Elsewhere

When Imagining The Future Start With Breakfast And Extrapolate -- Margaret Atwood

http://www.fastcocreate.com/3020366/master-class/how-margaret-atwood-creates-scary-plausible-future-worlds?partner=rss&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed: fastcocreate/feed (Co.Create)

an excerpt from Joe Berkowitz’ piece, How Margaret Atwood Creates Scary-Plausible Worlds

• Breakfast can take you quite far •

This may sound silly, but I like to wonder what people would have for breakfast—which people, as their breakfasts would be different—and where they would get those food items, and whether or not they would say a prayer over them, and how they would pay for them, and what they would wear during that meal, and, if cooked, how, and what sort of bed they would have arisen from, and what else they might be doing while having the breakfast—talking to someone (who), in person or on a device (what?), and who would be allowed to do that, and what they might feel safe in saying. Breakfast can take you quite far.

…urban networks in the contemporary city are largely hidden, opaque, invisible, disappearing underground, locked into pipes, cables, conduits, tubes, passages and electronic waves. It is exactly this hidden form that renders the tense relationship between nature and the city blurred, that contributes to severing the process of social transformation of nature from the process of urbanization. Perhaps more importantly, the hidden flows and their technological framing render occult the social relations and power mechanisms that are scripted in and enacted through these flows. However, urban networks have not always been opaque. […] In particular, during the early stages of nineteenth-century modernization, urban networks and their connecting iconic landmarks were prominently visual and present […] When the urban became constructed as agglomerated use values that turned the city into a theatre of accumulation and economic growth, urban networks became the iconic embodiments of and shrines to a technologically scripted image and practice of progress. Once completed, the networks became buried underground, invisible, rendered banal and relegated to an apparently marginal, subterranean urban underworld.

Kaika and Swyngedouw, in the deliciously titled “Fetishizing the Modern City: The Phantasmagoria of Urban Technological Networks" (2000)

(via adhocratic)

No free market, no open society, no democracy is truly fully transparent. For them to function, there is a certain amount of opacity, of black box, of immateriality, if you will. There has always been our known world, and a clear place where there be dragons.

Now, the gears, the algorithms, the processes have become the machine itself. While we were sleeping, while we were occupied with growing the network, creating connections, (and in some cases protecting our position and privilege) the machine has become its own reality, or, at best, a tool of other realities. We are happy to quantify ourselves, but don’t expect to be quantified by others. Citizenship is considered our opt-in to be measured, monitored, and watched over by infrastructure. Bridges, books and glasses increasingly have rights now, but we have fewer. We’ve ticked the box on the end user license agreement that says someone else can now own our measurements and personal geometry.

So we face a question: Is this still flat plane on which we seek to build? Or have the spikes in our spiky world become bubble-realities of their own? The so-called scandals of overreach we find so abhorrent are actually the shape of ghost infrastructure we’ve allowed to be built, its operators the defenders of a separate set of rules. Is this our world warped, or is it something else, or many other things?

Can we still own, control, manage these infrastructures, or these superstructures as they’ve become? Do we have any way of seeing into, much less tune, the formulae inside these black boxes? How do they see us? How do we render to them? Have we lost control of them, and can we ever gain a view into them?

Is all of the rhetorical discussion of innovation also now bent in service to these infrastructures? Who is going to innovate and create futures for us? Where do our reality building tools come from? What does this mean for culture? For creativity? Is it about wrestling the one reality we’ve always thought we operated under, and shaping its contours, or about trying to discover and/or the shape of new ones?

Scott Smith, Recalibrating Reality

Scott Smith chaired a panel called Reality Check at the recent Improving Reality 2013, which I am sorry to have missed. Some other samples:

We are excited to reveal that our media partner for Improving Reality 2013 is Arc. Arc was created by the makers of the New Scientist, and has emerged as one of the most exciting forums for writing about the near-future, science and science fiction. Arc will be sending a group of correspondents to the conference to capture the discussions. Their editor, Simon Ings will also be contributing as a moderator.

18.09.13 – Web Designer and Artist Natalie Kane blogs about Improving Reality 2013 for Medium

03.09.2013 – Improving Reality speaker Paul Graham Raven’s blog for Arc on our relationship to infrastructures

02.09.2013 – Improving Reality speaker Georgina Voss’s blog for Arc on the political future of food

02.09.2013 – Improving Reality speaker Tobias Revell’s blog for Arc on building worlds

21.08.2013 – Arc interview Lighthouse’s Artistic Director Honor Harger about Improving Reality and announce an exclusive ticket giveaway

Already claims are to be heard that future studies are merely an instrument whereby powerful groups, states or nations seek to impose their own image of the future, to create self fulfilling predictions in their own interests, and to undermine the hopes and confidence of those attracted to different visions of what the world might be.

