that humans were losing their reciprocal connection with technology. ‘For Simondon, restoring this mutual relationship would be a means for developing a technological culture’, says computer scientist and philosopher Yuk Hui.
Things encapsulate value, but when they are not tangible it is difficult to retrace value. As of today, crypto transactions are immaterial. Would a “proof-of-transaction”, a physical wallet, incentivize users to engage with the technology being cryptocurrencies more actively? A great piece investigating the materiality of cryptocurrency through the lens of product design. And a solid philosophy base for the coming section of the newsletter.
Material girl
I like the idea of challenging the “buy” button for digital goods: in the end, you don’t really own the music, movies or ebooks You ‘Buy’ on Amazon or iTunes. What you own after purchase, for sure, is the device. The most remarkable thing of the latest Apple keynote is not the new iPhone, but that Apple is making a bet on sustainability as growth business. By making durable products, the company ensures that their utility increases, and that the customer base is satisfied and preserved. Durable devices feed an increasing second-hand market, which is a great growth hack move to expand the audience. This larger costumer base is sold accessories, additional products such as wearables and, of course, services.
This is a hardware-as-platform and hardware-as-subscription model that no other hardware company can match. It is not only highly responsible but it’s highly defensible and therefore a great business. Planned obsolescence is a bad business and is not defensible.
Durable products are part of the strategy outlined by Lisa Jackson (Apple’s vice president of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives) towards the company’s goal to eliminate the need to mine new materials from the Earth.
The Verge made a special online issue on the past, present, and future of the lithium-ion battery. Stay with me, it is exciting. Although very material, batteries are an essential part of technology even if don’t like to engage with them (planned obsolescence and consumerism are still the mainstream model) and are definitely reshaping our culture. For instance, a standard trope of recent horror movies is running out of battery at the wrong moment:
So when that horror movie victim realizes she’s run down her battery on nonessential texting and talking, and it isn’t available when she really needs it, the filmmakers aren’t just tapping into a tired cliché. They’re channeling the low-key real-world anxiety of needing a phone for a specific purpose and suddenly not being sure whether it has the juice to perform. Historically, horror movies could unnerve audiences by conjuring up an empty field or rambling mansion, far enough out in the country that no one could hear the protagonists screaming. Now, though, horror filmmakers can summon up the same sensations of echoing, unbridgeable distance just by putting the characters in a room with a failing battery and no available power outlets.
The concern of becoming disconnected from your phone has even a scientific name, “nomophobia”. You can win it and become a status symbol by buying a minimal phone made to keep you safe from phone addiction. The article also invites to look at the mixed feelings we have for the time we spend on devices as a conflict between chronos and kairos, the ancient Greek terms for time measurement standardised by humanity (hours, minutes…) and the internal human time, more related to biological elements. Notifications keep interfering with the rhythms of kairos.
Toolbox
One of the 150 Copenhagen Catalogue principles. Also, a very good set of posters.
deon is a command line tool that allows you to easily add an ethics checklist to your data science projects.
URIs don’t change: people change them. How to not screw up with websites.
The ultimate tool to compare the positions of Commission, Council and Parliament on any article of the copyright directive.
Zooming out
Since 2010, Amazon Technologies Inc. has filed 5,860 patents, a glimpse to the automated future it wants to create, moving from the invisible peripheries of our life (the spaces logistics and anonymous warehouses), to proposals for the urban space:
Amazon’s patent filings, then, are not so much whimsical follies but a colonization of everyday experience; a concerted effort to control an all encompassing infrastructure of home, office and retail automation, one in which the city becomes a giant fulfillment center, and humans mere inventory pickers.
By 2020, China plans to give all its 1.4. billion citizens a personal score based on how they behave. As an appetizer, people with low scores are already being punished if they want to travel. But surveillance systems and the state issuing your passport are not the only discriminating drivers around mobility. One of the most debated aspects of Universal Basic Income is whether providing equal economic resources will produce true equality. Here you can find a very interesting perspective: why not guaranteeing Universal Basic Mobility? Across the world a large “mobility underclass” is falling into “structural immobility” — the state in which lack of mobility limits their ability to obtain and keep jobs, access basic services, contribute to society or maintain a reasonable quality of life.
