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Feed Roundup

How science fiction influences thinking about the future

Boing Boing - 24 April, 2014 - 01:00

Eileen Gunn writes, "What's science fiction good for? The May issue of Smithsonian magazine has an essay on the relationship between science, science fiction, and the future by Boing Boing buddy Eileen Gunn. Major writers -- Ursula K. Le Guin, William Gibson, Neal Stephenson, Samuel R. Delany, Kim Stanley Robinson, Cory Doctorow and others -- talk about why science fiction likes to think about the future and how SF can be used to help scientists think about the uses and ethics of their inventions. The rest of the issue covers science and ethical issues of the near future."

Kim Stanley Robinson—the best-selling author of the Mars trilogy, 2312 and Shaman—shares this fear, and sees it manifested in the popularity of Suzanne Collins’ novel The Hunger Games, in which a wealthy governing class uses ruthless gladiatorial games to sow fear and helplessness among the potentially rebellious, impoverished citizens. “Science fiction represents how people in the present feel about the future,” Robinson says. “That’s why ‘big ideas’ were prevalent in the 1930s, ’40s and partly in the ’50s. People felt the future would be better, one way or another. Now it doesn’t feel that way. Rich people take nine-tenths of everything and force the rest of us to fight over the remaining tenth, and if we object to that, we are told we are espousing class warfare and are crushed. They toy with us for their entertainment, and they live in ridiculous luxury while we starve and fight each other. This is what The Hunger Games embodies in a narrative, and so the response to it has been tremendous, as it should be.”

For his part, William Gibson believes that to divide science fiction into dystopian and utopian camps is to create a “pointless dichotomy.” Although his seminal 1984 cyberpunk novel, Neuromancer, depicts a gritty, scarcity-driven future, he does not consider his work pessimistic. “I’ve only ever wanted to be naturalistic,” he says. “I assumed I was being less than dystopian in the 1980s, because I was writing about a world that had gotten out of the cold war intact. That actually seemed unrealistic to many intelligent people at the time.”

The distinction between dystopian and utopian may often seem to hinge on whether the author personally has hope for a better future. Robinson, for instance, consistently has taken on big, serious, potentially dystopian topics, such as nuclear war, ecological disaster and climate change. He does not, however, succumb to despair, and he works out his solutions in complex, realistic, well-researched scientific detail. Of his own work, he says, “Sure, use the word utopian.”

How America’s Leading Science Fiction Authors Are Shaping Your Future [Eileen Gunn/Smithsonian]

(Thanks, Eileen!)

(Image: Mehreen Murtaza)

Categories: The Essentials

Motorola ships 6.5 million phones in 2014 thanks to Moto G

from News.com - 24 April, 2014 - 00:59
With record sales in India and a resurgence in the UK, the wallet-friendly Motorola Moto G has helped drive Motorola to 6.5 million sales so far in 2014.

Categories: Open Source

Marvelous 18th century secretary cabinet

Boing Boing - 24 April, 2014 - 00:51

Please enjoy this video of my new writing desk with its hidden compartments, clockwork mechanisms, chimes, inkwell, and sand sifter. It was built in the workshop of Abraham and David Roentgen during the 18th century and previously owned by King Frederick William II. OK, fine, it's not mine. But it will be. Someday. SOMEDAY! (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, thanks Bob Pescovitz!)

Categories: The Essentials

Google Opens Up Street View Archives From 2007 To Today

Slashdot - 24 April, 2014 - 00:48
mpicpp (3454017) writes with news that Google is publishing all Street View imagery back to 2007. Quoting Ars: "The feature hasn't rolled out to many accounts yet, but it looks like a small, draggable window will be added to the Street View interface. Just move the time slider around and you'll be able to jump through past images. Granted, Street View has only been around for a few years, so the archives only go back to 2007. A few of the events Google suggests browsing through are the building of One World Trade Center and the destruction and rebuilding of Onagawa, Japan after the 2011 earthquake. Besides being really cool, the move will save Google from having to choose a canonical Street View image for every location. If the current image is blacked-out or wrong in some way, you can just click back to the previous one."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: The Essentials

Buffalo Bills pay $3M settlement for sending fans too many texts

from News.com - 24 April, 2014 - 00:44
A fan signs up for a text service from the NFL's Bills. The agreement says he'll get no more than five texts a week. When the team sends 13 in two weeks, the fan sues -- and wins.
Categories: Open Source

Video: Bringing back extinct species

Boing Boing - 24 April, 2014 - 00:41

In recent years, the possibility of reviving extinct species by recreating their genomes has become a reality. First on deck for "de-extinction" are the wolly mammoth and passenger pigeon. But is this a good idea? KQED's QUEST takes a look: "Reawakening Extinct Species"

Categories: The Essentials

Sprint aims to make all its devices unlockable by February

from News.com - 24 April, 2014 - 00:34
The carrier doesn't yet have the capability to unlock all phones but says it's working to make that happen by early next year.

