Welcome to the Club of Amsterdam Journal.
This show is moderated by Katie Aquino, aka “Miss Metaverse”. We are talking about Collective Intelligence with Jerome C. Glenn and about Water & Africa with James M Dorsey. The Future Now Show
…. and join our event in London about the future of Metro Vitality, Friday, April 24, 2015, 2:00 PM – 6:00 PM
we have an excellent program including presentations by Josef Hargrave, Arup, Charles Landry and more …
Felix F Bopp, Founder & Chairman
The UN in the Urban Anthropocen
By Oliver Hillel, Montreal. Jose Puppim, Tokyo
Today, we live in the ‘Urban Anthropocene’. This expression combines the global trend towards urbanization and the neologism ‘Anthropocene’, the term an ecologist would be forced to use these days to describe Homo sapiens as the key structuring species that could determine, alone, the fate of Earth’s life forms. For better or worse, it’s become clear that the way this strange species grows, and accelerates the cycles of nature to serve its own needs, will define whether the planet will evolve towards greater diversity and relative stability (a recurrent association in past human history), or loss of ecological balance and (quite well defined scientifically) significant loss of biodiversity, as has happened a few times over the last 4 billion years. Likewise, an ecologist would agree that this species is highly gregarious and, since 2007, its majority concentrates in sprawling and increasingly vertical self-constructed settlements that consume natural goods and services such as food, water, temperature regulation and many others brought from increasingly distant places through the use of energy from fossil fuels, but also foster innovation and creativity, and can lead to economies of scale at an unprecedented level. The future of the Earth is defined by the future of urban settlements. Thus, what is the best way to try to govern the Urban Anthropocene? Is the present structure of the United Nations (UN) up to the task of helping its peoples in the governance challenges we have in the years ahead?
Certainly we need a global legitimate organization like the UN to support the coordination of global efforts. But this is not enough. Global efforts will have impacts on the ground only if we have good local governance in a significant large number of localities. Thus, understanding the mechanisms governing urbanization, arguably as the largest human movement in history, is key to protecting the global environment, and for global politics and governance systems. Just as the UN needs to change to accommodate the new global “aid architecture” resulting from the enduring economic crisis and the increasing influence of “BRICS+” countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, expanded to include other emerging economies such as, but not limited to, Mexico, Turkey and Indonesia), it should also change and adapt to a world where “networked” local and subnational levels of action and governance are increasingly becoming determinants for success in sustainable development. Decision makers in cities are the nerve cells (in an organism), or the genetic replication/transcription systems (in cells) of human impact on land and nature in all scales.
The urban anthropocene. Photo: Osman Balaban
We also need to recognize that the governance of many of the relevant processes defining which way we go as a species reside in the interstices between many levels of governance, with emphasis on the urban level where most of us live. It won’t be hard to find recent official UN language with what are today accepted “soundbites”: national governments cannot walk the talk of sustainability alone; the creative energy of cities, and the process of urbanization itself, are determining forces in our future. The recent movement for an entire Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) on urban settlements is just its latest symptom, as are statements like “the campaign for Life on Earth will be won, or lost, in cities”. Several of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Addis Ababa Principles and Guidelines for Sustainable Use of Biodiversity (notably 1, which speaks of the need for congruence between national and subnational levels of government; 2, addressing the empowerment and accountability of local players; and 7, speaking about the need for coherence in governance levels and the scales of use and impact) indicate that the decentralization of governance should be compatible with mandates and capacity to address issues.
Is the UN doing enough to accommodate this clear trend? How creatively, urgently or constructively are players discussing such an essential issue? What are the main challenges for increased cooperation in the UN with subnational and local authorities? Well, in principle the answer is that there is increasing participation and awareness, and that decentralization of decisions and responsibilities are happening by global trend, independent of politics. Still we dare say that the evolution towards a more realistic distribution of decisions and responsibilities is happening much quicker at national than at regional and/or global (i.e. UN) levels. And concretely, the current official UN representation of subnational and local governments is clear: other than those parallel events (such as the CBD’s City and Subnational Governments Summits, informal discussions platforms, partnerships with associations or Plans of Actions like the CBD’s – exceptions as we know), there’s not much progress. Some provocative local councillors we know would point to the need for something akin to “taxation with representation” in the UN.
