Memia on Sunday 01-May-2022: 🔥It's happening // 🕊️war is evil...and? // 🌎🌍the rise of Trans-Atlantis // 📉Mez on gas// 😶🌫️memetic tribes of the meta-crisis // 🌌universe in a sphere
Dalle2060, give me a lion eating a taco in Dalle2030 style
Welcome to another Memia on Sunday - this weekend’s missive open for all readers, links to some truly amazing long reads below, enjoy diving in!
First, though: right now, after the hottest March on record, a 10-day heatwave is currently hanging over Pakistan and India with temperatures reaching at least 45 degrees celsius and rolling power shortages.
If you’ve read Kim Stanley Robinson’s cli-fi (climate-fiction) novel The Ministry for the Future then you’ll know that this is exactly how the book starts: a visceral, unflinching account of millions of people dying from a record heatwave across the Indian subcontinent.
CO2 concentrations are increasing year on year…this isn’t going to go away. It’s happening.😟
🕊️War is evil…and?
The head of the UN visited Kyiv and surrounds, distilling the West’s repulsion at Russian atrocities in this tweet:
But what is the future role of the UN for stopping these wars in the first place and peacekeeping generally? Last year on its 75th anniversary, they released a new report Our Common Agenda. Guterres wrote in The future of the UN: Time to think big, not mincing his words:
“From the climate crisis to our suicidal war on nature and the collapse of biodiversity, our global response is too little, too late”, declared the Secretary-General. “Unchecked inequality is undermining social cohesion, creating fragilities that affect us all. Technology is moving ahead without guard rails to protect us from its unforeseen consequences.”
But right now it is such an unwieldy organisation, deliberately de-fanged… could (/should…) a UN with more military and technological teeth be one of the outcomes of the post-Ukraine war new world order?
Links to onward reading, listening and watching…
🌎🌍The rise of Trans-Atlantis
If you read only one thing this weekend…
By far the best (and longest) essay on current geopolitical situation I've read this year from the spectacularly talented (and pseudonymous…) Washington-based writer N.S. Lyons: The World Order Reset. (I’ve previously covered their writing on Physicals vs. Virtuals in Memia 2022.08 It really is a long one but there is no better way to spend ~1 hour!
It’s a story told in four acts, with some wonderfully sharp, dry humour and phrasing throughout. Just a few quotes pulled out below, but strongly recommended to read the whole thing:
Act I: Catastrophe - why Russia’s failing “special military operation” in Ukraine and the West’s strengthened resolve are a fundamental setback for China’s ambitions to see a “transformation of the global governance architecture and world order”:
“…in Russia’s case China never wanted a needy dependent clinging to its leg; it wanted the valuable partnership of a great power. Yet it took less than two weeks for Russia to begin begging China for arms and assistance. China has not sent them. If it is no longer a serious military power then Russia has been reduced to just another third-world oil exporter – like a big Eurasian Nigeria, but with terrible demographics. In the end, China will begin to treat it as such.“
Act II: Alone
Now an economically powerful US-led bloc including Europe and archipelagic Asian and Oceanic states is arrayed against China: “Trans-Atlantis”.
“Suddenly China finds itself alone at the bar. Russia has stumbled off to drunkenly instigate a street fight and lose most of its teeth, and Europa has gone home with the obnoxious middle-aged Yankee in the muscle shirt and overbearing cologne.“
Act III: Hubris
And there is swagger in Washington right now:
“The mood in Washington is a bit difficult to describe. Everything is covered in a veil of suitable solemnity and appropriate grief, paired with morally righteous anger over Russia’s atrocious behavior in Ukraine. But under this layer, even if those feelings are genuinely heartfelt, there is often another mood entirely. And that mood is one of giddy excitement paired with barely suppressed subconscious glee….”
Expect a new US-led assertiveness to (re-)establish a new hegemonic world order which looks remarkably like the last one:
“we can expect that Trans-Atlantis will fundamentally define itself by distinguishing an in-group from an out-group and policing an inclusion-exclusion distinction. That is: it will create a global bloc large enough to have significant economic and technological network effects, then exchange access to that network for continued loyalty. Those who act counter to the interests of the bloc or fail to meet its standards and conditions will be threatened with exclusion from the group (aka cancellation).”
