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Topsight: January 27, 2009

Okay, I gotta close these tabs...

• Robots!: BoingBoing points to a chart at IEEE Spectrum showing the number of industrial robots per manufacturing worker. Top of the list: Japan, naturally, at 295 robots per 10,000 workers. Singapore is second at 169, and the US has a meagre 85 per 10K. All interesting stuff, to be sure, but I'd love to see a more general robots per person figure, including little devices like Roombas and Pleos. That'll be a fun number to watch over the next decade or two.

• Filter This: One of the posters at Near Future Laboratory -- I believe it was Julian Bleecker -- just eviscerates the prospectus for an upcoming conference on "Pervasive Advertising." Beautifully done.

There’s really not much more of an end game for pervasive advertising than that of the extrapolation of today’s conditions as in the remarkable design fiction of Spielberg’s visual rendering of P.K. Dick’s “Minority Report”. The assemblage of participants in the world of advertising is optimized for itself, which is well-greased linkages between me, my “interests” (to the extent these translate into commerce) and those who have something to gain in economic terms from selling me my interests. It’s optimized to leverage the pervasively networked, databased world and this can only lead to an intensely uninspired, technically awesome, intrusive and annoying world.

He also offers a hundred bucks to the first person to come up with a compelling version of an economically-vibrant world without advertising.

• Crooked Charlie: Charlie Stross is now engaged in an extended conversation over at Crooked Timber, chatting about his books -- and the ideas and scenarios they present -- with folks like Ken Macleod, Brad DeLong, and Paul Krugman. Yeah, that Paul Krugman.

So far, we have discussions of development economics, the rights of robots, and the question of what would the onset of a singularity really look like...


If you want to check out a post-singularity world, try Terry Dowling's excellent 'Rynosseros' series. The world it depicts appears to have been slugged by several 'pseudo-singularities' involving diebacks, terraforming, artificial life/intelligence, psionic aboriginals...

The blurb describes Dowling as 'one of Australia's best futurists', which appears to be confusing speculative fiction with the art of prediction (while it's fun to speculate, *predicting* a post-singularity world strikes me as oxymoronic)

In response to Julian Bleeckers wishes surely "The Venus Project" by Jaque Fresco deserves the 100 bucks. I'm not suggesting that his utopian vision is feasible, but, he does describe a resource-based economy devoid of money and advertising.


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