February 11, 2008

Smog and rust

Check out the smog from China / Taiwan in this NASA image. Tainan is just by the big dirty cloud 3/4 the way down the west coast. This picture makes me want to move to the east.

Had a long bike ride from Tainan city to Salt Mountain in Chigu, which is really just a heap of salt by a salt processing plant that's been turned into a very minor tourist attraction, complete with salty tea, salty coffee and salty popsicles. It's a nice ride to get there but it's not worth visiting.

Came back via Tainan Science Park, which was deserted, with long straight roads past anonymous block buildings in which the future is being dreamed up. The ride was done with a good talk and Q&A by Vernor Vinge on my MP3 player. It's called "What if the Singularity does not happen?", and the text notes can be found here at Vernor's page, while the audio - which is a lot better than the notes - is here. He's a good speaker, perhaps because he's an entertaining sci-fi author aside from being a math professor, although the same is true of Rudy Rucker, and he always sounds slightly dazed, losing his line of thought very easily.

In the Q&A Vinge says that he doesn't really think about the environment, as he thinks there are a) no clear courses of action, and b) the Singularity - which he still thinks is the most likely near future - will be able to address such problems in its own time.

It's interesting that two large groups of smart people have such totally opposing views of the future - environmental breakdown and technological rapture. I enjoy flipping between both positions. I'm getting more and more promiscuous in my thinking, and I think it's a tendency I should encourage.

Having said that, what's the downside of saving energy and keeping things clean?

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