In recent work, we have also become aware of the following points (not yet scientifically proven for all levels, but compiling evidence for this could be a decent enough challenge):
a) Local and subnational governments are not civil society groups (or major groups in the UN jargon), nor should their associations be called NGOs, as sub-national and local authorities represent governments: political and administrative organizations legitimated by their own people through their national political system. Clearly they have special mandates complementary to those of national and federal governments. Indeed they are best placed to control crucial issues such as watershed management and land-use zoning, business, infrastructure and housing development, regulation and enforcement, and coordination of efforts in participation, communication, education, and awareness raising of citizens. States/Provinces are natural landscape managers (watersheds, forests, mosaics of different land uses like Biosphere Reserves or Regional Natural Parks usually are managed and financed by subnational and local governments), and have a mandate for coordinating actions by municipalities. As such, local and subnational governments should be given an appropriate position in UN-level negotiations, at least at the status of “special partner”. If SIDS, LDCs and ILCs have already been granted special status in some multilateral agreements, why not parts of governments themselves, through the use of creative arrangements that preserve UN member States’ sovereign mandates and UN protocol?
b) National budgets are formed, and executed, to a significant degree, by local and subnational authorities. Indeed, a graph of public procurement in anything (the largest budget allocations, such as housing/infrastructure development, salaries and/or education/health, but also much smaller ones like biodiversity or protected areas) across governance levels would look something like a cone with its point at the top (i.e. large amounts of taxes are collected by or at the jurisdiction of subnational/local levels, such as VATs and some income, and then transferred to federal accounts). While the role of national governments is clear in setting UN and global parameters and policies and negotiating in the international arena on environment and development issues like biodiversity, large part of all global expenditures are actually made at the local level (and expenditures could be correlated with activity levels). Many sub-national governments have access (through an endorsement at national level) to grants and loans from international organizations. The same will probably be found to apply to law enforcement, CEPA and capacity building, among other topics.
Those challenges are not easy. First, the sheer scale of coordination and capacity building tasks is daunting. There are around 1 million mayors and something like 50,000 governors, not to speak of various other public executive categories (relatively autonomous regions, counties, local-level associations, dependencies and territories, overseas islands, etc.), but only around 200 UN member States. Then, of course, even if such capacity could be fully supported, local/urban governance is a necessary, BUT NOT SUFFICIENT condition for moving localities to more sustainable development, as national governments would still hold important responsibilities in the constitution of many countries — and their own capacity to coordinate with thousands of local authorities is not assured…
Second, we are clearly as far from good governance at local level as we are at national scale, particularly in developing countries. We need to recognize that the UN has well-known challenges in governance and efficiency itself. Most of the agencies are underfunded (UN Habitat in particular) for their mandates. In fact, global governance through the UN is always limited by design: no national government wants the UN to step beyond their sovereignty, nor could they accept equal voting right for subnational authorities responding to strict mandates at national level (negotiations in IUCN on subnational vote a couple of years ago are a good example). Furthermore, Brazil, for instance, has around 5,500 municipalities, yet arguably much less than a fifth are institutionally strong and viable to be financially independent with the present institutional arrangements. Even successful efforts like the CBD Global Partnership on Subnational and Local Action for Biodiversity, or ICLEI and UCLG involve only a minority of local authorities, may be even a few hundreds or thousands, well under 1% of the whole. On the other hand, the UN, just like all governments, is like that old VW beetle some of us still have at least in memory: it’s not perfect, may even have serious problems, but in general we know how to fix it and anyway it’s all we’ve got to travel a long trip. So improve it we should, and must.
Photo: Jose Puppim de Oliveira
The authors would welcome comments and suggestions on how to address the challenges mentioned in this article, as they are involved in relevant processes. Should the Members of Club of Amsterdam, in its internal consultations, choose to produce position papers or propose activities to advance the issues, the authors are open to cooperation and partnership development. Please contact them at emails oliver.hillel @ cbd.int and puppim @ unu.edu
What can be done?
The power of coordinated efforts, even if at limited level, is overwhelming. Naturally, cities and States converge in the UN through two “kinds” of networks: coherent “coalitions of the willing”, engaged “locomotive” minorities proposing ways ahead and pilot projects (networks, ICLEI, etc.) and wider, more representative (and thus less focused) networks such as UCLG, who are more consultative and generally react when one or two issues impact MOST of the members enough to generate consensus for action. By involving them more broadly and institutionally in the UN according to their mandate, we can advance on what we call a more decentralized (i.e. “polycentric”) approach. We can design parallel interfaces of negotiation. Different territories have different institutions in place that could be made more effective for the changes we want, but for that we need to “couple” our UN-level efforts with those of non-UN institutions that are already on the ground to support them in their efforts in the best way we can. We could also focus on improving the spending effectiveness of international aid further through increased substantive, if not financial, contributions of subnational and local governments including coordination with, and recognition of, the impressive amounts of decentralized cooperation already underway. Given that the UN’s reform will be slow and funding will never be enough to address all challenges, what innovative ideas can we propose for the likes of ICLEI (i.e. coalitions of leading and innovative local authorities on sustainable development issues) to break through the “International donors-national governments” limits more efficiently for the benefit of all?
