A British startup has created a system for offering landlords continuous surveillance of their tenants' online activity to determine whether they are likely to be asset risks. The system, named Tenant Assured, connects to the tenants' social media accounts and mines their status updates, photos and private messages, feeding them to an algorithmic model, which is claimed to find potential signs of financial stress (which include posts with keywords like “loan” or “staying in”) or crime. The landlord gets an online dashboard, showing the tenant's social connections, and a histogram of their online activity times, as well as flagging up any potential danger signs, as well as a five-factor psychometric profile of the tenant, annotated with what a landlord should look for.
How Tumblr Users Transformed a Homophobic Post Into a Dystopian Science Fiction Lovefest [more inside]
This is the way the world ends: not with a bang but a bronchial spasm. That is, at least, according to William Delisle Hay’s 1880 novella The Doom of the Great City. It imagines the entire population of London choked to death under a soot-filled fog. The story is told by the event’s lone survivor sixty years later as he recalls “the greatest calamity that perhaps this earth has ever witnessed” at what was, for Hay’s first readers, the distant future date of 1942. -- Brett Beasley in the Public Domain review on one of the first modern urban apocalypse stories.
Meet the Hottest Restaurant of 2081. (via Gawker)
The Evil of Banality
The writer, theorist and academic Mark Fisher recently set up a Facebook page called ‘Boring Dystopia’, and invited the submission of photographs of Britain in the 21st century to illustrate the concept. I’ve already uploaded a few snaps, as manifestations of dullness and decay have long been an interest of mine, particularly the places where the banal and the broken intersect, and the true, terrible, tedious horror of modern life is revealed.[more inside]
CW Developing ‘Hyper-Stylized’ Reboot of ‘Little Women’ "Disparate half-sisters Jo, Meg, Beth, and Amy band together in order to survive the dystopic streets of Philadelphia and unravel a conspiracy that stretches far beyond anything they have ever imagined – all while trying not to kill each other in the process." [more inside]
The Web We Have to Save. SLhoder: "The rich, diverse, free web that I loved — and spent years in an Iranian jail for — is dying. Why is nobody stopping it?" (h/t mkb, via ...uh... facebook.)
"I merely want to remind us that cyberspace is a literary invention and does not really exist, however much time we spend on the computer every day. There is no such space radically different from the empirical, material room we are sitting in, nor do we leave our bodies behind when we enter it, something one rather tends to associate with drugs or the rapture. But it is a literary construction we tend to believe in; and, like the concept of immaterial labor, there are certainly historical reasons for its appearance at the dawn of postmodernity which greatly transcend the technological fact of computer development or the invention of the Internet." - Fredric Jameson looks back on Neuromancer by William Gibson
"Why the hero of my YA dystopian novel had to be an angry young Indian girl." [Guardian Books]
Laxmi Hariharan challenges the domination of dystopian western worlds in teen novels, why not a dystopian Asia or Latin America? And how it’s time for the stereotype-busting Angry Young (Indian) Girl to claim centre-stage.
Does The Handmaid's Tale hold up? , Adi Robertson for The Verge:
"A few weeks ago, I mentioned to a friend that I was in the middle of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. 'It’s like 1984 for feminists, right?' he asked. Sort of, I said. But it's a lot scarier. It's about how you'll lose every right you have, and none of the men you know will care. Then I said he would probably betray me if they froze all women's bank accounts. That was the peak of my paranoia, but it held on for several more days, as I read on the subway while half-consciously figuring out how I might theoretically escape to Canada. 1984 was for lightweights."[more inside]
"10 Lessons From Real-Life Revolutions That Fictional Dystopias Ignore"...because sometimes the biggest problems with Science Fiction is less 'getting the Science wrong' and more 'getting the Social Science wrong'.
I found this short film on Youtube (have also seen it on Vimeo) but am not exactly sure who the actors are. Short (< 3 minutes) movie about one year in a young girl's life. Packs a punch. Watch it twice.
Things That Don't Suck, Some Notes on The Stand
[Spoiler alert: assume everything, from the link above to those below, contains SPOILERS.] [more inside]
I recently reread The Stand for no particular reason other than I felt like it. I'm honestly not sure how many time[s] I've read it at this point, more than three, less than a half dozen (though I can clearly remember my first visit to that horrifyingly stripped bare world as I can remember the first reading of all the truly great King stories). It's not my favorite of King's work, but it is arguably his most richly and completely imagined. It truly is the American Lord of The Rings, with the concerns of England (Pastorialism vs. Industrialism, Germany's tendency to try and blow it up every thirty years or so) replaced by those of America (Religion, the omnipresent struggle between our liberal and libertarian ideals, our fear of and dependence on the military, racial and gender tension) and given harrowing size.
I'm happy to say that The Stand holds up well past the bounds of nostalgia and revisiting the world and these characters was as pleasurable as ever. But you can't step in the same river twice, even when you're revisiting a favorite book. Even if the river hasn't changed you have. This isn't meant as any kind of comprehensive essay on The Stand. Just a couple of things I noticed upon dipping my toes in the river this time.
