nettime's_rocket_scientist on Thu, 20 Mar 2014 02:50:52 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> irreversible digest [x3: newmedia, hankwitz, hopkins]

Re: industrial civilisation headed for 'irreversible collapse'?
     Molly Hankwitz <>
     John Hopkins <>

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Date: Wed, 19 Mar 2014 08:24:52 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Re: industrial civilisation headed for 'irreversible collapse'?

Since we became "post-industrial" 50+ years ago (so, "industrial  
civilization" has already long-since collapsed, irreversibly), it would seem  that 
NASA has been spending their time looking in the "rear-view mirror" (as you  
might expect from such an organization) . . . 
Mark Stahlman
Jersey City Heights

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Date: Wed, 19 Mar 2014 13:27:34 -0700
Subject: Re: industrial civilisation headed for 'irreversible collapse'?
From: Molly Hankwitz <>

Dear nettime,

The weight of such research published in an authoritative Nasa report is
unguessable. The rarification of resources a deliberate obfuscation of
means and methods introduced daily by the world's subsistence farmers,
original artists, urban farmers, solar engineers, water conservationists,
wind farmers, bird lovers, and so forth? Can Nasa researchers truly see the
end of Empire in their findings and their reading of history?

I take this opportunity to recommend a book - to throw another light on
this topic:

Catastrophism: The Apocalyptic Politics of Collapse and Rebirth, 2012
contributions by Sasha Lilley, David McNally, Eddie Yuen, James Davis
with foreward by Doug Henwood
published in the Spectre series at PM Press

Critique on the discourses of 'disaster', 'failure' and other tropes of
catastrophe in media culture, political discourse, and capitalism.
Apologies if you already know it and I'm repeating what appears ancient
history at first.

Some book cover comments from Christian Parenti and Leo Panitch

"Welcoming the end of the world as the catalyst of political deliverance is
one of the most irresponsible potitions on offer. This book is a superb
antidote to the unproductive politics of fear."

"Bravo! this is the book that has been sorely needed for so long to reveal
the dead end that a politics founded on catastrophic predictions must lead
to in terms of either preventing them or actually changing the world.
Essential reading for all those on the left who are concerned with the
question of strategy today."

thank you for the links


On Wed, Mar 19, 2014 at 6:52 AM, John Young <> wrote:

> Swell justification for restricting higher education to a few monks
> and nuns to yearn on calloused knees and wormy gruel for eternal
> damnation without salvation. Send the rest into the fields and mines
> and hovels to labor, fuck and die shortly and brutally. Population
> will rapidly drop to save the goodies for the brilliantly exploitive
> apostles of dreadful prospects for apostates.


Molly Hankwitz, Ph.D.
History of Ideas in Electronic Art, Digital Culture and Information
Science, Engineering, Art and Design network (SEAD)


current project:
culture blog:
research tumblr:
research tumblr:

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Date: Wed, 19 Mar 2014 14:58:12 -0700
From: John Hopkins <>
Subject: Re: <nettime> industrial civilisation headed for 'irreversible

On 19/Mar/14 05:04, James Barrett wrote:

> I believe that so much of what could be playing out in societies dealing with
> massive network systems is being established below the official levels of
> administration, production and distribution of goods and services. Peer to
> Peer file sharers, people smugglers, mercenary armies, Folksonomies, G8
> protesters, SMS political sends - Burma, South Korea, Philippines, an so on
> and on are parts of a more general revision of practices based on networks.
> The solar farm mentioned above is an example of a horizontal system based on
> a network. If one panel is taken out, the system continues.

Hi James --

Unfortunately, this sounds very positive precisely because it neglects the 
reality that ordered systems of production and consumption of 'goods and 
services' ("networked" or otherwise) require massive amounts of energy simply to 
drive the 'order'. If you plan to rely on the global system of resource 
extraction, the consequent need for global transport, and the subsequent 
production industries, you are already into an unsustainable techno-social 
system for the 7 billion consumers on the planet.

**'Local' doesn't exist for the telecom technologies that are sitting in your 
pocket, nor any other 'high' technology and, for that matter, most other 
post-paleolithic technologies!**

The solar panel example suffers from the most common weakness of the argument: 
it considers the situation as a 'closed' system -- that the 'local' exists 
autonomously with external resources (panels) appearing magically in the local 
system. This same problem is illustrated by, a few years ago, when Iceland was 
touting that they would have a complete 'hydrogen' economy in a few years -- 
"totally sustainable" -- except for the fact that every single piece of 
machinery, construction materials, and other raw materials comes to the island 
through global shipping and manufacturing means. It's sustainable if you 
consider the physical island as a system, but clearly not when you expand the 
system to include these dominant energy/material feeds.

Where did the solar panels come from? Have you walked a solar panel production 
system from beginning to end? Highly energy intensive, toxic, and relies 
completely on global networks for raw materials -- you cannot manufacture one 
otherwise*. This applies to any 'technological' solution, with the tiny 
exception of the ones that are completely sourced locally. And which ones are 
those? Perhaps growing your own vegetables? (where's the water coming from? the 
seeds? the pot you cook them in? the wood you burn?)

Not to mention that whenever the phrase "cheap and unlimited" energy comes up, 
unless someone is talking about how to get a suntan at the beach, best to run 
for the doors, as you will be relieved of a chunk of whatever cash you might 
happen to have in inverse proportion to your intelligence ... pseudo-science is 
the avocation of those (journalists!) who do not grasp even the basic principles 
that the natural laws of science ... you can't contradict thermodynamics. And 
while it's only my opinion, anyone believing in the idea that a 
yet-to-be-discovered 'technology' that miraculously contravenes fundamental 
physical laws is going to change the scenario is not a realist to say the least. 
Of course, you can say that we can migrate to the stars, or Mars, or find water 
on the Moon, but that will only compromise that intelligence index.

* (this in the sense that you set a minimum efficiency of more that 10% for 
electric production -- you can create primitive PV cells relying on certain 
organic processes -- but to take advantage of 'solar energy' in a local sense, 
best to rely on photosynthesis and work on those vegetables, the sun tan, and if 
you have more than a few hectares, chopping some wood after first fashioning an 
ax blade from local stones if you are lucky enough to have such ...)

Dr. John Hopkins, BSc, MFA, PhD
photographer, media artist, archivist

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