We could go even further. In the late 1910s, organized labor and the “spectre that haunted Europe” (representing a growing power of employed consumers increasingly aware of their role as citizens) contributed to an innovative arrangements in the International Labor Organization (ILO), today a “tripartite” organization in which labor and business are equally represented with national authorities. The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has tourism businesses and their associations as associate members. How could we strengthen the relevant UN agencies (more strategy, planning and policy-focused like UN-HABITAT but also implementation-centered like UNDP) institutionally, in their current cooperation levels with subnational players? How could we adapt and build on the still limited examples of subnational involvement in the CBD and Ramsar towards all of the world’s hundreds of multilateral environmental agreements?
Our perception is that if the member countries of the UN do not seize the opportunity and energy of involving subnational and local governments in global UN governance, parallel (and often not well coordinated) processes risk taking the limelight, a kind of “shadow UN” of subnational and local authorities. And we could do much better to avoid this, with benefits to all. We look forward to 2014, with the CBD COP 12 in the Republic of Korea and its Summit of cities and subnational governments, with the World Urban Forum in Medellin, Colombia, and the HABITAT III process, and we look forward to a much stronger subnational component for the formulation and implementation of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, all to improve the governance of our Urban Anthropocene.
Oliver Hillel has been a Programme Officer at the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (SCBD, administered by the United Nations Environment Programme) in Montreal, Canada, for the last 6 years. He is responsible for the issues of South-South cooperation, sub-national implementation (involvement of States, Regions and cities), Sustainable Tourism, and Island Biodiversity.Jose Antonio Puppim de Oliveira is Senior Research Fellow at the United Nations University (UNU) Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability (UNU-IAS), Japan
The Future Now Show with Andreas Walker, Peter Cochrane and Katie Aquino
Every month we roam through current events, discoveries, and challenges – sparking discussion about the connection between today and the futures we’re making – and what we need, from strategy to vision – to make the best ones.
Jerome C. Glenn, Co-founder, Director, The Millennium Project
Katie Aquino, aka “Miss Metaverse”, Futurista™, USA
Paul Holister, Editor, Summary Text
Many believe that humanity is facing unparalleled crises, relating to resources, population, climate change, energy, environmental destruction, increasing inequality, proliferating weapons and more. We ape-men aren’t even remotely rising to the challenges.
Meanwhile, accelerating technological development brings threats, benefits and, of interest here, new reasoning capabilities.
In this show Jerome C. Glenn presents the idea of better understanding and responding to the above challenges with ‘collective intelligence’, a sort of global fusion of minds, data, and systems (part of The Millennium Project). Intriguing – a hive of bees exhibits intelligence beyond that of a single member. Can we do something similar with people plus software plus the Internet? (No, we aren’t talking hive-minds. Yet.)
Let’s hope so – we need something to counteract the collective stupidity that our current global society exhibits.
Katie Aquino, aka “Miss Metaverse”, Futurista™, USA
James M Dorsey, Singapore
Paul Holister, Editor, Summary Text
VIDEOS about the future of Metro Vitality
|The Club of Amsterdam visits London.|
the future of Metro Vitality
Location: ARUP, 8 Fitzroy Street, London W1T4BQ, United Kingdom
A collaboration between the Association of Professional Futurists and the Club of Amsterdam and hosted by ARUP Foresight + Research + Innovation.
This event will focus on the human aspect of the Future of Cities. The soft architecture of cities.
There are many conversations on the technology and infrastructure of our cities of the future. But on the social and cultural side there is less depth. Extrapolations from generational models derived from a pre-digital world seem archaic. Personas based on smart consumer electronics seem limited. Yet much of the value created by cities comes from culture and people, not from hard structures.
And a whole cluster of trends means that people in cities seem to have more in common with each other than with people living in their own country outside of the city. Are we watching a deep global change in values and understanding – led by the boom in city living?
This collaborative gathering with the Association of Professional Futurists and the Club of Amsterdam uses their approach of a short set of talks then a facilitated across floor dialogue.
Josef Hargrave, Associate – Foresight + Research + Innovation at Arup
Josef sets out possibilities for Future City Architectures into which metro vitality will play
Charles Landry – International authority on the use of imagination and creativity in urban change
Cities of Ambition: vitality and viability
… and more.
