Posts Tagged ‘cyberpunk’

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[*]Lem (once again) reads me when I him

August 29, 2011

Stanislaw Lem, author of Imaginary Magnitudes, source of the “eruntics” portion of this blog’s title, also wrote The Futurological Congress, which I am currently in the middle of. Here is a passage, from pretty late in the game. (If you’ve read any Lem, though, you know it’s impossible to be spoiled, so don’t worry.)

“[…] without a couple of good, stiff shots I couldn’t be a futurologian today!”

“A futurologist?”

“That word means something different now. A futurologist makes profutes, prognoses, prophecies, while I deal exclusively with theory. This is a completely new field, unknown in our day. You might call it divination through linguistic derivation. Morphological forecasting! Projective etymology!”

“Never heard of it. How does it work?”

To tell the truth, I had asked more out of politeness than curiosity, but he didn’t seem to notice. Meanwhile the waiters brought our soup and, with it, a bottle of Chablis, vintage 1997. A good year.

“Linguistic futurology investigates the future through the transformational possibilities of language,” Trottelreiner explained.

“I don’t understand.”

“A man can only control what he comprehends, and comprehend only what he is able to put into words. The inexpressible therefore is unknowable. By examining future stages in the evolution of language we come to learn what discoveries, changes and social revolutions the language will be capable, some day, of reflecting.”

“Amazing. How exactly is this done?”

“Our research is conducted with the aid of the very largest computers, for man by himself could never keep track of all the variations. By variations of course I mean the syntagmatic-paradigmatic permutations of the language, but quantized…”

“Professor, please!”

“Forgive me. The Chablis is excellent, by the way. A few examples ought to make the matter clear. Give me a word, any word.”

“Myself.”

“Myself? H’m. Myself. All right. I’m not a computer, you understand, so this will have to be simple. Very well then–myself. My, self, mine, mind. Mynd. Thy mind–thynd. Like ego, theego. And we makes wego. Do you see?”

“I don’t see a thing.”

“But it’s perfectly obvious! We’re speaking, first, of the possibility of the merging of the mynd with the thynd, in other words the fusion of two psychic entities. Secondly, the wego. Most interesting. A collective consciousness. Produced perhaps by the multiple dissocation of the personality, a mygraine. Another word, please.”

[…]”But these words have no meaning!”

“At the moment, no, but they will. Or, rather, they may eventually acquire meaning, provided [they] catch on. The word ‘robot’ meant nothing in the fifteenth century, and yet if they had had futurolinguists then, they could have easily envisioned automata.”

A little deterministic, yes, but god I like that this is a thing. Wish I’d found this book when I was taking that cyberpunk class, I could write a million papers for it right now.

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End of the Quarter (and some thoughts on Internets)

March 19, 2009

So here I sit, garbed in the spoils of my recreational consumerism of yesterday. The new purple suede boots are absolutely my favorite. We’re (we being myself, Raquel the pre-vet Hermione-lookalike (especially when she passes out across her textbooks), and Harry who is my favorite anthropologist ever) sitting around drinking tea and half-watching Cities of the Underworld on the History Channel. I’m recuperating from my final final, Latin, which commenced at way too early this morning. I think I did alright. I also got my grade back from my Java final: an 86%, which brings my grade to a very tenuous 88% overall–that may yet change, depending on whether the teacher ever feels like grading my fifth program. Best I can hope for is a B+, I think, but that’s not terrible.

As I’m mulling over this quarter, I’m contemplating something that occurred to me while I was reviewing Vernor Vinge’s True Names for the final essay in Cyberpunk. Early in the descriptions of the proto-Internet, the protagonist spends some time zipping through physical servers (they’re not called that in the book, but that’s what they are) with a distinct awareness of where in the world his servers are as his consciousness travels through the medium. I was wondering, as I reread this, why we don’t actually do this. I have no idea where my servers are, no idea what physical locations my data travel through on their way to and from my computer. I think it probably has something to do with the corporatization of the internet, which happened very very quickly and thoroughly through the nineties, and the paradigm of which survived the dot-com bust very well, thankyouverymuch. There’s money to be made in dumbing it down for us, so that we don’t need to know where our data are. I’ve got more thoughts on this, but I have to explore it a little more first. Might make a fun paper, anyways.