[Spoiler alert: assume everything, from the link above to those below, contains SPOILERS.] [more inside]
Yang Yongliang's From The New World. It loses a little detail on the screen, since it is 4m by 8m. Try some detail here, here or here. [more inside]
The Exit Room. "In 2021, an imprisoned journalist facing execution contemplates a desperate escape attempt in order to return to his wife and newborn child." [Via]
Andrew Liptak has been writing a bi-monthly column on the history of Speculative Fiction for Kirkus Review since May 2012, in which he covers authors, artists, themes and times in history. From T.H. White's 'Once and Future King', to Isaac Asimov and the Three Laws of Robotics, from Changing the (Sci-Fi Publishing) Playing Field: H.L. Gold & 'Galaxy Science Fiction' to The Elusive Margaret St. Clair, and even A Brief History of the Dystopian Novel, Liptak illuminates dusty shelves of speculative fiction. [more inside]
Julianne Ross asks: Must Every YA Action Heroine Be Petite? Amy McCarthy asks a similar question: Why do all our young adult heroines look the same? Mandy Stewart also offers up her own advice: Be Divergent and Other Lessons for My Daughter. Interview with Veronica Roth on her book 'Insurgent' and feminism. [more inside]
Take a stroll through French artist Vincent Fournier‘s [previously] gallery of animal photographs, and you’re likely to come across some creatures you’ve never seen before. Like, for instance, a jellyfish that is capable of electronically transmitting data across the Abyssal depths of the ocean. Or, perhaps, a scorpion that can perform semi-automated surgery on humans. “These creatures come from the future—an imagined future, based loosely on current research on synthetic biology and genetic engineering,” says Fournier, of his project Post-Natural History, a series of digitally-altered photos of animals that do not yet exist. “The idea is that these are living species, reprogrammed by mankind to better fit our environment as well as to adapt to new human desires.”
Paolo Bacigalupi writes hard sci-fi set in the near future, inspired in part by the stories from his science journalist friends and the imminent future of cyberpunk. Some of his works have been classified as "biopunk," due to his focus on bio-engineered products that run rampant, with involvement for battling mega-corporations that (try to) run everything in a world where oil is expensive and human labor is cheap. His first published novel, The Windup Girl (Google books preview), won both the Hugo and Nebula awards in 2010. He has published three novels since then, all categorized as Young Adult fiction, but Bacigalupi sees his only adaptations for a younger audience to be to shift the focus to pacing, and less sexuality, but otherwise similar to his "adult" works. He has also written a number of short stories (plus a few non-fiction pieces) over the years, many of which can be found online. [more inside]
Our Science Fiction Movies Hate Science Fiction. An intelligent discourse from The Awl about the state of modern science fiction movies. [more inside]
District 9 director Neil Blomkamp talks to WIRED about Elysium, District 10, Halo, his desire to buy a skyscraper and almost casting Eminem or Ninja from Die Antwood in Elysium's Matt Damon role.
The Silence of Animals: On Progress and Other Modern Myths. Simon Critchley gives both an overview of philosopher John Gray's thought and reviews Gray's new book.
Orson Scott Card's Unaccompanied Sonata [Google Books], which he has called one of his favorite short stories, is an darkly enchanting tale about a boy who, at a young age, is taken from his family and brought to a house deep in the forest...
"Your job as immigration inspector is to control the flow of people entering the Arstotzkan side of Grestin from Kolechia. Among the throngs of immigrants and visitors looking for work are hidden smugglers, spies, and terrorists. Using only the documents provided by travelers and the Ministry of Admission's primitive inspect, search, and fingerprint systems you must decide who can enter Arstotzka and who will be turned away or arrested."Papers, Please is a "dystopian document thriller" game by Lukas Pope. (Downloadable, for Windows/OSX; NSFW) [more inside]
Time for Teletubbies: Radical Utopian Fiction - how the BBC children's show reveals our posthuman future.
Ladies and Gentlemen, tired of the usual vacation spot? Want to get away from crowded beaches and cluttered national forests? Why not visit new-and-improved locations like: Permian Basin, Texas! Or Bull Shoals Dam, in Arkansas. Try a less-well-known section of Virginia Beach! Drive up to see the glaciers at Glacier National Park. [more inside]
Not content with displacing the poor, menacing photographers and blocking ambulances the london olympics now wants ground-to-air missiles, presumably to shoot down rogue skywriters who might misuse it's brand.
Boston Dynamics is getting close to mastering quadrupedal motion with Big Dog and Cheetah (previously). And are working on bipedal motion with Petman (previously), but how about a robot that is able to leap (up to the top of) tall buildings in a single bound? Sand Flea! [more inside]
Science fiction always uses it in varying degrees. Some believe it will bring about a perfect Technological Utopia:Heaven on Earth. Some believe it will herald a dark and dystopian future. Perhaps it will elevate man to a being that is more than human; Human+ and permanently and irrevocably transform the human condition, and still others believe that too much involvement in it will void your existence. Some religions totally depend on it and others find it harder to deal with: The list of emerging technologies.
