All posts by Paul Raven

Six foot of unkempt postgraduate researcher.

weapons of mass distraction

Geoff Manaugh / knows the score*. Your outrage is exactly what they want:

… an endless landslide of trivial distractions has been steadily eliminating the ground needed for systemic political change. People who might once have been an opposition—or, even better, people who might once have been leaders capable of articulating a clear way forward, rather than a muddled, shy, often weirdly apologetic way to resist someone else’s initiative—are left genuinely believing that if only Mike Pompeo could be forced to admit that an NPR reporter knows where Ukraine is, then some sort of symbolic, magical goal will be achieved.

Remix as necessary for non-USian contexts. Note that he’s not saying you shouldn’t get angry; he’s saying that taking your anger to the birdsite and performing it to your siblings-in-anger is not just useless, but actively counterproductive.

Note also that he’s right.


BLDGBLOG is of the blogs I’m gladdest to see fire back into life this year; Manaugh was always something of a blogging hero to me back in the day, someone to emulate. He has a deceptively simple “beat” or home topic, often approached from a more-or-less science-fictional angle; he writes clearly and regularly; and he can be quite concise. I am much better at two of these things than the third one yes ok no prize for pointing that out thankyouverymuch. Prolixity is my signature move; other blogs are available!

[ * There is a prize for identifying this cultural reference in the comments, but receiving the prize is contingent on your managing not to make me feel old in the manner of your mentioning it. So good luck with that! ]

many bodies have borne the burden or paid the price / cli-fi as null category

Lindsay Lerman discusses What “Climate Fiction” Does. (They’re her air-quotes, by the way, although I’m in full agreement with her reasons for using them.)

… it is crucial that we recognize that, ultimately, there is no “cli-fi” and “not cli-fi.” All fiction has to grapple with place or setting in some way, and fiction often gives voice to concerns about place, setting, environment, etc. in ways that stretch our understanding, our imaginative capacity, and even the language we have at our disposal to describe unfolding phenomena. […] We must recognize that the ecological catastrophe increasingly featured in popular fiction is not new and that many bodies have borne the burden or paid the price of [this] catastrophe. Their stories have not often been told; indeed, they have not often been considered worth telling.

[…] we must keep in mind this capacity of ours to think into existence what does not yet (fully) exist. As broadly understood as possible, this capacity is what we call imagination—something that artists and thinkers with “political” interests and concerns have understood well. Imagination can never take the place of policy, but we must ask ourselves whether and how imagination can inform policy.

Very germane to our work in Climaginaries and elsewhere.

a cranky aspiration

Chairman Bruce on AI ethics at LARB:

In the hermetic world of AI ethics, it’s a given that self-driven cars will kill fewer people than we humans do. Why believe that? There’s no evidence for it. It’s merely a cranky aspiration. Life is cheap on traffic-choked American roads — that social bargain is already a hundred years old. If self-driven vehicles doubled the road-fatality rate, and yet cut shipping costs by 90 percent, of course those cars would be deployed.