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Santa Cruz Meteorology

February 24, 2009

The weather early this morning was absolutely bizarre. It was very densely foggy, but not like it normally is with dense fog. Normally, the fog hangs and clings and sulks in the crevices and contours of the hills and coast. This morning, it was wet and tumultuous and… oddly leaky. I wouldn’t say it was raining, as such– or, if it was, it was raining in such a way that I could walk around the rain. Great spurts of fat drops at weird angles, and great gusts of wind buffetting the trees into further drop-flinging. It was weird and beautiful, like we were living in the belly of some great ghost.

In cyberpunk, we’re reading Siratori’s Nonexistence. It’s… well. It sort of amounts to algorithmic gibberish, best we can figure. We’re taking a lot of things on faith from Professor Godzich, because we’re too lost to do anything else. I’m hoping more will become clear on Wednesday.

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Weekend Reflectionings

February 11, 2009

(I like adding -ings to things that are not present active participles. It’s a very roundabout way of verbing something.)

On Saturday, I spent a good deal of time with vaseline and saran wrap in my hair, breathing through a straw, lying blind and immobilized on the floor of one of the art buildings. My housemate, Becca, is using my face for an art project. There are, as a result of Saturday, now eight copies of me on the kitchen table. She’s got plaster, two different kinds of wax, and latex. I think the others are still in the art buildings. Jokes abound about using my face as a weapon, or attributing flaws to me via my face. Or, in the case of the latex copy, using my face as a condom. It’s a little disturbing.

On Sunday, I was taken by my parents and youngest sister to lunch up Highway One at Davenport. The smoked salmon over polenta was exquisite. Afterwards, we went spiking for a little while, then checked out the beach near Davenport. (Spiking is a rather unique activity my family partakes in. My father is an amateur blacksmith, so when we’re near a railroad that has had recent work done, we’ll go walk along the tracks and pick up the discarded railroad spikes and other steel and iron detritus for his use in the shop. He makes rather lovely (I think) knives out of the spikes. Very industrial-punk grunge style, but with an odd medievel flare to them.) Davenport is absolutely gorgeous, and was even moreso on that foggy, windy day. I still regret that my camera is out of commission.

While they were here, my family also delivered my birthday presents. I got books (Tales of the City, Here Comes Everybody, and Oscar Wilde’s plays) and my violin, now refurbished into playability! My violin is violet, so this is especially delightful. Now I just need lessons. And a lot of practice.

I don’t really care to talk about Monday. It was a day of awkwardness and embarrassing my poor Latin teacher in front of his mother. Today, however, programs were successfully conquered, through a combination of teamwork and brute force. It was immensely satisfying, and once everything is finalized I’ll be sure to link to the results from here.

As a side note: In cyberpunk we’re reading Dead Girls by Richard Calder. Well, technically we’re reading the whole trilogy, but I’m still on this first one. It involves zombie vampire doll robot prostitutes, and I highly recommend it.

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Scholarly Wankings

February 1, 2009

I’m largely eschewing programming and writing this weekend in favor of Latin flashcards. I’m about fifteen chapters behind on flashcard-making, technically speaking, but this is primarily because I loathe data entry with all my heart. And what is vocab-memorization but a particularly strenuous form of data entry into the database of my mind? It’s always what holds me back when I’m trying to learn new languages; I’m far more interested in the syntax and the semantics than I am in the straight-up lexicon. Thus I’m excellent at Latin when I have my glossary open in front of me, but quite poor without it. And apparently the only cure to this is to waste trees and exacerbate my carpal tunnel syndrome.

(Still, it probably does me good, as a linguist. The more words I learn, the better I’ll grasp the morphology of it all. Or… something.)

I’m also half-heartedly poking at this Spook Country essay that I’m writing for the midterm paper of my Cyberpunk class. I should have started this at least a week ago, and I’m beginning to worry that I won’t be able to find enough textual evidence for my rather ambitious thesis. I’m half tempted to email Gibson and see if he’s especially busy, and if I might fly up to– is he still in Vancouver?– have coffee and ask him a couple things.

And perhaps visit that long-lost sister of mine while I’m up there, who knows.