Moderated by Nick Price, Association of Professional Futurists – APF
Club of Amsterdam blog
by Humberto Schwab, Philosopher, Owner, Humberto Schwab Filosofia SL, Director, Club of Amsterdam
The Ukrainian Dilemma and the Bigger Picture
by Hardy F. Schloer, Owner, Schloer Consulting Group – SCG, Advisory Board of the Club of Amsterdam
The impact of culture on education
by Huib Wursten, Senior Partner, itim International and
Carel Jacobs is senior consultant/trainer for itim in The Netherlands, he is also Certification Agent for the Educational Sector of the Hofstede Centre.
What more demand for meat means for the future
by Christophe Pelletier, The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.
Inner peace and generosity
by Elisabet Sahtouris, Holder of the Elisabet Sahtouris Chair in Living Economies, World Business Academy
By Michael Akerib, Vice-Rector SWISS UMEF UNIVERSITY
Russia and the US share the fact that they are both Atlantic and Pacific powers although Russia is essentially a land-based power with the largest proportion of its land located in Asia. In fact, of all the countries around the Pacific, Russia has the longest coastline.
Russia’s Far East is an area double that of Europe inhabited by only 7 million people and that, because of its poor demographics, declining infrastructure and industry, is likely to see that population reduced by 2 million over the next 20 or 30 years. It is an area particularly rich in natural resources, and as the region develops by taking advantage of economic growth in China, links with Moscow will weaken and Russia may lose sovereignty over the long term.
Russians continue to see Chinese as underdogs and have failed to apprehend the major changes that have taken place in that country. Russia is also increasingly becoming dependent on Chinese labor, both due to the collapsing Russian demography and to the massive Russian immigration from Siberia to European Russia. For the numerous xenophobic groups present in Russia, this is a threat similar to an invasion. In many respects, this situation is similar to the one between Mexico and the US.
Russia, which traditionally has had a major European presence, is also now on a pivot to Asia as it wants to take advantage of the developments in Asia and wants Asian investors to modernize the Pacific provinces. It is, however, also concerned with the rise of China and the consequent fear of becoming its junior partner.
As things stand at present, Russia is the sort of partner China wants and that the US does not want.
Trade with East Asia has grown considerably, including with China – its most important trading partner – with whom it is progressing at the steady pace of 30% per year. It could increase even more were it not for the poor Russian infrastructure and the increased inability for Russia to supply machinery orders, leading Chinese corporations to substitute them by local production. Nevertheless, China is today Russia’s largest trading partner with trade increasingly being made in remimbi.
In May 2014, Gazprom signed a massive contract to deliver 38 billion cubic meters of gas per year over a period of 30 years but at a rather low price. To expand its market share of the energy markets in East Asia, Russia would have to make large investments in new fields in Eastern Siberia. Rosneft has also agreed to deliver 365 million tons of oil over a period of 25 years.
Russia is China’s fourth largest supplier of oil and they could become the largest supplier should the projected pipeline be directed to China, rather than to Japan. Russian President Putin has decided that a gas pipeline the construction of which has just started, will deliver gas to Nakhodka, thus keeping its options open: shipments to Japan and eventually links to China and South Korea.
State-owned Rosneft has also committed to double its exports of crude oil and participate in the running of a refinery and gas stations in China.
Both countries are against a monopolar world dominated by the United States, and neither are democratic according to Western standards. They have, for instance, taken an identical stand in protecting Iran from UN sanctions.
However, further down in time, relations may not be as good as foreign (and particularly American) trained managers return to China and fail to see the attraction of a close relationship with Russia. Also as a long term issue, Russia knows it needs the US to keep China’s ambitions at bay.
Russian exports weapons to China in 2005. However, Russia has refrained from supplying long-range bombers equipped with missiles, as well as other sophisticated hardware that could threaten the US troops in the area. The two major reasons is the fear that one day they will be turned against Russia and that they could be copied.
While the two countries have conducted joint military exercises, Russia has indicated its intention of shoring up its Navy in the Pacific with the building of a submarine base on the Kamchatka peninsula.
The Asian Square Dance – Part 1
News about the Future
The Sustainable Cities Index endeavors to answer this seemingly simple but actually quite complex question for 50 world cities from 31 countries around the world.
The Sustainable Cities Index not only benchmarks individual places today but offers a roadmap for future improvements.
Race for Water Foundation
The Race for Water Foundation is a charity dedicated to water preservation. Today, this vital resource is in serious danger. It has to be protected. To learn, share and act on our Water Footprint and Marine Plastic Pollution are the main issues the Foundation focuses on.
The “Race for Water Odyssey” aims to create the first global assessment of plastic pollution in oceans, by visiting islands located in the heart of trash vortexes. These islands, which lie at the center of the gyres, serve as a sort of natural barrier against the movement of this waste, catching the debris and making it accumulate on their coasts. Their beaches are therefore a representative sample of the kinds and quantities of debris found in the surrounding waters.
