Thursday, February 04, 2016

Interview on Extinction Radio

I discuss collapse, weird old America, why Facebook is like a cross between animal husbandry and data processing, the book 150-Strong which has just been published, my upcoming book Shrinking the Technosphere and all the reasons why Near-Term Human Extinction is something of a faulty intellectual product.

SOUNDCLOUD LINK

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

New Release from Club Orlov Press: 150-STRONG

I am very happy to announce that another Club Orlov Press title, on which Rob and I worked for most of a year, is finally available. Its cover doesn't lie: this book does provide a pathway to a different future—and, in my estimation, a better one.

It is the happy end of a longish story.

In early 2013 I was invited to speak at the North House Folk School in Grand Marais, Minnesota. It is a school that teaches a wide variety of native and folk arts, from building canoes to baking bread. One of the things that this school does rather well is teach people how to become part of the community that has grown up around the school. This had been happening spontaneously for some time, and it was thought that a conscious effort in this direction would produce even better results. And so, I was invited to address this topic in a seminar.

This was a new topic for me, and so I spent a few weeks at the library researching small communities that have stood the test of time. I looked at a great many of them: religious communities, such as the Anabaptists—the Amish, Mennonites and Hutterites, as well as the Mormons in Utah and the Dukhobors in British Columbia; secular ones, such as the Kibbutzim in Israel; ethnically defined ones such as the Roma (also called Gypsies) and the Pashtun tribesmen of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Whiplash Plateau

My interview on the final weekly C-Realm Podcast. KMO is moving on, so am I (in various ways) and so we took some time to recap and draw some conclusions. It's the end of an era. Please have a listen.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Future is Blivets

[Die Zukunft heißt Blivet]
[Il futuro è nel Blivet]
[L’avenir est aux blivets]
[先物取引はブリヴェットなり]

If you have been paying attention, you may have noticed that the global financial markets are currently in meltdown mode. Apparently, the world has hit diminishing returns on making stuff. There is simply too much of everything, be it oil wells, container ships, skyscrapers, cars or houses. Because of this, the world has also hit diminishing returns on borrowing money to build and sell more stuff, because the stuff we build doesn't sell. And because it doesn't sell, the price of stuff that's already been made keeps going down, lowering its value as loan collateral and making the problem worse.

Monday, January 25, 2016

QUIDNON Assembly: Stuff and Glue

When building a boat, no matter what technique is used, most of the time goes into making the parts. Much of the quality of the resulting hull has to do with the quality of the pieces—the precision with which they are fitted together. Much time is squandered grinding and trimming them to achieve a tight fit. All of this work requires some level of expertise, plus a well-equipped workshop.

This won't work for QUIDNON, which is to be assembled barn-raising style on some sheltered bit of coastline in a few summer weekends by people who have never built a boat before, and, if all goes well, never will build a boat again, boatbuilding being entirely incidental to the far more interesting activities of living aboard a boat and sailing it around.

Therefore, QUIDNON will arrive at the construction site in the form of a set of shipping pallets loaded with all of the parts pre-made. The kit of parts from which the hull is assembled will consist of a large set of plywood panels, milled out using an excessively precise numerically controlled machine. Each piece will be numbered, and each assembly step documented in a printed assembly manual.

More...

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Defeat is Victory

John Holcroft
[Niederlage ist Sieg]
[La défaite, c’est la victoire]
[Sconfitta è Vittoria]

On the wall of George Orwell's Ministry of Truth from his novel 1984 there were three slogans:

WAR IS PEACE
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH

It occurred to me that these apply just a little bit too well to the way the Washington, DC establishment operates.

Sailing through a Meltwater Pulse

It's January, and the Greenland ice sheet is melting. There was recently a winter hurricane in the North Atlantic, and another in the Pacific. On New Year's day there was a thaw at the North Pole. Greenand is melting; when it melts, the ocean level will go up 20 feet (6m). This will be enough to flood all the coastal cities—permanently. So far, predictions as to how fast this melting will occur have proven to be worthless, with the actual melting rate outpacing them by a huge margin. And although many people still believe that the effect will be gradual—less than an inch a year—another view on the matter is that at some point there will be an avalanche-like collapse of the Greenalnd ice sheet, which will generate a meltwater pulse, sending ocean levels up many feet in a single step.

And there are all those who, whenever I publish something that mentions climate change, crawl out of the woodwork and gnash their exoskeletal mandibles at me, to the effect that climate=weather, and it's all a conspiracy theory. They are idiots and deserve a boathook in the eye. Sailing on... [UPdate: if you think that calling idiots idiots and saying that they deserve a boathook in the eye would dissuade them from posting comments for me to delete, you'd be wrong. That's not how idiots' minds (don't) work. Mention catastrophic climate change, and idiots come running.]

