Contemplative Ecologies 9

I made several big data dumps this week. My favorite 5 posts were about cyborg urbanization, urban resilience, regenerative capitalism, the astrobiology of the Anthropocene, and an animated short film on consumerism. Hope you enjoy!

1. An artificial intelligence named Michihito Matsuda is running for this year’s mayoral elections in Tama city, Japan. The AI mayor’s platform consists of 3 selling points: “(1) The ability to discover and analyze relevant petitions pertaining to Tama City, as well as break down the positives and negatives and statistically dictate whether this would have a positive or negative effect; (2) Intake the dialogue and wishes of residents, carefully calculating what the best way to implement them would be if they match the people’s desires; (3) Find level-compromise in common interest conflicts amongst the people of Tama City.”

This is yet another example of how smart cities could become increasingly conscious cities. Another blog post I read explored this evolution from smart cities to posthuman architecture. I’m increasingly interested in how cyborg urbanization (see here and here) would evolve what it means to be ‘human’ as biological and digital worlds become enmeshed.

2. I’ve also been pondering how smart urban infrastructure can help generate social justice and ecological health. The Rockefeller Foundation is investing in 100 resilient cities. The “City Resilience Index (CRI) is being developed by Arup… [and] provides a holistic articulation of city resilience, structured around four dimensions, 12 goals and 52 indicators that are critical to measure the resilience of our cities… The indicators also integrate the seven qualities of resilient systems (e.g. robust, inclusive, flexible) that Arup’s empirical research has identified as of vital importance.”

3. Last week, I met John Fullerton, a former Wall Street banker who created the Capital Institute, a think tank exploring the interface between economics, science, and wisdom traditions. Check out their report on Regenerative Capitalism; or, for those short on time, check out this summary in Kosmos.

4. I also met Adam Frank who’s investigating the astrobiology of the Anthropocene. Here are some key take-aways from his research: (1) “There is only a one in 10 billion trillion chance that life and intelligence and civilization have not happened before… [taking a pessimistic view, the chances are that there have been] a trillion exo-civilizations across cosmic history.” Anthropocenes may not be rare. Other alien civilizations have most likely experienced them. (2) Triggering an Anthropocene marks a transition for both the planet and civilization. (3) Sustainability in this context requires an “awakened” planet (Gaia) in which both the biosphere and civilization flourish in entirely new ways, according to deep ecological values where compassion and identification with all life are primary values. “[This] opens the possibility to broaden our understanding of coupled system dynamics and lay the foundations to explore a path to long-term sustainability by entering into a cooperative ecological-evolutionary dynamic with the coupled planetary systems.”

Why is this important? Because “consideration of the astrobiology of the Anthropocene changes the frame of our debate and lets us see something we have been missing. We’re not a plague on the planet. Instead, we are simply another thing the Earth has done in its long history. We’re an ‘expression of the planet,’ as Kim Stanley Robinson puts it. It’s also quite possible that we are not the first civilization is cosmic history to go through something like this. From that perspective, climate change and the sustainability crises may best be seen as our ‘final exam’ (as Raymond Pierrehumbert calls it). Better yet, it’s our coming of age as a true planetary species.”

You can read Adam’s published papers (here, here, here, here, and here) and a few non-academic summaries of his research (here, here, and here). His book, called Light of the Stars Alien Worlds and the Fate of the Earth, will be published this June.

5. I’d like to end this week’s update by introducing Steve Cutt’s artwork, especially this beautifully animated short film about consumerism and the rat race.

Questions, comments, or recommendations for future content? Please email <walsh_zack@yahoo.com>. Like what you see? Check out my personal Facebook page or scholarly publications. See you next Friday!

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