In Search of Utopias
An Introduction to H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Quest of Iranon”
By Emmanuel Koukios, Professor of Organic Technologies at the National Technical University of Athens, Greece. His research interests focus on the emergence of bio-economy/bio-society, approached from technological and managerial points of view.
“Caminante no hay camino” (“Cantares…” by Antonio Machado)
In a few months, those of us who observe and try to understand socio-technical change should celebrate the 500-year anniversary of one of our strangest concepts, i.e., that of utopia. Indeed, in 1516 Thomas More (1478-1535) published his famous book, titled “De optimo statu republicae deque nova insula Utopia”, where he describes – in latin – the island of Utopia, a word he tailored from two genuine Greek elements, the negative prefix “u-“, meaning “no” (spelled “ou” in Greek), and the noun “topos,” meaning place or location. More’s intention in making this word was to describe a place that does not exist, but already in his synthesis we can see some problems, to start with the correct Greek language version, which would have been “a-topos”, a term already used in logic and mathematics to signify the proof of a wrong hypothesis.
The confusion gets worse, if we consider the proper Greek terms describing a good place, i.e., eutopia (“eu” meaning good, nice or happy in Greek), and a bad place, i.e., dystopia (“dys-” being a Greek prefix denoting bad, sad or ugly matters). So, a (non-existing) utopia can be either or none, depending of the case, but at the same time some eutopias and dystopias can exist in reality, thus not being true utopias…
To cut a long story short, as our object here is not a treatise on utopias, we can characterize the concept of utopia as wicked, a term used by the American philosopher C. West Churchman in 1967 to describe problems difficult to solve, due to hidden factors, complex interrelationships and other analytical obstacles. On the other hand, dealing with wicked problems or through wicked concepts could reveal such hidden aspects.
Despite its wickedness, or perhaps because of that, the concept of utopia has survived the life span of the original book by Thomas More, and has accompanied the intellectual developments of the human world since the Renaissance, with many examples to be found in literature, ideology, art, social science and politics. We will mention just one that links Thomas More to Mark Twain (author of the previous short story published in this journal): Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver Travels, according to a comment by Isaac Asimov in his preface to an annotated edition of the famous book (Potter, New York, 1980).
The author of the story we introduce is Howard Phillips Lovecraft, known as H.P. Lovecraft (1890-1937), a great American writer. Lovecraft was a master of the short story, posthumously recognized for his work, especially his Chthulu mythology, a cycle of horror stories, bridging poetry to science fiction in a terror atmosphere. The short story The Quest of Iranon that Lovecraft wrote in February 1921, and published several years later, forms part of his other stories, where poetry dominates and poetic language creates unique new worlds, full with strong – not always pleasant – images.
I suggest that this Lovecraft story is about utopias, eutopias and dystopias in a creative way that makes possible to the wicked concept to help the reader “see more” (Rosana Agudo, “Developing the capacity to ‘See More’ is the great adventure of our time”, Club of Amsterdam J., Issue 172, January 2015). In particular, Iranon – the traveling singer and hero of the short story – in his quest for a eutopia, Aira, the city of beauty and dreams, he visits two dystopias, Teloth, a city of stern people and granite buildings, and Oonai, a city of endless partying and shallow feelings.
For the detailed presentation of those three worlds, as well as for the description of the travels and trajectories from city to city, and especially for tragic outcome of Iranon’s quest, where utopia finally appears, you have to read and enjoy the whole story. But as an appetizer, in the following three sections we have attempted to use material from Lovecraft’s own pen for a glimpse of those three archetypical cities.
THE EUTOPIA OF AIRA, CITY OF MARBLE AND BERYL
Aira, the city of marble and beryl, is full of beauties. The morning sun shines bright above the many-coloured hills in summer, and the city smells with the sweetness of flowers borne on the south wind that makes the trees sing.
Two rivers flow through the verdant Aira valley: the glassy Nithra, with its warm and fragrant groves, and the little Kra, with its picturesque falls. In that beautiful valley, the children wave wreaths for one another, and at night the curving waters reflect a ribbon of stars.
In the city, there are palaces of veined and tinted marble, with golden domes and painted walls, and green gardens with cerulean pools and crystal fountains. At sunset, one could climb the long hilly street to the citadel and the open place, and look down upon Aira, the magic city of marble and beryl, splendid in its robe of golden flame.
