Post-Election

Had I disposable income I’d be buying and handing out copies of the comic book Transmetropolitan like other people do with self help books.

I’ve been all over the place this last week. And I haven’t really nailed down my thoughts on the election in any eloquent manner. I think I was trying to distract myself, but I was also starting to plan.

I talked to friends about how to secure their data and devices more effectively before the inauguration, and gave them some more resources.

I spent some time fantasizing about building speculative, sci-fi ish sandcastles like this guy.

I cried at Kate McKinnon’s tribute to Leonard Cohen, which was also a tribute to us.

The Rose of Jericho unexpectedly resurfaced in my feeds at the right time, and I thought about that for a while.

I remembered From 52 to 48 With Love and kind of longed for the naivety of eight years ago.

But I’ll tell you what. I have not one thought of moving away. I will fight the Trump administration and whoever supports harmful policies with everything I have. I will bring The Weird.

And we will fight, building and singing and recklessly blooming and loving all the way.

Some Bits and Pieces

via @m1sp,

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via @robertloerzel,

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via @science_hooker, @lornalou92‘s ‘A Scot’s Lament for Americans, Oan their election of a tangerine gabshite walloper.’

via @museumarchive, a 6th century Buddha statue found in a Viking grave in Sweden.

via @valaafshar, what happens when you toss a pot of boiling water in -25 degree air.

and via Bill Tozier, an intriguing question that’s gripped my brain since he asked it:

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And to finish off for the evening: Kate McKinnon opens SNL by singing Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” That broke me a bit in a lovely and haunting way.

The Explosive Trajectory of Technology

Jon Jeckell tweeted a Popular Mechanics piece showing what appeared to be a Ukrainian prototype shoulder-fired missile with a guidance system powered by the Raspberry Pi microcomputer. The inclusion of the Pi makes it a seeming next-step from the much shared image of Syrian rebels in Jobar in 2013 using an iPad to angle mortar fire. We are using our new off-the-shelf street-level tools to build the complex weapons systems out of most people’s reach for the past half-century or more.

Just as notable as the idea that it uses the hobbyist computer is that it’s apparently guided by sound, making it the first sound-homing ground-based weapon. This dovetails neatly with another trend I’ve been tracking and laid out a bit in The Renewed Importance of Sound – an exploration and exploitation of a much different sensory domain than we’re used to engaging with.

Mortars have been around since the 14th century or so – unsurprisingly (due to the history of gunpowder), first appearing in east/southeast Asia. It took 500 years to go from massive, unwieldy field artillery pieces to the compact Stokes trench mortar in the first World War that could be carried and crewed by a single soldier. Less than fifty years later, engineers successfully managed to link hardware and firing control computers in such a way that they could achieve MRSI or Multiple Round Simultaneous Impact, a devastating deployment of ordnance in which multiple weapons in different places fire in such a way that their rounds reach the target at the same time. With minimal human input, which seems to be the way our weapons trend.

Shoulder-fired missiles have a similar line of development. Traced back to ancient Chinese arrows loaded with black powder and a fuse, they evolved then into multiply-crewed weapons systems that looked like a collection of tubes on a single wheel axle that could be fired in quick succession but not aimed particularly well. Fast forward roughly equivalent to the above and you get to the Panzerfaust of World War II and similar rocket-propelled weapons systems that were much more practical and stable, if not necessarily accurate. And again, in less than 10% of the time between the real inception of the weapon and its 20th century jump, the technology jumped again. As just one example, Britain developed the MBT-LAW shoulder-fired “fire and forget” system that tracks moving targets on its own, making autonomous corrections to its flight path and speed. Also consider MANPAD (man-portable air defense systems) like the Stinger missile.

At first glance the Jobar case and the Ukrainian prototype seem disconnected. After all, the former involves using the accelerometer of a separate, unlinked device whereas the missile integrates the technology. But consider the similar technological trajectories of the weapons systems and the fact that people without access to Pentagon engineers can now not only use computers to deliver ordnance accurately but can relatively easily link them similar to the MRSI concept explained above. Once an abstract concept, ballistic computers are now so natively and immediately understood that in the absence of them we appropriate our own, integrate them how we can, and deploy.