John Goldthorpe, Theories of Industrial Society: Reflection on the Recrudescence of Historicism and the Future of Futurology

The new mindset for risk managers requires rituals and approaches that are deeply embedded in the scenario thinking process: a capacity for learning, an appreciation of uncertainty and ambiguity, an understanding of the value of strategic conversation and a willingness to explore uncharted territory. Increasingly, executives are appreciating that the changing nature of risk requires approaches that may initially be uncomfortable, but over time turn out to be more effective in embracing the unknown.

Doug Randall and Chris Ertel, Moving Beyond The Official Future

The Great Senior Sell-Off Could Cause the Next Housing Crisis - Emily Badger - The Atlantic Cities

http://www.theatlanticcities.com/housing/2013/03/aging-baby-boomers-and-next-housing-crisis/4863/

This scenario won’t happen, because the urban flip-flop is already in progress, but read it anyway:

The Great Senior Sell-Off Could Cause the Next Housing Crisis - Emily Badger

According to data from the American Housing Survey, from 1989 and 2009, 80 percent of new homes built in that era were detached single-family homes. A third of them were larger than 2,500 square feet. And most startling – “I checked my numbers over and over again,” a bemused Nelson says – 40 percent were built on lots of half an acre to 10 acres in size. Now, he says, 74 percent of new housing demand will come from the people who bought these homes, now empty-nesters, wanting to downsize.

A vast majority of today’s households with children still want such houses, Nelson says. But about a quarter of them want something else, like condos and urban townhouses. That demand “used to be almost zero percent, and if it’s now 25 percent,” Nelson says, “that’s a small share of the market but a huge shift in the market.” And this is half of the reason why many baby boomers may not find buyers for their homes. “Even if the numbers matched,” Nelson says, “the preferences don’t.”

Demographics will further complicate this picture. We’re moving toward a future in America when minorities will become the majority. But given entrenched educational achievement gaps, particularly for the fast-growing Hispanic population, Nelson fears that the U.S. is not doing a good job educating the “new majority” to make the kinds of incomes that will be required to buy the homes we’ve already built.

As the Hispanic population expands, and more baby boomers retire, the gap between the two groups in the housing market – expressed in unsellable houses – will only widen.

“That’s going to hit us,” Nelson says. “Not right now. But my guess is that about the turn of the decade, that number will become a real number. It’s only a few percentage points now, but it’s like a glacier, and if it keeps moving and building and growing, it’s going to be a big number in about 2020.”

Roughly 7 percent of over-65 households move each year, and as people get older, their likelihood of moving from owning to renting gets higher and higher (it’s about 79 percent for households over 85). By 2020, there were will be around 35 million over-65 households in the U.S. That year, Nelson calculates, seniors who would like to become renters will be trying to sell about 200,000 more owner-occupied homes than there will be new households entering the market to buy them. By 2030, that figure could rise to half a million housing units a year.

“Between changing preferences and declining median household income because of poor education – because we’re not willing to spend money on education,” Nelson says, “that means we can predict the next housing crash, and that’ll be in about 2020.”

In that environment, he says, there will be two classes of seniors in America: those “aging in place” voluntarily, and those “aging in place” involuntarily because they can’t sell their homes. Nelson is critical that “aging in place” will really be feasible for many seniors.

“It’s romantic for the first 15 years when you’re turning 65 and retired,” he says. “But aging in place among 90-year-olds? 95-year-olds?” Many of these people, he predicts, won’t realize that they can’t mow the lawn or pay for repairs until they’re really elderly, and the market for the their homes has collapsed even further. “My suspicion,” Nelson says, “is that many hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of those households in the 2020s to 2030 and beyond will simply give up the house and walk away.”

Why won’t this happen? We’re undergoing a huge urban flip-flop. Empty nesters and hipsters are moving into the city core, displacing the urban poor. Those former city dwellers are moving to the near suburbs, and Exurbia is emptying out.

Rather than a straight drop in the next decade we’ll see a downward slide of exurban populations, and a demographic switch in core cities and near suburbs.

The wealthy seniors will have moved to hacked office buildings in the former financial district, the hipsters will live in the lofts of what was once Chinatown, and the poor oldsters will live across the river in what used to be the prosperous commuter town, now with aging strip malls turned into old age communities, and unwalkable neighborhoods populated with immigrants waiting at bus stops to commute to hotel and restaurant jobs in the city. Out in the former exurban fringe, back-to-the-landers are building a circle of farms, and growing produce, cattle, chicken, and goats, turning abandoned car dealerships into greenhouses and Dairy Queens into barns.

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