The memories of those born in Aira are of the twilight, the moon, the soft songs, and the window where babies were rocked to sleep; and, through the window, of the street where the golden lights came, and where the shadows danced on the houses of marble. The memory of that square of moonlight on the floor, not like any other light, it is full of visions that dance in the moonbeams while mothers sing to their babies.
The hero of the story, Iranon, was born in Aira, which he recalls only dimly but seeks to find again. He is a singer of songs that he learned in that far city, and his calling is to make beauty with the things remembered of his childhood. His wealth is in little memories and dreams, and in hopes that he will sing again in the Aira gardens, when the moon is tender and the west wind stirs the lotos-buds.
Aira’s beauty is past imagining, and none can tell of it without rapture…
THE DYSTOPIA OF TELOTH, THE GRANITE CITY
In the granite city of Teloth there is no laughter or song. Nothing there is green, for all is of stone. The people are dark and stern, dwell in square houses, and show frowns on their faces.
When the singer arrived, they did not like the colour of his robe, nor the myrrh in his hair, nor his chaplet of vine-leaves, nor the youth in his golden voice, but they let him sing once. While he sang, an old man prayed and a blind man said he saw a nimbus over the singer’s head. But most of the people of Teloth yawned, some laughed and some went away to sleep; for the artist told them nothing useful, singing only his memories, his dreams, and his hopes.
The first night, the people of Teloth lodged the visitor in a stable; in the morning an official came to him and told him to go and work in the cobbler’s shop, and become his apprentice. “All in Teloth must toil,” explained the official, “for that is the law.” When the singer complained, the official remained sullen, and rebuked the visitor in the following words:
“You are a strange youth, and I do not like your face or your voice. The words you speak are blasphemy, because the gods of Teloth have said that toil is good. Our gods have promised us a haven of light beyond death, where there shall be rest without end. So, just go to the cobbler’s shop or leave our city by sunset. Here we must all serve. Singing is folly.”
Iranon refused and left Teloth…
THE DYSTOPIA OF OONAI, CITY OF LUTES AND DANCING
Beyond the Karthian hills lies Oonai, the city of lutes and dancing, of which camel-drivers whisper leeringly, and find it both lovely and terrible. At night, it has a myriad of lights, but they are harsh and glaring, not shining softly and magically. In a city of lutes and dancing, the visiting singer could easily find people to whom songs and dreams bring pleasure. Rose-wreathed revellers, bound from house to house and leaning from windows and balconies, listened to the songs of the artist, tossing him flowers and applauding when he was done.
Under the morning light, the domes of Oonai looked not golden in the sun, but grey and dismal. And the people of Oonai were not radiant, but pale with revelling and dull with wine.
In this city, the artist lived a luxurious life. They took away the singer’s tattered purple robe, and clothed him in satin and cloth-of-gold, with rings of green jade and bracelets of tinted ivory, They lodged him in a gilded and tapestried chamber on a bed of sweet carven wood with canopies and coverlets of flower-embroidered silk.
But one day the King brought to the palace some wild whirling dancers from the desert, and dusky flute-players from the East, and after that the revellers threw their roses only to the dancers and the flute-players.
So, the singer put aside his silks and gauds and went out of Oonai the city of lutes and dancing, clad only in the ragged purple robe, in which he had come, and garlanded only with fresh vines from the mountains. The quest goes on…
Wishing you an enjoyable reading!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Prof. Emmanuel Koukios
Is it possible to present Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in a single biographical note? Since this is the case of the author of this introduction, let us just say that his Dr. Jekyll side includes activities in engineering, chemistry, biotechnology, management and economics, whereas his Mr. Hyde side combines social and ecological sustainability studies, film critique, foresight and policy issues. The two sides have agreed to meet from time to time at his Organic Tech Lab at the Technical University of Athens in Greece. The rest of time, Emmanuel, in either of his personalities, has worked in more than 10 other places in Europe and North America, and travelled in more than 40 countries in 5 continents, in his quest for his Aira.
Utopia: woodcut by Ambrosius Holbein for the 1518 edition of the book by Thomas More.
The Quest of Iranon
By H. P. Lovecraft
Into the granite city of Teloth wandered the youth, vine-crowned, his yellow hair glistening with myrrh and his purple robe torn with briers of the mountain Sidrak that lies across the antique bridge of stone. The men of Teloth are dark and stern, and dwell in square houses, and with frowns they asked the stranger whence he had come and what were his name and fortune. So the youth answered:
“I am Iranon, and come from Aira, a far city that I recall only dimly but seek to find again. I am a singer of songs that I learned in the far city, and my calling is to make beauty with the things remembered of childhood. My wealth is in little memories and dreams, and in hopes that I sing in gardens when the moon is tender and the west wind stirs the lotos-buds.”