Categories: Open Source

Brazilian president signs internet civil rights law

The Register - 24 April, 2014 - 00:29
Marco Civil bill enshines 'net neutrality', 'privacy' as law

A bill guaranteeing civil rights on the internet was signed into law by Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff at the NetMundial Internet Governance conference today.…

Categories: The Essentials

Huawei set to spend $300M on global marketing in '14

from News.com - 24 April, 2014 - 00:29
The company's focus will be improving brand image so it can appeal to people looking for higher-end handsets.

Categories: Open Source

Facebook gets thumbs-up from feds to buy virtual-reality firm Oculus

from News.com - 24 April, 2014 - 00:24
The Federal Trade Commission gives its stamp of approval to the $2 billion deal, according to Reuters, as Facebook readies for "the platforms of tomorrow."

Categories: Open Source

Loch Ness Monster photo on Apple Maps?

Boing Boing - 24 April, 2014 - 00:24

Does this image of Loch Ness from Apple's Maps app depicts Nessie or the wake of a small boat? Unfortunately, I think it's the latter as we all know the Loch Ness Monster more closely resembles a pleiosaur than a giant catfish. (Forbes)

Categories: The Essentials

Prime, Kindle users are big spenders on Amazon

from News.com - 24 April, 2014 - 00:21
Prime subscribers spend twice as much as non-Prime members, while Kindle owners spend 30 percent more than non-Kindle owners, says Consumer Intelligence Research Partners.

Categories: Open Source

Siri in the works for Apple TV, iOS 7.1 code reveals

from News.com - 24 April, 2014 - 00:10
If Siri comes to Apple TV, it would put the feature in direct competition with the voice-recognition in Amazon's FireTV.
Categories: Open Source

Apple's new iPhone 5S ad: Complete with song about oh, really?

from News.com - 24 April, 2014 - 00:10
A pulsating new ad for the iPhone 5s trumpets its power. Its musical accompaniment is "Gigantic" by the Pixies -- which is about, well, try guessing.
Categories: Open Source

The justice in coders

Lessig's Blog - 24 April, 2014 - 00:07

Among the most important changes in the structure of this society is the rise of engineers and the…

(Original post on Tumblr)

Categories: The Essentials

Asteroid Impacts Bigger Risk Than Thought

Slashdot - 24 April, 2014 - 00:06
Rambo Tribble (1273454) writes "The B612 Foundation, a U.S.-based nuclear test monitoring group, has disclosed that their acoustic sensors show asteroid impacts to be much more common than previously thought. Between 2000 and 2013 their infrasound system detected 26 major explosions due to asteroid strikes. The impacts were gauged at energies of 1 to 600 kilotons, compared to 45 kilotons for 1945 Hiroshima bomb."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: The Essentials

Speaking in Tech: Yes, yes. Storage, VMs, all very important. But what about beating jet lag?

The Register - 24 April, 2014 - 00:02
Podcast Our trio talk travel tips, hypervisors and more
Categories: The Essentials

Phone phreakers' anthem

Boing Boing - 24 April, 2014 - 00:00

Brad sez, "A few decades ago, phone phreaks spent all of their free time learning about the Bell telephone system and making free phone calls to each other. This song by Bonecage attempts to capture that era, and the footage for the video was contributed by phone phreaks (and ex-phone phreaks) around the world."

Categories: The Essentials

Samsung's Galaxy Tab 4 family set for May 1 debut

from News.com - 23 April, 2014 - 23:44
The Wi-Fi Galaxy tablets, which range between 7 and 10 inches, will hit the US across a variety of retailers. Multiple carriers are also expected to carry 4G LTE versions this summer.

Categories: Open Source

AT&T Plans To Launch Internet Video Service

Slashdot - 23 April, 2014 - 23:36
An anonymous reader writes "AT&T officially announced on Tuesday their intention to launch a Netflix-like service in collaboration with an investment group run by a former Fox president. AT&T is following in the footsteps of Verizon, which partnered with Redbox in 2012 to offer the same type of service, and like Verizon, is also still negotiating with Netflix on payments to not throttle Netflix traffic."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: The Essentials
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