Author Archives: Maurice

100 years of futurism: from “The Art of Noises” (L’Arte dei Rumori) by Luigi Russolo

To excite and exalt our sensibilities, music developed towards the most complex polyphony and the maximum variety, seeking the most complicated successions of dissonant chords and vaguely preparing the creation of musical noise. This evolution towards “noise sound” was not possible before now. The ear of an eighteenth-century man could never have endured the discordant intensity of certain chords produced by our orchestras (whose members have trebled in number since then). To our ears, on the other hand, they sound pleasant, since our hearing has already been educated by modern life, so teeming with variegated noises. But our ears are not satisfied merely with this, and demand an abundance of acoustic emotions.



Today f/e jumps on the bandwagon of for Climate Change:

Opportunity for transformational change and climate protection

At the same time, this crisis of the “old” is an opportunity for the “new” to emerge. This is an opportunity that needs to be sized and should not go to waste. Joseph Schumpeter has referred to this kind of paradigm-changing transformations as “gales of creative destruction”. (**see footnote) As old technoeconomic and institutional development paths saturates, the chances for fundamentally new development paths to emerge and eventually diffuse are more likely. Decarbonization of the global economy toward a carbon-free energy future is and example of such a paradigm-changing transformation. It appears to be a must, given the ever more threatening manifestations of global climate change. As mentioned, the unequivocal message of the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report is that climate change is accelerating and is almost certainly largely man-made. The adverse effects of the climate change can already be felt. The changes in average temperature are not a primary concern, but rather increasing climatic variation in climate patterns. Regions traditionally suitable for settlements and agriculture might not longer be so due to changing precipitation patterns, hydrology and ecosystems. Determined action from the international community is required to promote innovation and technological developments for climate protection. This is a major planetary urgency.

** Schumpeter, J.A., 1942: Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy, Harper & Brothers, New York, NY, USA.
The notionthat gales of creative destruction lead to the emergence of the new is particularly challenging in the context of rescue and stimulus strategies to counter the economic slowdown because the majority focuses on supporting the old with the inherent risk of postponing the structural change toward the new thus deepening the crisis.

Nebojsa Nakicenovic “How Much Technological Change, Research and Development is Enough?” (pdf) from the Second Conference and Conference Volume on The Economics of Technologies to Combat Global Warming.


Global Warming Mindmap


Not nit not nit no not
Nit nit folly bololy
Burlybunch, the water mole
Hellyplop and fingerhole
Not a wossit bundy, see ?
For jangle and bojangle
Trip trip
Pip pippy pippy pip pip landeri

Jane Mayer: Calling Hannah Arendt

There is also a less famous observation by Arendt, made in The New York Review of Books in the wake of the protests of 1968 and shared with me by Georgetown Law professor David Luban, that captures the problem faced by the Obama Administration in its attempt to hold the right officials accountable. She calls it the “rule by Nobody.” Attorney General Eric Holder is stuck trying to investigate an entire bureaucracy. Those on the top can claim to have clean hands, while those on the bottom can claim they were following ostensibly legal orders. What’s left, Arendt suggests, is an all-powerful government that is beyond accountability.

Here’s what she wrote:

These definitions coincide with the terms which, since Greek antiquity, have been used to define the forms of government as the rule of man over man—of one or the few in monarchy and oligarchy, of the best or the many in aristocracy and democracy, to which today we ought to add the latest and perhaps most formidable form of such dominion, bureaucracy, or the rule by an intricate system of bureaux in which no men, neither one nor the best, neither the few nor the many, can be held responsible, and which could be properly called the rule by Nobody. Indeed, if we identify tyranny as the government that is not held to give account of itself, rule by Nobody is clearly the most tyrannical of all, since there is no one left who could even be asked to answer for what is being done. It is this state of affairs which is among the most potent causes for the current world-wide rebellious unrest.

Economics is not natural science

We must stop perpetuating the fiction that existence itself is dictated by the immutable laws of economics. These so-called laws are, in actuality, the economic mechanisms of 13th Century monarchs. Some of us analyzing digital culture and its impact on business must reveal economics as the artificial construction it really is. Although it may be subjected to the scientific method and mathematical scrutiny, it is not a natural science; it is game theory, with a set of underlying assumptions that have little to do with anything resembling genetics, neurology, evolution, or natural systems.

Read the essay (EDGE)

We are all Iranians

Nature (Editorial) :

Research bodies and universities — and perhaps a few Nobel laureates — need to speak out louder. They should encourage, rather than discourage, collaboration, and replace past discrimination by welcoming Iranian researchers and students.

With the continuing Iranian crackdown on academics, for example, an exodus of young researchers can be expected. They will need the kind of assistance being provided by organizations such as the Scholars at Risk Network based in New York, an international network of universities and colleges that helps to find work for researchers seeking political asylum anywhere in the world. The international research community should find ways to support and expand such efforts. Likewise, with Iran’s decision on Monday to confirm the re-election — albeit under a cloud of illegitimacy — of Ahmadinejad, who is backed by the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who controls nuclear policy, hopes for intergovernmental progress on curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions have been dealt a severe setback. The research community should thus do everything possible to promote continued contacts with colleagues in Iran, if only to promote détente between Iran and the West when relations are bellicose.

Meanwhile, the diaspora of Iranian academics is playing a key part in helping to get across the complexity of the situation in Iran. In informal public meetings, newspaper opinion pieces and discussions with governments and reporters, they say that, in contrast to what is often reported by Western media, the uprising has little to do with any desire to topple the regime. It is above all a broad civil-rights movement that extends far beyond the ‘Twittering’ classes. It is led by young people — 70% of Iranians are under 30 — who are not ideologically motivated, but instead are hungry for the greater freedoms that were one of the main, but unrealized, goals of the 1979 Iranian revolution. The majority of Iranian scientists are behind the movement.

The Dirty War Against Clean Coal

WHILE President Obama’s cap-and-trade proposal to reduce greenhouse gases has been the big topic of recent environmental debate, the White House has also been pushing a futuristic federal project to build a power plant that burns coal without any greenhouse gases. Sounds great, right? Except the idea is a rehash of a proposal that went bust the first time around.

More important, the technology already exists to make huge reductions in greenhouse emissions from coal, allowing power companies to begin cutting the carbon footprint of coal today. Instead, advanced-technology coal power sits on the shelf while regulators wait to see what happens with a project that may be just an expensive boondoggle.

The big project, a public-private partnership called FutureGen, was first announced by George W. Bush in 2003. Dreading facing up to the problem of greenhouse gases from electricity generation, the Bush White House suggested that decisions should wait while FutureGen developed a coal-fired power with no emissions. FutureGen’s administrators spent five years on studies, proposals and studies of studies, but never broke ground for a test installation.

Then, in a fit of integrity, the Department of Energy decided the project should be put in Illinois, a Democratic state — Midwestern coal is high in carbon, making this a logical choice — rather than in Republican Texas, which the White House preferred. The administration promptly canceled financing for FutureGen. But this month, Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced he was reviving the project, hinting that the ultimate cost may run to billions of dollars.


The story is far from simple and there is no right/wrong divide conveniently placed for the ‘simpleton’ mind to position itself. We should all learn to live with controversy and hard choices, some required reading on this: The Challenge of Copenhagen: Bridging the U.S.-China Divide (Orville Schell) and the other links within the site.