When the men of Teloth heard these things they whispered to one another; for though in the granite city there is no laughter or song, the stern men sometimes look to the Karthian hills in the spring and think of the lutes of distant Oonai whereof travellers have told. And thinking thus, they bade the stranger stay and sing in the square before the Tower of Mlin, though they liked not the colour of his tattered robe, nor the myrrh in his hair, nor his chaplet of vine-leaves, nor the youth in his golden voice. At evening Iranon sang, and while he sang an old man prayed and a blind man said he saw a nimbus over the singer’s head. But most of the men of Teloth yawned, and some laughed and some went away to sleep; for Iranon told nothing useful, singing only his memories, his dreams, and his hopes.
“I remember the twilight, the moon, and soft songs, and the window where I was rocked to sleep. And through the window was the street where the golden lights came, and where the shadows danced on houses of marble. I remember the square of moonlight on the floor that was not like any other light, and the visions that danced in the moonbeams when my mother sang to me. And too, I remember the sun of morning bright above the many-coloured hills in summer, and the sweetness of flowers borne on the south wind that made the trees sing.
“O Aira, city of marble and beryl, how many are thy beauties! How loved I the warm and fragrant groves across the hyaline Nithra, and the falls of the tiny Kra that flowed through the verdant valley! In those groves and in that vale the children wove wreaths for one another, and at dusk I dreamed strange dreams under the yath-trees on the mountain as I saw below me the lights of the city, and the curving Nithra reflecting a ribbon of stars.
“And in the city were palaces of veined and tinted marble, with golden domes and painted walls, and green gardens with cerulean pools and crystal fountains. Often I played in the gardens and waded in the pools, and lay and dreamed among the pale flowers under the trees. And sometimes at sunset I would climb the long hilly street to the citadel and the open place, and look down upon Aira, the magic city of marble and beryl, splendid in a robe of golden flame.
“Long have I missed thee, Aira, for I was but young when we went into exile; but my father was thy King and I shall come again to thee, for it is so decreed of Fate. All through seven lands have I sought thee, and some day shall I reign over thy groves and gardens, thy streets and palaces, and sing to men who shall know whereof I sing, and laugh not nor turn away. For I am Iranon, who was a Prince in Aira.”
That night the men of Teloth lodged the stranger in a stable, and in the morning an archon came to him and told him to go to the shop of Athok the cobbler, and be apprenticed to him. “But I am Iranon, a singer of songs,” he said, “and have no heart for the cobbler’s trade.”
“All in Teloth must toil,” replied the archon, “for that is the law.” Then said Iranon,
“Wherefore do ye toil; is it not that ye may live and be happy? And if ye toil only that ye may toil more, when shall happiness find you? Ye toil to live, but is not life made of beauty and song? And if ye suffer no singers among you, where shall be the fruits of your toil? Toil without song is like a weary journey without an end. Were not death more pleasing?” But the archon was sullen and did not understand, and rebuked the stranger.
“Thou art a strange youth, and I like not thy face nor thy voice. The words thou speakest are blasphemy, for the gods of Teloth have said that toil is good. Our gods have promised us a haven of light beyond death, where there shall be rest without end, and crystal coldness amidst which none shall vex his mind with thought or his eyes with beauty. Go thou then to Athok the cobbler or be gone out of the city by sunset. All here must serve, and song is folly.”
