Instead of tying up loose ends, or giving an overview of the tumultuous last six months, I thought my last column for the Daily should introduce a few new threads ripe for investigation, and — why not — make some more wild and flailing predictions. Hell, if sports columnists can get away with it…

Zack Denfeld

As political parties begin what will probably be a decade-long drift into a new configuration (My prediction: Dems with any spine become Greens, the GOP becomes even more unstable waiting to bust, fracturing into libertarianists, neocons and populist conservatives. And almost all of the politicians will continue to sell the last vestiges of our hard-won humanist souls to corporations), here are couple of equations to keep your eye out for.

Atoms = Bits.

Most people who are awake, (i.e. those few citizens not lulled into an infotainment haze of Fox News fluff pieces or reality-TV dreamscapes) realize the absolutely revolutionary effect that biotechnology and (probably) nanotechnology will have on human cultures, if it even delivers a small part of what the proponents are promising. True designer babies are a ways off, but bio-photo-copiers are basically here. Want a sculpture grown from your own cells? Buy me a plane ticket to Australia and we’ll talk.

Believe it or not, art and design will again become central to society’s discourse (note to the United States: Ramp up private and public funding for the arts, especially anomalous thinkers, or you’re going to be left in the dust) because we are going to have to figure out if, and how, we want to design life. And design is still the province of artists (Although do keep in mind that the term artist is larger than it has ever been).

The debates are going to be glorious — and the strange bedfellows, stranger than ever. Think about it: bioconservative (and neoconservative) Francis Fukuyama teaming up with culture-jamming lefties and the Christian Right to try to legislate hallucinogenic genetically modified watermelons out of existence in order to “save democracy” as well as eco-diversity, while transhumanists and extropians led by Ray Kurzweil will be trying to clone themselves as living sculpture or freeze-drying their grey matter in order to upload their brains sometime in the 2050s. At least C-Span will be a gas…

On that note:

Slow = the new “Fast.”

The 20th century sure whizzed by. The nearly unshakable faith in speed that modernism brought was ratcheted up to frighteningly new highs during the “American century.” As roboticist, and all around crazy-man/cyber-shaman Jan Moravec tells us, humans are reaching “escape velocity,” soon to be replaced by progeny who probably don’t need or necessarily want us around.

But as I float in my infotainment bubble, with 52 new e-mails, a cell phone call and sound, light and info pollution preventing me from me getting my damn bearings, or putting my feet to the ground, it’s obvious that it’s time to slow down.

Some nice thoughts:

1. The slow food movement (et al.). Enjoying a properly prepared meal, in the company of community members, with a glass of wine, a few hours to relax and converse and, most importantly, utilizing locally organically grown produce whenever possible (encouraging true-cost economics). Of course, as identity-correctors the Yes Men have pointed out, if developed nations start making time for slow food or siestas, it would sure screw up the global economy, what with different, (and specifically) slower working and living schedules. The World Trade Organization isn’t threatened by protesters, but geographically specific culinary activists? That’s threatening.

2. Place matters. Come on, even the most extreme free-market-or-bust whack jobs have got to admit American strip malls and their convenient redundancy are starting to get a little sore on the eyes, never mind our brains. This is not a radical indictment of capitalism run amok (That’s for later), but, unmodified capitalism plus culture minus public funding for positive externalities equals places that are the same and suck. One might be able to get his bearings in the information onslaught if he knew where the hell he was located, but when every damn suburban enclave has the same few big box stores plopped down, and the powerful folk live in houses behind fences behind gates with guards, only accessible by car, is it any surprise we’re all wandering around the world wide information traffic jam wondering when we’ll reach our destination? For some solace try “Digital Ground” by the University’s own Prof. Malcolm McCullough or the fine folks at www.headmap.org Know your place! The start of the space/time revolution?

I wanted to drop a couple of lines about waste = food, but it appears I have rambled on for too long. Short-list reading recommendations: “Natural Capitalism,” and “Cradle to Cradle” and all that jive. But be warned: An eco-realist who can’t name at least five native species is just a free-market apologist wearing tree-hugger garb. Until we meet in the videodrome:

Your loyal troublemaker,

Zack

 

Denfeld can be reached at zcd@umich.edu

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