Act IV: Nemesis
And how could this Trans-Atlantis hegemony be brought down?
“There are essentially three different ways it could fail:
1. Trans-Atlantic diplomatic unity breaks and the United States and China face off without Europe, putting both on a more level playing field.
2. China grows faster than the competition and, along with its partners, overtakes the Euro-American bloc in total economic size.
3. The United States and/or Europe grow much slower than China, or otherwise internally collapse, allowing China to overtake and marginalize them.
The direction of world order therefore rests on relative economic performance. And, to cut to the chase, there is an obvious economic storm coming that could soon see a newly risen Trans-Atlantis either established as the rock of the new world order or sink below the waves.”
The final nemesis scenario: “Chaos”, where the “large power” order disintegrates into true multipolarity:
“…no country is left strong enough to play hegemon for some time, and we enter a century of struggle. Instead of a global order we end up with global chaos…Perhaps if they’re lucky some small nations yearning to live free could even find their chance after all.”
(Living in a small, independent island state of only 5 million population, this sounds like an outcome to be explored way more deeply...)
📉Mez on gas
Another great read this week: Noah Smith interviews futurist, author and renewable energy guru Ramez Naam — “Mez” to his friends. (I am a fanboy of his cyberpunk sci-fi Nexus trilogy and enjoyed meeting him when he spoke at the seminal Singularity Summit in Ōtautahi in 2016). One of the world’s great thinkers and communicators about the future.)
The interview covers a wide subject matter but of particular note is the impact of Ukraine war on natural gas replacement projects:
“My view is that Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is going to substantially accelerate the clean energy transition…
…In particular, the war in Europe is going to accelerate the development, deployment, and price decline of the technologies needed to replace natural gas. Natural gas is the cleanest of the three major fossil fuels. Burning it causes half the carbon emissions of burning coal, and two thirds of the carbon emissions of burning oil. (Though leaks are a problem, since un-burnt methane released into the atmosphere is an incredibly potent greenhouse gas.)… while natural gas is a relatively small portion of Putin’s revenue from selling fossil fuels, it’s an enormous amount of his leverage over Europe.”
😶🌫️Memetic tribes of the meta-crisis
I’ve been diving further down the Liminal Web rabbithole opened up by Australian Joe Lightfoot (discussed in Wednesday’s Memia 2022.16). Much of my reading and listening this week has been drawn towards interpreting the synonymous “meta-crisis”:
“The meta-crisis = the multiple overlapping and interconnected global crises that our nascent planetary culture faces.” — Sloww, Meta-Crisis 101
A few resources worth exploring:
Meta-Crisis Meta-Resource also by Kyle Kowalski, founder of Sloww launched at the end of February:
"meta-crisis web" (also known as the "liminal web," "sensemaking web," "meaning web," "intellectual dark/deep web," "emergentsia," "metatribe," etc).”
Tasting the Pickle: Ten flavours of meta-crisis and the appetite for a new civilisation by Jonathan Rowson. (Another long read!)
And finally, this is the perfect title for a talk to catch my attention: The Memetic Tribes of the Meta-Crisis - Brandon Norgaard spoke on The Stoa recently describing his meta-analysis of 34 various cultural worldviews / tribes (from traditional “Leviathan” and “Anarchism” right through to “Techno-Optimism”,
“Transhumanism / Homo Deus” and “Game B” … all detailed in this spreadsheet which underlies his talk below on YouTube).
More Dall-E 2 generative AI art doing the rounds. It really is a mindblowing paradigm shift of how AI “thinks”.
But what happens next when things get recursive and the training set starts to include (indeed be overwhelmed by) images created using Dall-E 2 itself? Venkatesh Rao does the thought experiment… 🤯🤯🤯
🌌Universe in a sphere
The structure of the universe, but still only a small fraction of the whole. 380,000 galaxies, 250 Megaparsec (815,000,000 light-years) in diameter. Every tiny dot represents one whole galaxy, like our Milky Way:
I want one of these for my desk - you can now buy “The universe in a sphere” in an 8cm diameter glass ball (only €59,00):
Moon over tundra
Finally, watch this stunning video of a solar eclipse in the Arctic recently:
Enjoy the rest of your weekend, catch you again on Wednesday!