For the sake of this discussion, I will assume a meltwater pulse of 10 feet (3m). What will it mean for those of us who live on the water and sail along the coastline? And, more specifically, what will be the impacts for the sailboat design I have been working on for about a year now—QUIDNON, the houseboat that sails?

Read more...

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Financial collapse leads to war

[Финансовый крах приводит к войне]
[Les US échoueront même à échouer]
[Il crollo finanziario che conduce alla guerra]
Finanz-Kollaps führt zum Krieg]

[This is a rerun from March of last year, whose time has finally come. With the new year, a sea change seems to have occurred in the financial markets: instead of “melting up,” the way they used to, they have started “melting down.” My original prediction is that this will lead to more armed conflict. Let's see if I was right.]

Scanning the headlines in the western mainstream press, and then peering behind the one-way mirror to compare that to the actual goings-on, one can't but get the impression that America's propagandists, and all those who follow in their wake, are struggling with all their might to concoct rationales for military action of one sort or another, be it supplying weapons to the largely defunct Ukrainian military, or staging parades of US military hardware and troops in the almost completely Russian town of Narva, in Estonia, a few hundred meters away from the Russian border, or putting US “advisers” in harm's way in parts of Iraq mostly controlled by Islamic militants.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

My Prescription for 2016: Collapse Early and Often

Tony Futura
[Mein Rezept für 2016: Frühzeitig und häufig Kollabieren!]

[Ma prescription pour 2016 : Effondrez-vous rapidement et souvent !]

[La mia ricetta per il 2016: Collassare presto e di frequente]

We are in the time of year when most sensible animals living in northerly climates are hibernating in burrows and hollow tree trunks, while the somewhat less sensible pundits make their predictions for the coming year. My prediction is always the same—things will go on more or less same as before, until something major breaks, while the probability of something major breaking goes up with each passing year. I have called this event “collapse,” and have predicted, year after year, that it will eventually happen. And so, instead of repeating this less than useful prediction, this year I will instead provide a prescription.

Friday, December 25, 2015

A Christmas Present for the Whole World!

Merry Christmas, World!

I have done more than my share of spreading collapse-related doom and gloom, and to make up for it today I am spreading a bit of cheer, in the form of a pleasant, useful, family-friendly booklet titled

The Pitfalls of English: A Guide and Reference

It is a dictionary of English heterographs, heteronyms and contronyms. (If you don't know what they are, read on!) The amazing thing about this book is that up until now it didn't exist. But then, as Nassim Taleb pointed out, how many centuries did it take for people to realize that maybe they should put suitcases on casters(US)/castors(UK)?

If you are reading this, then this book is for you. Maybe you want to avoid making a fool of yourself when speaking or writing English. Or maybe you just want to devise devilishly clever puns. Or maybe you need a thoughtful gift for that special person whose sloppy spelling annoys you. In short, it's a good book to have, provided you either know or would like to know English. It's very reasonably priced, so please buy two, keep one copy as a reference and use the other to slap people with when they make mistakes. Better yet, buy a whole bunch, and give one to every English teacher you know. And if you are an English teacher, have the school buy one for each of your students (at a large quantity discount).

Here is the introduction that lays out the entire rationale for this book:

English is an incredibly handy language. In fact, if you only know one language, but it’s English, you’ll probably manage to get by somehow. It’s almost incomparably easier to learn than Chinese, Arabic or Russian. Even Spanish, which is another incredibly handy language, and also fairly easy to learn, has quite a bit more grammatical machinery to it than English: grammatical gender, inflections and so on.

This is why English is in such widespread use all over the world. If a Chinese, a Russian and an Arab meet and have a conversation, it’s a safe bet that they will be speaking English. There are many reasons why it’s so easy to learn: English grammar is small and simple; English vocabulary is international, much of it borrowed from Latin, Greek, French and other languages; and a bit of English is easy to pick up simply by paying attention, because it has excellent penetration throughout the world via popular music, movies and the Internet.

So far so good. But there is another side to English which makes it rather unnecessarily complicated. While spoken English is easy, written English is so confusing that kids in English-speaking countries spend several more years just learning how to read and write than kids who grow up speaking much more complicated languages, such as the aforementioned Chinese, Russian and Arabic. About half the kids end up having serious difficulties with learning to read and write English.

All the trouble comes from the fact that most English words are still written pretty much the same way they were when they first entered the language—which was often hundreds of years ago, when they sounded very different. For example, when the English first started using the word “nature,” they most likely pronounced it “nah-TOO-reh.” Now they pronounce it “NAY-chuh,” but they still write it as if it were pronounced “nah-TOO-reh.” What this means is that for a great many English words (some 40 percent of them) you have to memorize both how they sound and how they are written, separately. And that, as an English person might put it, is “a bit of a bother.”