"All of us in the environment movement, in other words – whether we propose accomodation, radical downsizing or collapse – are lost." Is human civilization hitting the sustainability wall? If so, the environmental movement seems blocked about what to do about it, broods George Monbiot. Nobody likes a "steady state economy", and the worse things get, the harder that option is to achieve. Plus green contradictions might vitiate effective action: "the same worldview tells us that we must reduce emissions, defend our landscapes and resist both the state and big business. The four objectives are at odds." [more inside]
As California goes, so goes the country, they used to say. Well, yikes. Golden State, an n+1 piece by Nikil Saval, presents a bleak picture of paralysis and conflicted interests that has rendered "The Bellwether State" all but inoperable. (via Arts & Letters Daily)
South Dakota Rep. Hal Wick (R-Sioux Falls), is sponsoring a bill [text] which would require all citizens to buy a firearm “sufficient to provide for their ordinary self-defense” within six months of turning age 21. Rep. Wick said he is introducing the bill to prove a point that the federal health care reform mandate passed last year is unconstitutional. [previously] [more inside]
Miami Police Set to Become First State in the US to Use Drones. As also discussed here on TPM, the new drones offer "unique hover and stare capability... advanced intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) with real time video documentation." If things proceed to plan, this will represent the first use of such devices both in the US and outside of combat environments. The resemblance between these Honeywell-manufactured devices and the ubiquitous, menacing City Scanners that populate the dystopian landscape of the popular video game series Half-Life is striking.
Extra, by Ken Ishii. [NSFW]
"My web site will encourage kindness among those who support it, and creative punishment for those who do not." Mefi's own Shepherd "got a little carried away" creating his blog's under construction placeholder page. The result is a terrifying dystopic epic. [via mefi projects]
Why are so many recent Young Adult novels set in nightmarish futuristic dystopias? Because they're just like high school. [more inside]
The results of the recent National Assessment of Education Progress (NEAP) tests are in. Detroit students posted the worst math scores ever in the history of the test. [more inside]
Animals isolated in dystopian tableaux.
The art of Jason Courtney takes a personal tour on some of the moments of Margaret Atwood's dystopia Oryx & Crake - a visit to the pigoons or Snowman's morning view, pausing to reflect on the enigmatic beauty of Oryx. [more inside]
Microsoft has just announced Songsmith. What is it? I think it is some Karaoke / Garageband / Guitar-hero like thing.
All I do know is: The promotional ad video for it is a trainwreck.
All I do know is: The promotional ad video for it is a trainwreck.
A Review of Criticality Accidents (3.7 MB pdf) Do you like reading comp.risks, or CVR transcripts from famous plane crashes? Then you may enjoy this technical analysis of 60 accidents where improper handling of fissile materials led to unexpected critical mass. [more inside]
2009: A True Story. "My name is Sara Ford and I am 18 years old. I moved to California at the end of last year. Before the first attacks... before everything changed." [Via] [more inside]
Dystopian storytelling is pillar of Western narrative tradition, but this decade has seen a significant shift in the way our apocalypse is told. Orthodox tales of government tyranny are giving way to visions of humans running helpless in the wake of environmental meltdown. From the plausible to the fantastic, most of this fiction remains hauntingly real while the non-fiction can get downright scary. In 2008, the 20th anniversary of climatologist James Hansen's landmark speech before Congress, popular art is beginning to reflect an increasingly bleak public sentiment on the future, playing out some of our worst nightmares. It may be that these writers and directors are wishing for the end of the world, but even so, they are certainly giving voice to the creeping feeling that indeed, we might not make it.
Online communities to become more 'all-encompassing.' If you join the SHC community on Sears.com, all web traffic to and from your computer thereafter will be copied and sent to a third party marketing research firm - including, for example, your secure sessions with your bank! The Sears.com proxy will send your logins and passwords along with a cleartext copy of all the supposedly secure data. But wait, it gets better: you can only view the true TOS once the proxy has already been installed. [more inside]
Depending on who you believe, either Guy Pearce or Viggo Mortensen will be cast in the lead role of the film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's utterly brilliant dystopia, The Road. To my mind, the adaptation marks Hollywood's rekindling of the almost forgotten genre of the post-apocalyptical movie. With Mad Max, The Postman, Threads and The Day After, nuclear annihilation loomed large in the imaginations of filmmakers in the 70s and 80s. Since then cinematic dystopia has been projected in the realm of the fantastic (think 12 Monkey's, The Matrix and 28 Days Later). If dystopia is really just a satire of the present, what does the film adaptation of The Road tell us about the our times?
On December 8th, pretend to be a time traveller.
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