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futuribile / curating futures - Issue #9 / Summer 2018

Aloha, Here is the Summer issue of your favourite newsletter for tech lovers, decision-makers and cur
July 25 · Issue #9 · View online
futuribile / curating futures
Here is the Summer issue of your favourite newsletter for tech lovers, decision-makers and curious citizens. It’s all about downplaying the tech hype, while observing related new social phenomena and prospecting desirable future scenarios. In this issue you will find a collection of timeless Summer readings and in-depth articles that you can think about with no stress.
“What is the answer to life, the universe, and everything?”: JOMO guys, JOMO. (Joy of Missing Out). On my side I am done with the crazy pro travelling and almost done with some health issues. I’ll now work on new ideas and catch up with pending tasks, with some interludes of scuba diving missions and beach-related activities.
Back in your mailbox early September, may the JOMO be with you for at least a few days in a row.
Marta Arniani
Next Generation Internet PS: remember to candidate for the NGI Awards! And register for the NGI Forum in Porto on September 13.

Blockchain ta mère
“We’re working on some tokens now, utility tokens, potentially, for the populist movement on a worldwide basis.” said Steve Bannon - founder of Breitbart and former Trump advisor - speaking to CNBC. 😱 😱 😱 They might be called with some irony “deplorable coins”, like Hillary Clinton described Trump’s supporters during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Riviera stories, valà: the San Marino Republic (a 61 km2 State located in Central Italy close to Riviera Romagnola) is putting in place a strategy for becoming an international blockchain hub. Last April it made a partnership with the Estonian blockchain technology developer Polybius: among the plans, creating new identity mechanisms for authentication and verification, as well as simplifying regulation. Now it appears already next to Malta and Montecarlo in lists of small states attracting the biggest blockchain investments. For the sake of coherence, the mini-State is also well known for being a money laundering destination, #patàca. Not very far from there takes place every July the Santarcangelo International Theatre Festival, where - to end on a positive note - Commonfare (an EU project I contributed to write in a previous life) did a great experiment with Cryptorituals.
Nanjing (China), Jiangsu’s capital, is committed to investing in public blockchain projects and overall token economy. A Beijing-based alliance made of government research institutes and blockchain companies, Zhongguancun Blockchain Industry Alliance, is teaming up with Nanjing City to launch a blockchain investment fund of $1.5 billion.
KT, the second-biggest mobile carrier in South Korea, is the first in the world to launch a blockchain-based commercial network.
Summer reading list
What is that makes us human? An editorial by Ghislaine Boddington, Future Fest curator, with main takeaways from the latest edition.
Meet the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement—VHEMT (pronounced “vehement”) for short — a worldwide crusade of at least 9,000 people who have voluntarily decided not to have children.
Survival of the richest (how the wealthy are plotting to leave us behind):
The more committed we are to this view of the world, the more we come to see human beings as the problem and technology as the solution. The very essence of what it means to be human is treated less as a feature than bug. No matter their embedded biases, technologies are declared neutral. Any bad behaviors they induce in us are just a reflection of our own corrupted core. It’s as if some innate human savagery is to blame for our troubles. Just as the inefficiency of a local taxi market can be “solved” with an app that bankrupts human drivers, the vexing inconsistencies of the human psyche can be corrected with a digital or genetic upgrade.
From 1967 onwards, the evolution of “How to Spend it” (the Financial Times shopping reference for the ultrarich 1%) tells a lot about global economy, society and taste:
Yet while it reinforces the rich’s sense of entitlement – their sense that the world is their playground – How to Spend It also serves to remind them that they frequently lack taste. With striking bluntness, the magazine’s name says as much. “Compared with the truly fashionable, who are often less well-off, and have acquired their edge by having to choose between products,” says a prominent British writer on class and style, “seriously rich people are often ever so slightly behind the beat.” In an age of mass luxury – of mobbed designer concessions in department stores, of designer shops proliferating in seemingly every major city – how can the rich stand out? (…) in The Sum of Small Things, a rare clear-eyed book about the rich, Elizabeth Currid-Halkett argues, that in recent years the rich have begun to “spend significantly less on conspicuous consumption and more on inconspicuous consumption”, such as “education, healthcare, pensions, and personal insurance”. They are buying the security and long-term elite status that are more valuable, in perilous times, than escape or pleasure.
Robot flying foxes and spiders: welcome to the factory of tomorrow, where artificial animals will do the hard work. You may also want to read Confessions of an accidental job destroyer (behind every piece of automation is a human who made it happen).
The European tech sectors that received the most funding in 2018 so far.
Who owns Mars? Thoughts about the future governance of the Red Planet:
While the first wave of travelers will be focused on securing the most basic conditions for sustenance — air, water, food, shelter — the next wave will utilize expertise and ingenuity to enhance those conditions. These engineers, scientists, doctors, and technologists will attempt to go from making sure Mars is survivable to making sure it’s livable, a subtle though real distinction. But as the colonial population increases, the colony will presumably start to resemble our planet’s major cities. While colonizers won’t expect the types of amenities of a New York or a Tokyo, they will begin to expect more services than an Antarctic outpost. Soon, mandatory personnel will give way to — in likely succession — wealthy tourists, entrepreneurs, economic migrants, opportunists, and…criminals.
Musk is one of the likeliest candidates to propel the human race into Mars, yet this does not mean he is the right person to map out our future there. The organizational and structural aspects of colonizing Mars—as opposed to its scientific and engineering challenges—require serious reflection, not armchair theorizing.
