Saturday, September 11, 2010

future reading

NOTE to Future of Life students: in addition to Bill Joy's "Why the Future Doesn't Need Us," the syllabus promised some discussion on Monday of transhumanists and gerontologists including Aubrey de Grey. Stay tuned, we'll get to all that a little later.* 

Meanwhile, we'll stick to Joy on Monday. 

On Wednesday we'll look at some of the founding documents of the Long Now Foundation from Hillis &  Eno, et al, then get started with Brand's Clock of the Long Now.

*But if you're dying right now to think about living forever, check out this funny excerpt from Gary Shteyngart's new novel Super Sad True Love Story:
Today I’ve made a major decision: I am never going to die. Others will die around me. They will be nullified. Nothing of their personality will remain. The light switch will be turned off. Their lives, their entirety, will be marked by glossy marble headstones bearing false summations (“her star shone brightly,” “never to be forgotten,” “he liked jazz”), and then these too will be lost in a coastal flood or get hacked to pieces by some genetically modified future-turkey.
Don’t let them tell you life’s a journey. A journey is when you end up somewhere. When I take the number 6 train to see my social worker, that’s a journey. When I beg the pilot of this rickety United-ContinentalDeltamerican plane currently trembling its way across the Atlantic to turn around and head straight back to Rome and into Eunice Park’s fickle arms, that’s a journey.
But wait. There’s more, isn’t there? There’s our legacy. We don’t die because our progeny lives on! The ritual passing of the DNA, Mama’s corkscrew curls, his granddaddy’s lower lip, ah buh-lieve thuh chil’ren ah our future. I’m quoting here from “The Greatest Love of All,” by 1980s pop diva Whitney Houston, track nine of her eponymous first LP.
Utter nonsense. The children are our future only in the most narrow, transitive sense. They are our future until they too perish. The song’s next line, “Teach them well and let them lead the way,” encourages an adult’s relinquishing of selfhood in favor of future generations. The phrase “I live for my kids,” for example, is tantamount to admitting that one will be dead shortly and that one’s life, for all practical purposes, is already over. “I’m gradually dying for my kids” would be more accurate.
What would John Dewey say? Well, I'll tell you... on Monday.

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