Thursday, May 3, 2007

The anti-Moore's Law

Anyone who's read my fiction has probably figured out my perspective on life-support/environmental issues. I tend not to talk about such stuff here, not because I don't find it relevant or important, but because it's not new or cutting edge; the non-self-aggrandizing parts of this 'crawl serve as a kind of scratch pad for things I find challenging or thought-provoking in some way, and it's been a while since the science on habitat destruction, species loss, and climate change has done anything but reinforce grim conclusions decades old.

Today, though, I make an exception because of two items in juxtaposition: first, it turns out that the most pessimistic climate-change models were in fact way too naively cheerful, and that the Arctic icecap is melting three times faster than even Cassandra foresaw. And secondly, our ability to monitor such changes is declining thanks to decreasing investment in orbital earth-monitoring programs— to the point where satellites are actually becoming "less capable" over time. The technology is devolving.

And this is a little bit on the new side. Like all the other Children of Brunner, I always knew the place was turning to shit— but I'd at least hoped that technology would let us watch it happen in hi-def.

I keep saying it, but no one believes me: I'm an optimist...

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Blogger Chizzle said...


we human's stupid dumb hot things.

me sad.

go drive truck.


May 3, 2007 11:14 AM  
Blogger Pharaohmagnetic said...

This wouldn't be the first time that technology devolved. People living among the ruins of the Roman empire thought that the roads underfoot and aqueducts overhead must have been built by giants. I can imagine a near future when island-dwelling Waterworlders attribute the motion of relic satellites to angry star-gods. And then sacrifce their kids to them.

Hooray for the coming Dark Ages!

May 3, 2007 11:24 AM  
Blogger Fraxas said...

it is simultaneously awesome and terrible that biocide (great word, btw) has become passé.

"We're killing the environment!"

May 3, 2007 12:02 PM  
Blogger Derryl Murphy said...

Funny how this is one area where I just might be more pessimistic than you. And then I went and reproduced.


May 3, 2007 5:59 PM  
Blogger Scott C. said...

This post has been removed by the author.

May 3, 2007 9:01 PM  
Blogger Mac said...

Re. optimism: I believe you! Seriously. So am I.

May 4, 2007 1:29 AM  
Blogger Mac said...

Er, I meant to say "because I'm an optimist too," but you get the idea.

May 4, 2007 1:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

whose 'Brunner'? sounds interesting.

May 4, 2007 9:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

chizzle, I think that was a haiku. Not that I counted or anything ;)

anonymous (i.e. the one who isn't me), Brunner is ... well, the only way I can describe him these days is "the spiritual godfather to Peter Watts". Definitely check out Stand on Zanzibar and The Sheep Look Up.

- anonypost by razorsmile, who revels in his on/off Google-evading inconsisitency

May 4, 2007 10:32 AM  
Blogger Jetse de Vries said...

Who's Brunner?


John Brunner wrote -- amongst many other things -- a series of four dystopian SF novels in the late 60s, early 70s that were very widely acclaimed (one won a Hugo), and that are increasingly proving to be quite visionary.

They were:

"Stand on Zanzibar" (1968, Hugo Award winner);
"The Jagged Orbit" (1969);
"The Sheep Look Up" (1972);
"The Shockwave Rider" (1975)

While "Stand on Zanzibar" (about overpopulation and its effects) is the most acclaimed one, "The Shockwave Rider" famously foresaw computer viruses (called 'tapeworms' in the novel). However, I suspect Peter (Watts) had "The Sheep Look Up" in mind with this post.

I recall reading a review, some fifteen or twenty years ago, about this novel that focusses on environmental pollution, stating that "the novel was overstating its case".

The Encyclopedia of SF calls it "the most unrelenting and convincing dystopia of the four, and depressingly well documented..."

Thing is, if you read it now, almost 35 years later, it is indeed right on the money in a lot of cases, which is truly scaring since -- I think -- it was *meant* to be a warning, an 'if-this-goes-on' scenario humanity should avoid.

I think John Brunner himself -- if he was still alive -- would have found the fact that quite a lot of his extrapolations of "The Sheep Look Up" were in the ballpark quite depressing.

I think it's Brunner's best, and a classic. I also suspect that Peter (Watts) will be highly chuffed if "Blindsight" will stand up the test of time just as well in 35 years.

May 4, 2007 1:48 PM  
Blogger Peter Watts said...

Hey, anonymous...

What Razorsmile and Jetse said.

I also wrote a brief essay in the man's memory when he died. I thought I'd already posted it on the backlist page, but I see I haven't.

Something else to do when I get around to it...

May 5, 2007 10:42 AM  
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October 26, 2007 3:55 AM  

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