Category Archives: General

Dataspace 0: Those Memex Dreams Again

Computing in the Internet age has a number of inspiring visions: legendary systems, some of which got built, some of which remained hypothetical, “dream machines”. Among them are: Vannevar Bush’s Memex (1945).  Ted Nelsen’s Xanadu (1960). J R Licklider’s Intergalactic Computer Network (1963).  Douglas Engelbart’s NLS (1968) and Alan Kay’s Dynabook (also 1968). William Gibson’s Cyberspace (1982).

These visions serve to anchor our ideas about what’s possible and how we might achieve it.

This is not one of those.

It is, however, a very rough sketch of an idea about what a future computing system might look like. I don’t know how to get from here to there, or even if ‘there’ is entirely satisfactory. But I feel that a ‘there’ roughly in this vicinity is somewhere we should be heading towards.

Let’s start with what the ‘here’ is that is less satisfactory.

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Playlist Notes: Solid State Revolution

Early 2017. Donald Trump has been elected, and from nuclear war my Twitter timeline is turning to thoughts of revolution. My Youtube playlist is now branching from synthpop into punk. I’ve already got a few songs like ‘Breakout’ and ‘Different Morning’ which feel like they need a context to place them in.

And then I discovered ‘Solid State Logic’ and everything just clicked and I had to make a third playlist because all the pieces were there and I had a through-line.

I like this playlist as much or more than the last one. There are some songs I’d forgotten for years which have deep resonance for me.

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Playlist Notes: Tomorrow

Here are some of my notes on my New Wave music playlists. If this kind of minutiae bores you senseless, feel free to look away. I’m mostly just interested in trying to document my creative process (whatever it may be). Also some of this music has personal memories for me – or what I assume are memories, since most of it I hadn’t heard since the 80s, or early 90s, until I started this project.

‘Tomorrow’ was my first playlist and started because I’d stumbled on some music – I think it was Danseparc, actually – and began wondering what else was out there. I was looking mostly for music I wanted to listen to, that had a space and future kind of vibe. After I’d collected a bunch I found I wanted to try to chain songs together based on their flow – again, mostly just for my own listening pleasure, to avoid jerky changes.

At some point though it started building toward a climax and resolution, and by that point  I knew I had to have nuclear war as the climax.

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Rogue Dreams and the Singularity Curve

No, my father didn’t fight in the wars. He was a navigator on a spice freighter.

That’s what your uncle told you. He didn’t hold with your father’s ideals. Thought he should have stayed here and not gotten involved.

You fought in the Clone Wars?

Yes, I was once a Jedi Knight the same as your father.

I wish I’d known him.

He was the best star-pilot in the galaxy, and a cunning warrior.

The young man thumbs the plasblade’s stud while the old man smiles, his eyes travelling back to a distant time…

The GALACTIC DEMOCRON shines across a million suns, an interlocking nexus of cultures united in representative politics on its shining capital planet. It has stood for 20,000 solar years, an elegant frozen tableau of 1970s-ish American suburbia protected by its enigmatic and vaguely Asian battle-sages, the KNIGHTS OF WUXIA.  It might stand for a hundred thousand more. But dark winds of change are swirling, amid rumours that the dreaded DARK LORDS OF NU-METAL, last faced a thousand years ago, have returned. Their terrible leader, CHAD NYKYLBACK…

Yes, okay, but how does it actually work? This whole galaxy-falls-to-fascism-in-a-generation thing?

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Knight Rider and Family-Friendly Armageddon

In 1984 I turned thirteen.

It was a year of political lightning, like 2016 though perhaps slightly less crazy. In New Zealand, the three-term National government of Rob Muldoon – considered “right-wing” at the time, but economically leftist and state-interventionist – had fallen in July to the newly reinvented Labour Party: a hybrid left-right alliance of the charismatic young lawyer David Lange, who would ban nuclear ships from New Zealand, decriminalise homosexuality, and begin land reparations for the indigenous Maori – and the right-libertarian Roger Douglas, who aimed to turn New Zealand into a corporate tax-haven paradise with zero state services or welfare.

The political rhetoric unleashed that year was not kind. Government economic management was Stalinism gone mad, going to crush us all. No, the right wing were insane, going to starve us and hurl the poor and elderly into the streets. *

(* 32 years later, the second one turned out to be correct. )

In the United States of America, a Presidential election year was a referendum on both Ronald Reagan’s right-wing economics and his military adventurism; pop culture was full of nuclear despair. And in Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative United Kingdom, George Orwell’s namesake book was echoing everywhere, seized on by both left and right as an allegory of state power and the terrifying future we might or might be hurtling toward because of the new-fangled “microchip“.

Our family belonged to a strict conservative church. I was young for my age, with very little media exposure, but a head full of much weirder ideas. My mother had subscribed to an underground Christian conspiracy zine obsessed with End Times theology, predicting the rise of ‘The Beast’, an evil world dictator with supernatural powers and a giant computer, who would stamp a barcode/microchip on our forehead and then damn our souls to eternity. My brother was obsessed with UFOs, the Roswell cover-up, and extraterrestrial alien infiltration of the US military system. (A meme that would burst into pop culture about ten years later, via The X-Files). That was if the Bomb didn’t drop and burn the whole planet to a cinder.

Three apocalypses for the price of one! Yay.

Continue reading Knight Rider and Family-Friendly Armageddon