If you believe Mars colonisation is a too far and speculative topic, then get this down-to-earth one: Who owns the space under cities? Don’t think just in terms of classic drainage systems. Most of our connectivity is ensured by an underground constellation of cables. In the London metropolitan area only, £5.5bn is spent every year on exploratory excavation just to figure out what’s underground, and according to a 2013 Mayor of London report, £150m of damage is done every year to underground utilities because of a lack of information.
Coral reefs are successful ecosystems where symbiosis, opportunism, and complex interdependence create a harmonic foundation for the evolution and diversity of life. Corals have survived multiple global extinctions over millions of years, and yet man has only been building cities for several thousand, the lifespan of a typical reef. The Animal Collective has just finished Tangerine Reef, a full-lenght audiovisual album in collaboration with Coral Morphologic to commemorate the 2018 International Year of the Reef. No special effects were used in the video, it’s all natural flourescent coral and alien-like reef creatures. The full-length film will be released on August 17th at the band’s website Needless to say, all this beauty is at risk. Check the latest WWF’s report on plastic in the Mediterranean and let’s make it a ‘no straw in my cocktail, please’ Summer.
How a Facebook group for sexual assault survivors became a tool for harassment (and all the things that can possibly go wrong in FB groups setups). This one was created by a page, which makes it hard to pin down the real people responsible. At the same time, the fact that users are navigating the space with their real identity - and real traumatic stories in this case - made really easy the harassment part. Group content is given more prominence by Facebook as part of an effort to foster more “meaningful” connection on the platform. But ultimately, how do you administrate meaningfulness?
WhatsApp is offering $50,000 awards for social science proposals “that foster insights into the impact of technology on contemporary society” specifically related to misinformation on WhatsApp. Deadline: August 12.
10 Provocations for the Next 10 years of Social Innovation.
Making artificial intelligence socially just (why the current focus on ethics is not enough):
AI prompts us to re-evaluate ‘big’ questions relating to power, democracy and inequality (e.g. impending work automation through AI prompts a new basic income debate) and to what it means to be human. The biggest thing AI can do for humanity is forcing us to keep asking these questions: we must co-opt the AI discourse to keep addressing urgent social problems, rather than the other way around.
Get inspired by the ultimate and crowdsourced worldwide collection of tech ethics curricula.
‘That Others May Die’: autonomous military technology and the changing ethos in the battlefield.
A day in the life of Paul Denino, AKA Ice Poseidon, a twenty-three years old whose job is live broadcasting his life to thousands of obsessed viewers:
Denino is the most notorious of what are known as I.R.L. streamers. The I.R.L., or “in real life,” distinguishes them from people who broadcast themselves playing video games, which is what Denino did until he decided to take his act out of his bedroom. Now he treats the world as a game. The goal is to generate entertainment for his viewers. Denino’s viewers know his home address and his blood pressure. Everyone in his life is part of the show. He sees himself as an envoy to the real world on behalf of the culture of online trolling, in which anonymous malcontents provoke people with extreme speech and behavior. Hiding behind a screen name, Internet trolls can make a game out of offending people. When Denino trolls in the real world, the consequences are unavoidable.
How Fortnite became the Instagram of gaming (it’s not only about dopamine, there is also a very clever cross-platform policy) and surprised the whole gaming industry.
Leave Tinder to the plebs and try to get into Raya, the Holy Grail of networking apps. “Raya recreates the feel of dating or networking in a small town, where your reputation follows you. And that sense of trust has opened a big opportunity where competitors like Tinder or LinkedIn can’t follow.” DJ Skrillex, actor Elijah Wood and musician Demi Lovato are among its members.
Setting goals for impact is always easier than actually tracking that damn impact. New York is the first city to report to the UN on Sustainable Development Goals. The voluntary review describes the city’s progress toward the five SDGs the UN prioritized this year: clean water and sanitation; affordable and clean energy; sustainable cities and communities; responsible consumption and production; and protecting land. Meanwhile, the UN published the annual 2018 SDG Index and Dashboards, which presents an updated assessment of countries’ progress. Spoiler #1: nobody is on track. Spoiler #2: high-income countries generate significant environmental, economic, and security spillover effects that undermine other countries’ efforts to achieve the SDGs. Yet, there is high variation in spillovers among countries with a similar per capita income. Full report here.
If you take a snapshot of Berlin from space on a typical time of the day, you see 60,000 cars on the streets and 1,200,000 cars parked. Why are so many cars parked? Because cars are used only 36 minutes per day, while 95% of the time they just stand around unused. In Berlin, these 1.2 million parking spots take up the area of 64,000 playgrounds, or the area of 4 Central Parks. Thoughts for a better usage of public space.
How JD (or Jingdong, as the company is known in Chinese), the third-largest tech company in the world in terms of revenue, behind only Amazon and Alphabet, is colonising the Chinese countryside:
Although China has the most Internet users of any country and the largest e-commerce market in the world—more than twice the size of America’s—there are still hundreds of millions of Chinese whose lives have yet to migrate online. Analysts predict that China’s online retail market will double in size in the next two years, and that the growth will come disproportionately from third- and fourth-tier cities and from the country’s vast rural hinterland. Across China, JD has made a policy of recruiting local representatives who can exploit the thick social ties of traditional communities to drum up business.
That’s all, thanks for reading! During the Summer I will be evaluating these very first steps of the newsletter and think of improvements, any feedback on both the format and content is welcome! Thanks for staying with me so far.
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