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* researcher in infrastructure futures and theory (University of Sheffield, UK)
* science fiction author and literary critic
* writer, theorist, critical futurist
* dishevelled mountebank


SELFIE by @rachsyme

"Capitalism, as Rowbotham noted, loves to self-reflect. It needs to perpetuate itself, and one of the ways it does so is via imagery — i.e. advertising — that keeps people desirous, that makes people feel incomplete without whatever shiny new thing has just hit the market. Those at the top benefit, naturally, from creating these images. It is bad then for the lust-economy to have people reveling in pictures they take themselves; it is very difficult to control consumers who do not need to look at the media to know what to value, what to buy, who to honor and protect. Selfies are not inherently political acts, but these resonant, addictive, unregulated images are another manifestation of this growing distrust of the mainstream and the swelling desire by many individuals to reclaim their own narratives now that they have the virtual microphone."

A fine and strident essay. Made me realise that my own disapproval of selfies is bound up with exactly the resentment of the self-love of others that Syme describes: why aren't these people as ashamed of their faces as I am of mine? And a reminder that my maleness is, as a result, imperfect: if men are those who are permitted by society to love themselves, then I have never been a man. And hell knows what that makes me, then -- but nonetheless, this is my face.



A brief note on how I use this Twitter account

1 min read

For the sake of persistent reference: my Twitter account, @PaulGrahamRaven, should be henceforth and in perpetuity be considered to be effectively a broadcast-only channel. I no longer post to it with the aim of starting or continuing a conversation, though I reserve the right to do so on occasion as the mood takes me. I receive notifications of replies and retweets, but you should not assume that they will secure my attention, if securing my attention is your aim. If it is, please use email:

Note also that all updates to @PaulGrahamRaven are pushed from and back-linked to this website, which also gathers and records replies from Twitter itself -- which is to say the site will retain a record of any and all replies to said updates, regardless of whether they are subsequently deleted by their author. So don't say it unless you want it recorded permanently, OK?

My motivations for the above approach are various, but are partly captured here. You are just as welcome to disagree with my reasons and choices as I am to ignore your opinion. Thanks for your time.


The Paris Attacks, Refugees, and the Brutal Fiction of Borders | VICE | United States

"Citizenship is our most loaded form of fiction. Our nationalities are invented, nothing but marks on a page, but they can determine who is free and who is not. Or who dies and who gets to live."


The cloud is their avatar

1 min read

"Its physical aspect could not be less cloudlike, Server farms proliferate in unmarked brick buildings and steel complexes, with smoked windows or no windows, miles of hollow floors, diesel generators, cooling towers, seven-foot intake fans, and aluminum [sic] chimney stacks. This hidden infratructure grows in a sybiotic relationship with the electrical infrastructure it increasingly resembles. There information switches, control centres and substations. They are clustered and distributed. These are the wheel-works; the cloud is their avatar."

-- Gleick, James. The Information: History, a Theory, a Flood. London: Fourth Estate, 2011. p396. (Emphases mine. An excellent book all through.)



Seen 21/11/2015, Museum of Science & Industry, Manchester, UK


Teaching The Camera To See My Skin

"Kodak did finally modify its film emulsion stocks in the 1970s and ’80s — but only after complaints from companies trying to advertise chocolate and wood furniture."


What The History of Fossil Fuels Teaches Us About Renewable Energy - The Atlantic

Those transitions have also been heavily dependent on the energy infrastructure that came before. The age of steam was not possible without human and animal work to mine the coal and build the machines. Even now, the wind turbines we look to to help us escape fossil fuels are steel towers (you make steel in coal-fired blast furnaces) topped by plastic blades (which comes from petroleum), installed by (gasoline-powered) construction equipment. A wind turbine is a “pure expression of fossil fuels,” said Smil during a 2013 lecture at the Perimeter Institute.

So, while Smil agrees with pretty much everyone else that the next big energy transition is from nonrenewable to renewable resources, he is cautious about the timing. At one level, the change is plainly inevitable. There will come a time when non-renewable resources run out, and Smil says it will be advantageous to transition off of fossil fuels long before then, to avoid climate change.

In this, Smil is no different from countless energy advocates from Greenpeace to Al Gore to T. Boone Pickens. Where he does differ is in his opinion about how quickly it can happen. Where Gore calls for a complete conversion to renewables in 10 years, Smil thinks the transition will take generations.


"Whenever I had something to say, I have said it in the manner in which I have felt it ought to be said. Different motives inevitably require different methods of expression." - Pablo Picasso


The science of pricing / the pricing of science

2 min read

Nice of the Festival of the Humanities to invite an eminent scientist to be part of the line-up; not quite so nice for said academic to then go on and propagate the problem they're ostensibly trying to remove. Professor Athene Donald, in Teh Graun today:

I may wholeheartedly believe that science is vital, as the eponymous campaigning group says, but that doesn’t mean I think the humanities (or indeed the social sciences) are not. Since science costs more to do than arts subjects, more funding should go to science. That statement does not equate to saying that the humanities should not be properly funded. Somehow, we are constantly being put in opposition, a binary divide that is damaging to both scientists and non-scientists.

The final sentence contradicts the second sentence. The second sentence is also somewhere between fallacy and tautology; science "costs more to do" only because the historical funding patterns have supplied science with a larger budget than the humanities. Speaking as a social scientist, we might not have the capacity to spuff billions of euros on a single piece of basic-research hardware like the LHC (a project for which I have huge admiration, to be clear) -- but I assure you, we could spend those billions easily. It turns out that qualitative research is actually very costly and time-consuming, and we'd be overjoyed at the opportunity to demonstrate just how effectively we could dispose of the budgets our STEM colleagues consider normal. We could consider it an experiment!

To suggest that the humanities and social science spend is somehow limited by the nature of the disciplines themselves is a little insulting, to be honest -- though that's certainly not to say I think Prof. Donald set out with that intent. Nonetheless, to complain of a damaging binary divide between the disciplines after having declared that the STEM subjects are intrinsically more expensive is illogical, if not directly counter to one's stated purpose -- and we get enough of that rhetoric from the state already.


Alan Moore interview, including a reasonable claim for Lovecraft as first sf modernist