Freesteel Blog » Science Fiction

Friday, March 9th, 2007 at 5:26 pm - - Cory Doctorow, Whipping 6 Comments »

Well, hello there. I’ve been exploring the podsphere since late last December and, since I like Science Fiction, I have run my ears through the huge number of free podcasts by Cory Doctorow, copyfighter and eco-tastrophe extraordinaire.

There are some good ones (Visit the Sins), but most unfortunately subscribe to the usual techno-myth of a future in which we become immortal beings after our brains have been uploaded into computers for back-up, emulation, and pleasure-seeking downloads into other meat-puppets.

It’s just not a good idea anymore, but it’s interesting because it’s the only future that could overcome our problems, such as the paradox of exponential economic growth, the dwindling stock natural resources available for exploitation, and the mounting evidence that the free ride Mother Nature has been giving us for the last couple hundred years is suddenly going to end. Whatever your views are on the rates of technological improvement, it should be pretty clear that we’re going to hit trouble far sooner than the time when the first person is able to duplicate themselves into a cyberspace simulation on a matrix of bunkers rammed with nuclear powered computing machinery.

That much was entertaining. However, what really got on my tits about these podcasts were the five minutes of idle chatter at the start where Mr. Doctorow does what he can to make the listener feel inferior and envious of his life, and of the way he can give the same speech over and over again which people want to hear, get passes into secret clubs in Disneyland, and generally have a cool time jet-setting around a world where everybody loves him.

There are some people who actually put in the months of thankless effort to write the free software information products to which people like him refer to, and I can tell you that none of what he has ever said has done anything to encourage them.

Well, after five podcasts I’d just about had enough of this, when I suddenly had an idea. I wondered: What if there was a sufficient information among this useless babbling to reconstruct the Cory Doctorow travel itinerary for the whole of the year 2006?

There was.

Doctorow is a Canadian national who, until December 2005, was employed by the Electronic Freedom Foundation to work out of London as an all-round advocate, able to represent the voice of the consumer at the WIPO conferences in Geneva. He gave up this job at the start of the year to become a full time Science Fiction writer, and then moved to Los Angeles in July to take up a one-year appointment at the University of Southern California as the US-Canada Fulbright Visiting Research Chair in a “Center for Public Diplomacy”– obviously because they thought that what he writes is more than just cheap SF trash that people might claim it was in order to accuse them of reading too much sense into it. So…

Futurologist (as long as the future doesn’t mention global warming), electronic consumer advocate, and all-round Mickey Mouse sell-out, Cory Doctorow’s travel plans of 2006

2006-01-01 began with his family on holiday in London.

2006-01-15 fly to New York for 6 days to judge a competition for Motorola. (11160 km)

2006-01-24 train trip from London to Antwerp to give a speech, returning the day after to speak in London.

2006-02-02 fly to Geneva for the LIFT conference, returning two days later in time for a another talk in London. (1480 km)

2006-02-13 flight to Boston via Amsterdam after original route was canceled by bad weather. Returned for a London speaking engagement six days later, after giving a talk at Olin College, and being a Guest of Honour at an SF convention. (11826 km)

2006-03-04 flight to Los Angeles for a date in San Diego at the O’Reilly emerging technology conference, returning after a week to London in time for last copyfighters drunken brunch. (17494 km)

2006-04-1? flights from London to Brisbane, presumably including a return flight to Cairns for a dive on the Great Barrier Reef, followed by a trip to Melbourne, and then to Sydney on consecutive days to give popular talks, and then a return journey to London via a four day trip to Disneysea in Tokyo. (38971 km)

2006-05-12 flew to Stanford, California for one day to give a talk at Singularity Summit. (17216 km)

2006-05-25 flew from London to Hawaii for a friend’s wedding, and then on to the Red Hat conference in Nashville before returning to London after being away for only a week. (25322km)

2006-06-13 flew to Helsinki, Finland for two days to give a talk to a Nokia sponsored youth conference (3646 km)

2006-06-22 flew to Rio de Janeiro to stay in a basement and talk to people for ten hours each day for two days at the iCommons Summit. (18538 km)

2006-06-30 fly off for a quick four day holiday in Rome. (2896 km)

2006-07-14 moved to Los Angeles, bought two cars and began his new job in a university. (8747 km)

2006-11-02 after presumably staying put for a few weeks to do his job, he flew off to the Utoliapes SF con in Nantes, France. (18154 km)

2006-11-16 traveled to Portland to give a talk at Orycon28 SF convention. (2656 km)

2006-12-06 traveled to Usenix Lisa conference in Washington DC to give a keynote address. (7388 km)

2006-12-15 Cory takes a holiday till the end of the year, which resulted in a lot of photos from Disneyworld in Florida. (7510 km)

His 2007 podcast season commenced with a many part reading of his novel about jetlag.

Let’s see, that’s at least 37 take-offs and landings, and 193,000 kilometres, composed of (approx) 2 short, 5 medium, 7 long, and 23 extended haul flights, which comes to at least 28 tonnes of carbon and other pollution in the upper atmosphere. Add another 7 tonnes for being an average rich white guy, and we’re up to approximately 35 tonnes, 80% of which is flying. Given as the total needs to be less than one tonne for the environment on which we depend to survive, we’ve got a little bit of a lifestyle problem here.

Now folks, there are two kinds of futures we can talk about; there’s the fake one which we like to imagine, where our grandfather gets cured of cancer at the hospital and lives forever, and then there’s the real one which we will all eventually be living in, whether we like it or not.

Cory Doctorow will say and do whatever he can to make Cory Doctorow’s life more interesting and fulfilling. However, there will be people in a 150 years time who are not Cory Doctorow who, when thumbing through his literature which might have just got out of copyright by then, are going to say, “My god, what were people back then thinking when they took this stuff seriously? Not a single person in any of his audiences bothered to ask him about how climate change fitted in with the future he was laying out.” He seemed like he really enjoyed his four day visit to the re-creation of Renaissance Venice in Tokyo Disneysea, but did he ever wonder where was the model of the early 21st century New Orleans?

Why didn’t anyone at that Singularity Summit one-day conference in May, to which he flew at the cost of £2300, shout: “For godsake Cory, we’ve got broadband in the home, and we’ve got high speed tele-presence and high-definition interactive videos, so why the hell didn’t you phone yourself in? It’s not like you came here to go diving in the sea. It’s just your words and your face, and if you’re not prepared to use this technology on which you have staked the meaning of life, why should anyone take any notice?” For that money he could have hired a meat-puppet to wear a humiliating Cory Doctorow mask and helmet-mounted camera, microphone and speakers to go round the room being him for the day, moving by joystick control. But no one thought of it. Maybe he’ll be one of those guys condemned in his futuristic stories as one who doesn’t upload his character into cyberspace and dies as a mortal because he can’t imagine life any other way.

Man, this species is doomed. We have some good simulations of physical reality — not quite as detailed as to the level of neural processes — but they’re called climate models. And we take no notice of them when they challenge life as we know it. Between official government predictions, which are all self-serving lies, and modern Science Fiction which can’t get beyond one overwhelming singular fantasy irrespective of the fact that we are going to continue to exist nowhere else but on this planet through all the rough times ahead, we simply won’t know what’s hit us. What’s wrong with you people? Please pay attention. Demand more from your heroes than simply cheaper and smaller Disneyland products.

Oh, and podcasters: please give the date in all your podcasts, since it’s a pain to keep having to reconstruct this information from elsewhere.