Thursday, April 22, 2010

TED Thursday: Earthday Thoughts

It's Thursday and it's Earthday as well.  So I've pulled three interesting ideas from TED, again, to share with you.  If this works out, I think that I'll start doing 3 From TED Thursdays as a feature.  Depending on feed-back.  If you find this interesting or useful, let me know.

"Our goal is a delightfully diverse, safe, healthy, and just world, with clean air, water, soil and power -- economically, equitably, ecologically and elegantly enjoyed."
“I believe we can accomplish great and profitable things within a new conceptual framework—one that values our legacy, honors diversity, and feeds ecosystems and societies . . . It is time for designs that are creative, abundant, prosperous, and intelligent from the start.”
William McDonough on cradle-to-cradle design.

"...It seems to me that the example, the tools we use to change the world, ought to be beautiful in themselves. You know, that it's not just enough to survive. We've got to make something better than what we've got. And I think that we will."
Alex Steffen on Worldchanging and Sustainability.


"All buildings today have something in common. They're made using Victorian technologies. This involves blueprints, industrial manufacturing and construction using teams of workers. All of this effort results in an inert object. And that means that there is a one-way transfer of energy from our environment into our homes and cities. This is not sustainable. I believe that the only way that it is possible for us to construct genuinely sustainable homes and cities is by connecting them to nature, not insulating them from it."
"Secondly, these metabolic materials have some of the properties of living systems, which means they can perform in similar ways. They can expect to have a lot of forms and functions within the practice of architecture. And finally, an observer in the future marveling at a beautiful structure in the environment, may find it almost impossible to tell whether this structure has been created by a natural process or an artificial one."
Rachel Armstrong on Architecture That Repairs Itself, using metabolic materials such as protocells.
You can also find her novel The Gray's Anatomy at Amazon.  I haven't read it yet, but I'm considering it.***

Excellent stuff.  Most of this would have been mind-blowing science fiction just a few years ago.  Now it's out in the world, being applied and getting deployed and developed for real.  Cities should not only be places where people live, but ought to be alive themselves...or at least there is every indication that there will be cities that develop into living meta-organisms.  Maybe they'll develop a personality unto themselves.  Consider the implication of a sort of reverse-anthropomorphism; instead of projecting human values/traits onto inanimate structures, we'll be experiencing these structure's traits and values in their own right.  Will we get along or will there be conflicts between living cities and their inhabitants?  Will cities develop sentience?  Should they?  Who would oppose such a thing, and who would push for it to happen against all opposition?  What will a truly New City be like?

Riskail is a mostly desolate world, pock-marked and heavily cratered, where life huddles in the deep ravines and vast chasms left in the wake of a series of massively destructive geologic events that included the eruption of a super-volcano that was triggered by the impact of a cometary core that might have been a deliberate act.  The Great Rift is home to several independent city-states, the largest and most prosperous is Devukarsha, the so-called City of Tiers.  Devukarsha is a thriving, hustling, bustling megapolis that extends outwards across numerous worlds, planes and other spaces and even certain prescribed parallel timelines, as do almost all great cities that arise from the deep Infrastructure that propagates and maintains the various over-lapping and inter-penetrating/interconnected gate networks such as the Twelve Pylon Gates that pour forth the waters of twelve distant worlds, each filling a gargantuan harbor-basin that in turn flows into the cascading torrent of the staggered waterfall that becomes the very headwaters of the River Senube which flows outwards into an estuary-zone where dozens of smaller, lesser and minor gates connect with various tributary worlds, most of which are virgin wildernesses or hellish wastelands.  Out past the Lacework Atolls and the floating wharves, in the deeper waters closer to the equator, the Sea Gates blend together the atmospheres and hydrospheres of countless worlds into a unified meta-ecology that zeppelins, steamers & sailing ships, cargo-carrying macro-barges and flocks of migratory birds all use to travel from world to world to world as they spiral around and around.  Then there are the Mugallo Arches that form an ever-expanding tesseractive labyrinth of overlapping worlds that reaches outwards unto entirely new galaxies and the Obelisk Gates previously detailed, just to name two more such networks.  The city is huge, vast; it contains multitudes on myriad levels both figuratively and literally.
"Devukarsha squats provocatively over the River Senube and its attendant canals as it welcomes all the world to come unto it, enter it, and become infected by it like some fat, overly-decorated whore from one of the impromptu sailor's markets down along the waterfront."
The Poet-Martyr Vu-Chong
Twelve Primary Tiers have been elegantly sculpted out of the overlapping layers of regolith and fractured bedrock left in the wake of the cosmic violence that shaped Riskail.  Each Tier is an ecology unto itself, yet they all interact as part of a greater whole.  The oghmic-tribes wander the old growth forests cultivated deep within various subsidiary canyons while tall cernun, sleek hourynn and luminous dryanni tend to the forty-thousand different species of trees that grow down the jumbled and tumbled sides of their canyon-preserves to form copses and woodlands extending across and over and through the main precincts of the main cluster of the megapolis into the estuarial parks and down to the shores of the central sea itself.  Green parklands, botanical gardens, herbariums, mycodomes, and jewel-like hothouses in a multitude of designs and geometrical shapes criss-cross the entire expanse of the city-state.  Trails extend outwards from the very heart of the most central urban districts to the farthest agrifields, freeholds, isogardens and the wilderness regions beyond.  On foot, by bike or tram, however one chooses, the most crowded sections of the city are less than ten minutes away from the howling wilderness, and that is without resorting to the gates or the more rapid forms of mass transit that flow seamlessly beneath the skin of the city.  Self-pedalling rikshaws prowl the lower esplanades looking for passengers, while translucent streetcars connect a series of platforms that extend from the waterfront to the Second Tier.  Like electricity, fresh water, clean air or greenspaces, public transport is just another amenity that has assumed the ubiquity of a civic-right.  It's expected.  Taken for granted.

Utopia?  Hardly.  Beautiful, certainly.  It should be; it was designed to be beautiful.  Many of the people who live within the city were likewise designed to fulfill their roles or obligations to Society as well.  But the designers, the care-taking machines, the self-perpetuating Infrastructure and all the other features, functions and processes intrinsic and endemic to urban existence in Devukarsha can not do a thing about human naturePeople are people, no matter if they have enough to eat, a place to live or mechanical slaves to handle all the drudgery for them, they will always find the fly in the ointment, the flaws to complain about, the things that they cannot have and desperately want all the more precisely because they are out of reach.  Just as in all of previous human history, one thing leads to another and someone lets loose a smart-ass serpent in the garden.

Survival is not enough.

The City knows this, understands it on a level that the inhabitants are incapable of appreciating. In a million little decisions and subtle choices behind the scenes, the City acts to maintain a healthy and prosperous balance, to perpetuate itself and provide for its inhabitants.  All of its inhabitants.


  1. Senube: Is it pronounced 'Sen*Ewe*Bay'?

    I really enjoy these glimpses of Riskail.
    --Thank you for posting them. :D

  2. Pronounciation varies depending upon the caste or Tier of the speaker. Those in High Society along the East would say 'Sen*Ooh*Bah', while those of the West would usually say 'Sen*uh*Buh' and the lower eschelons mostly just say 'Sen*Oob.' The orbital clans are most likely to use the 'Sen*Ewe*Bay' pronunciation. They'll be showing up fairly soon, after Rallu's stories finally get uploaded and Othuze is revealed.

  3. Very interesting stuff.
    --I am looking forward to more...ever more. :D


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