A healthy economy and society require not only freedom of movement and access to mobility, but movement for movement’s sake. Physical interaction and discovery have more social, economic, educational, cultural and psychological benefits than can be quantified. Until the advent of self-driving cars, autonomy meant freedom of action, and the only autonomy was human autonomy. Human autonomy is the only autonomy technology should serve. Efficiency is a worthy goal, but efficiency ≠ freedom. Freedom is freedom, and freedom of movement is a fundamental human right. If we are to protect it, then the boundaries of freedom must match those of mobility, for everyone.
What if moving around alone could contribute to fix the streets? The Crowd4roads idea of using smartphone in-car gaming to collect sensor data measurements on road bumps and potholes worked quite well this Summer.
In the past issue I covered the debate on who should fund and maintain digital commons (given that we can come to an agreement about what they are). Another side of the coin is the labour that goes into those commons. Despite improvements in the past decade, a large part of the world’s countries (and thus culture) is still underrepresented. Differences in socioeconomic circumstances can alter a country’s capacity to take part in online knowledge production (so, can we really say “commons”?), and can cause significant differences in participation levels. Paying contributors would reproduce global economic inequalities. Researchers from the Oxford Internet Institute propose the Wikipedian in Residence.
Bodies and selves
“Inconvenient courage”: this is the wonderful name of the Korean movement protesting against spycam porn, which by police estimates, registered over 6,000 cases each year between 2013 to 2017. The most recent rally took place in August close to Seoul: it was reported to have 70,000 women participants, despite the hot weather.
It’s not just footages of sexual intercourse. There are spycam footages of women relieving themselves in toilets; photos of women in bikinis, at home, walking on the street. On a website called Soranet, men would upload photographs of their girlfriends or wives, and ask others to rate the women’s genitals.
Besides the phenomenon per se, protestors are raising their voice against the gender discrimination applied by authorities:
This isn’t unique to South Korea: The way sex is consumed usually involves objectification of women. This is the norm. So when men are objectified, the judicial authorities react with greater sensitivity because the case is unique.
This MIT Media Lab researcher is logging every moment (except sex) of his life matching times and events with biometric signals to learn what makes moments memorable.
No longer must nurses train on lifeless mannequins. Hal can shed tears, bleed, and urinate. If you shine a light in his eyes, his pupils shrink. You can hook him up to real hospital machines, and even jolt him with a defibrillator. Hal is so realistic, and these scenarios so emotionally charged, that the instructors who run him in medical simulations have to be careful not to push things too far and upset trainees.
Retromania
Pure genius: The Disconnect, the online magazine you can’t read online. 🤘 Here you have an interview with the founder:
I have personally written recommendation systems and algorithms that take pretty benign information about people and their behaviors on websites to serve them ads. When you realize the power you have as a software engineer, it gives you pause. It is a little bit worrisome that you have an army of people with computational power aimed at you as an individual, trying to change your behavior.
Definitely worth a trip: the last blockbuster on earth.
Oh, dear!
Sandie
Just said 'ooh, @jk_rowling has liked one of my tweets' to which a colleague replied 'well, her assistant liked one of your tweets'. Why do people do that? It's only a little smile, but it's mine, don't try to steal it. #JoyThief #SomePeopleJustHaveToBeMiserable
10:30 AM - 18 Sep 2018
J.K. Rowling
This annoys me, too. You think I'd let an assistant run this Twitter account?
*I* liked your tweet, nobody else. Now have a lovely day ❤️ https://t.co/AiFAqMidBm
10:43 AM - 18 Sep 2018
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That’s all, thanks for reading! You can express your support by recommending this newsletter to further people.
Aloha,
Marta
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