7 Mar 2017

Utopia Against Finance And Other Stories

Submitted by Kimon
Some interviews to get you warmed up for the new novel coming out next week. 

Utopia Against Finance, Cli-Fi, Green Earth and New York 2140 

This will be the focus of NY2140. The theme: a socialist realist history of a potential transition to post-capitalism.
This keynote for "Climate Futures: This Changes Everything" for the Environmental Humanities Center in UC Santa Barbara, recorded in his house, sums it up:
Another very interesting discussion is that of the future of cities and ways of living when the sea level rises due to climate change. Kim Stanley Robinson and architect Usman Haque get us to Rising Sea Levels: London in 2080 in this transatlantic videoconference / thought experiment! -- organized by the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination and The Bartlett School of Architecture and moderated by Sheldon Brown and David Kirsch (May 2016). The video of the event is online (don't get discouraged by the bad audio quality in the first minutes). La Jolla Light reports:
Robinson warned those gathered that sea levels are rising even faster than scientists thought they would. “This is one of the greatest problems that humanity faces,” he said, noting America might end up with some of its major cities — like New York and Miami — halfway under water, becoming a “Super Venice, Italy.” Robinson explained that the problem stems from melting ice in western Antarctica and Greenland, an unstoppable process once it gets going [...] Robinson mentioned one possible solution; building 60 huge pumping stations that would pump the melting ice water back up onto the Antarctic bedrock for refreezing.
By necessity, people will be changing their definition of personal space and will be living in closer proximity, in what [Haque] calls a “Liquid Democracy.” Things will get done, not by the government, but by liquid groups of people who form their own organizations as needed. The Internet will no longer exist, Haque reasons. Instead, people will communicate by posting messages on giant electronic billboards, which he calls “light walls.” The main food staple will be algae that people grow at home. There will be no live pets, but instead people will have virtual pets, like holographic cats and dogs. They will sleep in converted, driver-less cars from the company Uber, which they will drive into their homes.;
Also of interest:
  • A similar keynote to the one above and Q&A: "Power and the Space of the Planet", at the Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture (April 2015), with response by Phillip Wegner and discussion moderated by Reinhold Martin, Director, Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture
  • "Toward A Plausible Utopia", a discussion between KSR and Bjarke Ingels, architect, at the New York City Museum (May 2015)

Mars, the solar system, 2312 & Aurora

KSR spoke to "Voices from Lagrange 5", a podcast examining the social, political and anthropological aspects of space settlements. A very interesting discussion on the (lack of) profit-making opportunities of space exploration, Space X and space socialism.
In this interview for Public Books, "Earth First, Then Mars", KSR talks about how his ideas have evolved and matured over his career.
Earth is the only place we can really thrive. Terraforming Mars, if possible at all, might take thousands of years rather than hundreds; this is the explicit commentary that Aurora makes on my Mars Trilogy’s timeline. I still think terraforming Mars is a great long-term project, just very long. So it will not serve to help us as any kind of “second home” while we get through the long emergency we are facing with the ecological problems here on Earth.
Health, broadly regarded, means keeping the whole biosphere healthy, because we’re so interpenetrated with it. Something like the Leopoldian land ethic seems to emerge: what’s good is what’s good for the land. You’re happy when you’re healthy, and you’re only healthy when the biosphere is healthy.
I sense that in asserting that humanity can’t inhabit the galaxy, much less the universe, and may only ever be healthy here on Earth, I’ve suggested a limitation that rubs some people the wrong way. They like to think of humans as transcendent, and once a religious afterlife is removed from consideration, the species going cosmic is the secular replacement for that religious yearning.
As a comparison, here is a two-part interview with KSR from 2012 for John Tibbetts' AboutSF podcast, on writing the Mars trilogy and writing science fiction in general: Part 1, Part 2.
In this article for Scientific American, "What Will It Take for Humans to Colonize the Milky Way?" (which reads like a condensed version of his seminal essay for BoingBoing), KSR argues about thedifficulties of manned interstellar travel.
And in this interview in Spanish for El Confidencial, conducted to coincide with the release of the translation of Aurora in Spanish, KSR discusses the ideas behind Aurora, the Singularity and the Mondragón cooperatives.
La secuencia debería ser la siguiente: antiausteridad, keynesianismo, social democracia (tal vez aquí se encuentre Mondragón), socialismo democrático y poscapitalismo. Las necesidades deberían ser socializadas, los riesgos deberían ser socializados y no privatizados (considerando que muchos de estos riesgos no son voluntarios, como la vejez y la enfermedad).
Climate One hosted the event "Remaking the Planet" on the issue of climate change and geoengineering, with Oliver Morton (The Economist), Ken Caldeira (climate scientist at Stanford University) and KSR (January 2016). The audio recording and transcript are online (also at PRX). Some KSR bits:
If we change if we plant a lot of forests, if we give all the women on the planet their full legal rights, we've changed the climate of the earth in a radical way so that's geoengineering too. [...] we’re talking about humanity's relationship to the biosphere and the planet as a complex system that we can't hack, that’s not the right word, but we might be able to finesse it in ways that will keep us from causing a mass extinction event.
If you didn't subsidize the carbon industry massively by taxpayer money, you already have the crossover power where clean energy could be quickly put in by government supported projects and it would be full employment, it would be a thing to do and you could have clean energy so much faster than we thought even 10 years ago.
Ten years ago we couldn’t have had this conversation but the 10 hottest years that we have on record took place in this century. So global warming is happening and everybody knows it.
Space science is an earth science and the solar system is our neighborhood. And when we talk about Mars, we are thinking about planets, and when we think about planets we’re realizing we’re on a planet and so it's all good in that regard. And we, this is the only planet we can live on and stay healthy and I think that will be true for tens of thousands of years. So there is no Planet B and that moral hazard is taken away as soon as you understand that.

Shaman and odds & ends

Two podcast interviews on Shaman and related themes:
...and KSR reading from Shaman at the San Antonio LoneStarCon3 in 2013.
Here are also two videos:
  • From Future in Review 2012 (FiRe 2012) "Looking Ahead: The World in 20 Years" where KSR and David Brin exchange ideas on science fiction and writing.
  • A panel from last year's Balticon (May 2016), "Frontiers of Science and Science Fiction", where Larry Niven, Kim Stanley Robinson, Connie Willis, Charlie Stross, Joe Haldeman and Harry Turtledove and a panel of the scientists and engineers of the Hubble and Webb space telescopes as they explore the places where their worlds collide.
Finally, in an interview for Islam and Science Fiction, KSR talks about writing The Years of Rice and Salt and the role of SF in imagining the future.
The Dalai Lama has declared that if science ever shows something in Buddhism is wrong, then Buddhism should change.  I don’t see the Middle Eastern monotheisms making that kind of declaration.  We are now in a scientific civilization, but it’s been coming for centuries and during those centuries, some religions have regarded science as a particular form of worship or devotion.  I think that might be the best angle for them to take, to make a reconciliation of fact and value, etc.
[...] there needs to be a lot of Muslim science fiction of all kinds, exploring and displaying all kinds of futures.  It would be helpful to the imaginations of everyone alive, and a real service to humanity.  We all need futures in our heads to work toward or against, and the more there are, and the thicker their texture (to add to their believability and impact) the better.  It’s a huge opportunity for young writers.
Now that we are caught up, we are ready for the release of New York 2140 on March 14!