Posts Tagged 'alternate'


just look at the little guy...

More future cars! Spotted in The New York Times last week, the “carbon-neutral” city of Masdar in the United Arab Emirates, has been infested with subterranean driverless cars. The city is apparently raised  23 feet off the ground to catch the desert breeze, and to make room for the local network of robot cars. Ostensibly little different than a subway, the very private personal transports took their design – it seems –  from well, every clean Utopian Sci Fi film ever made. Norman Foster, lead designer for Foster & Partners, who helmed the UAE’s new eco-mecca is supposedly a “lifelong tech buff who collaborated with Buckminster Fuller” – so that explains a few things.

Nicolai Ourorrsof from NYT explains:

But Mr. Foster’s most radical move was the way he dealt with one of the most vexing urban design challenges of the past century: what to do with the car. Not only did he close Masdar entirely to combustion-engine vehicles, he buried their replacement — his network of electric cars — underneath the city. Then, to further reinforce the purity of his vision, he located almost all of the heavy-duty service functions — a 54-acre photovoltaic field and incineration and water treatment plants — outside the city.

The result, Mr. Foster acknowledged, feels a bit like Disneyland. “Disneyland is attractive because all the service is below ground,” he said. “We do the same here — it is literally a walled city. Traditional cars are stopped at the edges.”

Driving from downtown Abu Dhabi, 20 miles away, you follow a narrow road past an oil refinery and through desolate patches of desert before reaching the blank concrete wall of Masdar and find the city looming overhead. (Mr. Foster plans to camouflage the periphery behind fountains and flora.) From there a road tunnels through the base to a garage just underneath the city’s edge.

Stepping out of this space into one of the “Personal Rapid Transit” stations brings to mind the sets designed by Harry Lange for “2001: A Space Odyssey.” You are in a large, dark hall facing a row of white, pod-shaped cars lined up in rectangular glass bays. (The cars’ design was based on Buckminster Fuller’s proposal for a compact urban vehicle, the D-45, which helps explain their softly contoured, timelessly futuristic silhouettes.) Daylight spills down a rough concrete wall behind them, hinting at the life above” [emphasis added].

The first 13 cars of a proposed fleet of hundreds were being tested the day I visited, but as soon as the system is up, within a few weeks, a user will be able to step into a car and choose a destination on an LCD screen. The car will then silently pull into traffic, seeming to drive itself. (There are no cables or rails.)

 the fleet in stationCheck the diagram and slideshow for more.

Alternate Futures Do Exist!

Rucker with some fruit

Another repost from BoingBoing, and a refreshingly original take on Sci Fi. Author Rudy Rucker presents a brief list of Sci Fi subjects other than the singularity available to potential writers.

In a world of ever more technology, it’s easy to see why the popular imagination has such limited  subject matter. Spaceships and robots have always been vital to Science fiction, and as computers emerged in the twentieth century it was reflected in tales of AI and the like. The singularity now seems unavoidable – if unlikely to actually occur – as something that today’s authors must face due to the increasing scale and power of computers. But, if a technology surrounds us today, it is even more important that our thoughts of tomorrow include something other.

[Rudy Rucker via Boing Boing]

Book Recommendation


Coming as a strong recommendation for any fellow independent futurists, Jaron Lanier’s You Are Not A Gadget is a self-proclaimed manifesto decrying the current trends of web culture and how they are devaluing the definition of the person. While not strictly concerned with the kind of futuristic material dealt with here at Manifest Future, I mention it because Lanier agrees with my own argument that the vital trait of individuality is threatened by today’s technology. The book’s simplistic writing and easily digestible chapters tamper the outlandish claims made throughout the book (like the idea of paying for creative content and reorganizing the digital economy). Choice quotes follow:

“You can belive that your mind makes up the world, but a bullet will still kill you. A virtual bullet, however, doesn’t even exist unless there is a person to recognize it as a representation of a bullet. Guns are real in a way that computers are not.” (27)

“Humans are free. We can commit suicide for the benefit of a Singularity. We can engineer our genes to better support an imaginary hive mind. We can make culture and journalism into second-rate activities and spend centuries remixing the detritus of the 1960s and other eras from before individual creativity went out of fashion.” (44)

“Are we building the digital utopia for people or machines? If it’s for people, we have a problem.” (87)

“Some other examples are the iPhone, the Pixar movies, and all the other beloved successes of digital culture that involve innovation in the result as opposed to the ideology of creation. In each case, these are personal expressions. True, they often involve large groups of collaboratos, but there is always a central visions – a Will Wright, a Steve Jobs, or a Brad Bird conceiving the vision and directing a team of people earning salaries”. (132)

Preview on Google Books

Buy on Amazon

And be sure to check out Lanier’s rebellious and hilariously regressive website.


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