Category: Science

The network versus the hierarchy

The network versus the hierarchy

‘IT IS EASIER to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism.’ So wrote the critical theorist Frederic Jameson in New Left Review in 2003, attributing the sentiment to an unnamed ‘someone’ whom posterity, with nothing else to go on, has decided to call Frederic Jameson.

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Collapsology

Collapsology

In his most recent novel,The Second Sleep, Robert Harris imagines a future England in which life is lived according to the rhythms and mores of the pre-modern era. Technology is primitive, Christianity taken literally, and, notwithstanding a parrot or two (an effect, perhaps, of global warming), the landscape indistinguishable from that of medieval England.

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Two books on memory

Two books on memory

If this year’s federal election proved one thing, other than the fact that polling firms are hilariously overpaid, it’s that social media is now an invaluable resource for journalists seeking a juicy story or political operatives looking to embarrass their opponents.

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Digital Apes: On Humanity and AI

Digital Apes: On Humanity and AI

This review was first published in The Weekend Australian. * Shortly before his death in 2015 the fantasy writer Terry Pratchett agreed to be interviewed for a documentary about his life and legacy. ‘When I was a boy all I ever wanted was my own observatory’ says Pratchett in the film’s final scene. ‘I knew even then that all the […]

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A Review of New Dark Age and Outnumbered

A Review of New Dark Age and Outnumbered

This review was first published in The Weekend Australian. * In his brilliant and beautiful book, New Dark Age, the British artist James Bridle invokes Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics. First set out in Asimov’s short story ‘Runaround’ (1942), these laws are usually expressed as follows: A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a […]

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Why Davos Man Loves Big History

Why Davos Man Loves Big History

On the face of it, David Christian’s Origin Story doesn’t look like the kind of book that demands a political analysis. Subtitled A Big History of Everything, I imagine it will strike most readers as a weightier, less amusing, version of Bill Bryson’s Short History of Nearly Everything – a book for the interested non-specialist, if not the shameless dilettante. […]

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Three new books on the future of work

Three new books on the future of work

David Fagan, Wake Up: The Nine Hashtags of Digital Disruption UQP; $24.95; 224pp Jim Chalmers and Mike Quigley, Changing Jobs: The Fair Go in the New Machine Age Redback; $22.99; 199pp Richard Denniss, Curing Affluenza: How to Buy Less Stuff and Save the World Black Inc.; $27.99; 275pp The times they are a-changin’ – fast. So fast, indeed, that it […]

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STEM Sells (Buyer Beware)

STEM Sells (Buyer Beware)

STEM. It sounds sciencey, doesn’t it? A stem is a type of cell, after all, as well as one of the two structural axes of a vascular plant, or tracheophyte. There are also “stem groups” in evolutionary biology, and Scanning Transmission Electron Microscopy, and Spatiotemporal Epidemiological Modellers. Probably there’s a group of physicists somewhere who play Jean-Michel Jarres covers and […]

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On Terry Eagleton and Roger Scruton: What Kind of Thing Is Humankind?

On Terry Eagleton and Roger Scruton: What Kind of Thing Is Humankind?

Roger Scruton and Terry Eagleton aren’t natural bedfellows. As a conservative philosopher in the Burkean mould, Scruton tends to regard the past as a country from which we have strayed too far, while the Marxist Eagleton looks forward to a world that has broken free from oppression and exploitation. But while certain fundamental differences emerge from a reading of these […]

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Future Perfect: Beyond the Delusional Present

Future Perfect: Beyond the Delusional Present

This essay was first published in Griffith Review: Imagining the Future. You can purchase a copy here. In ‘The Soul of Man under Socialism’ (1891), Oscar Wilde wrote that ‘A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at, for it leaves out the one country at which Humanity is always landing.’ Certainly it […]

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