So Iranon went out of the stable and walked over the narrow stone streets between the gloomy square houses of granite, seeking something green in the air of spring. But in Teloth was nothing green, for all was of stone. On the faces of men were frowns, but by the stone embankment along the sluggish river Zuro sate a young boy with sad eyes gazing into the waters to spy green budding branches washed down from the hills by the freshets. And the boy said to him:
“Art thou not indeed he of whom the archons tell, who seekest a far city in a fair land? I am Romnod, and born of the blood of Teloth, but am not old in the ways of the granite city, and yearn daily for the warm groves and the distant lands of beauty and song. Beyond the Karthian hills lieth Oonai, the city of lutes and dancing, which men whisper of and say is both lovely and terrible. Thither would I go were I old enough to find the way, and thither shouldst thou go an thou wouldst sing and have men listen to thee. Let us leave the city Teloth and fare together among the hills of spring. Thou shalt shew me the ways of travel and I will attend thy songs at evening when the stars one by one bring dreams to the minds of dreamers. And peradventure it may be that Oonai the city of lutes and dancing is even the fair Aira thou seekest, for it is told that thou hast not known Aira since old days, and a name often changeth. Let us go to Oonai, O Iranon of the golden head, where men shall know our longings and welcome us as brothers, nor ever laugh or frown at what we say.” And Iranon answered:
“Be it so, small one; if any in this stone place yearn for beauty he must seek the mountains and beyond, and I would not leave thee to pine by the sluggish Zuro. But think not that delight and understanding dwell just across the Karthian hills, or in any spot thou canst find in a day’s, or a year’s, or a lustrum’s journey. Behold, when I was small like thee I dwelt in the valley of Narthos by the frigid Xari, where none would listen to my dreams; and I told myself that when older I would go to Sinara on the southern slope, and sing to smiling dromedary-men in the market-place. But when I went to Sinara I found the dromedary-men all drunken and ribald, and saw that their songs were not as mine, so I travelled in a barge down the Xari to onyx-walled Jaren. And the soldiers at Jaren laughed at me and drave me out, so that I wandered to many other cities. I have seen Stethelos that is below the great cataract, and have gazed on the marsh where Sarnath once stood. I have been to Thraa, Ilarnek, and Kadatheron on the winding river Ai, and have dwelt long in Olathoë in the land of Lomar. But though I have had listeners sometimes, they have ever been few, and I know that welcome shall await me only in Aira, the city of marble and beryl where my father once ruled as King. So for Aira shall we seek, though it were well to visit distant and lute-blessed Oonai across the Karthian hills, which may indeed be Aira, though I think not. Aira’s beauty is past imagining, and none can tell of it without rapture, whilst of Oonai the camel-drivers whisper leeringly.”
At the sunset Iranon and small Romnod went forth from Teloth, and for long wandered amidst the green hills and cool forests. The way was rough and obscure, and never did they seem nearer to Oonai the city of lutes and dancing; but in the dusk as the stars came out Iranon would sing of Aira and its beauties and Romnod would listen, so that they were both happy after a fashion. They ate plentifully of fruit and red berries, and marked not the passing of time, but many years must have slipped away. Small Romnod was now not so small, and spoke deeply instead of shrilly, though Iranon was always the same, and decked his golden hair with vines and fragrant resins found in the woods. So it came to pass one day that Romnod seemed older than Iranon, though he had been very small when Iranon had found him watching for green budding branches in Teloth beside the sluggish stone-banked Zuro.
Then one night when the moon was full the travellers came to a mountain crest and looked down upon the myriad lights of Oonai. Peasants had told them they were near, and Iranon knew that this was not his native city of Aira. The lights of Oonai were not like those of Aira; for they were harsh and glaring, while the lights of Aira shine as softly and magically as shone the moonlight on the floor by the window where Iranon’s mother once rocked him to sleep with song. But Oonai was a city of lutes and dancing, so Iranon and Romnod went down the steep slope that they might find men to whom songs and dreams would bring pleasure. And when they were come into the town they found rose-wreathed revellers bound from house to house and leaning from windows and balconies, who listened to the songs of Iranon and tossed him flowers and applauded when he was done. Then for a moment did Iranon believe he had found those who thought and felt even as he, though the town was not an hundredth as fair as Aira.
When dawn came Iranon looked about with dismay, for the domes of Oonai were not golden in the sun, but grey and dismal. And the men of Oonai were pale with revelling and dull with wine, and unlike the radiant men of Aira. But because the people had thrown him blossoms and acclaimed his songs Iranon stayed on, and with him Romnod, who liked the revelry of the town and wore in his dark hair roses and myrtle. Often at night Iranon sang to the revellers, but he was always as before, crowned only with the vine of the mountains and remembering the marble streets of Aira and the hyaline Nithra. In the frescoed halls of the Monarch did he sing, upon a crystal dais raised over a floor that was a mirror, and as he sang he brought pictures to his hearers till the floor seemed to reflect old, beautiful, and half-remembered things instead of the wine-reddened feasters who pelted him with roses. And the King bade him put away his tattered purple, and clothed him in satin and cloth-of-gold, with rings of green jade and bracelets of tinted ivory, and lodged him in a gilded and tapestried chamber on a bed of sweet carven wood with canopies and coverlets of flower-embroidered silk. Thus dwelt Iranon in Oonai, the city of lutes and dancing.
It is not known how long Iranon tarried in Oonai, but one day the King brought to the palace some wild whirling dancers from the Liranian desert, and dusky flute-players from Drinen in the East, and after that the revellers threw their roses not so much at Iranon as at the dancers and the flute-players. And day by day that Romnod who had been a small boy in granite Teloth grew coarser and redder with wine, till he dreamed less and less, and listened with less delight to the songs of Iranon. But though Iranon was sad he ceased not to sing, and at evening told again his dreams of Aira, the city of marble and beryl. Then one night the red and fattened Romnod snorted heavily amidst the poppied silks of his banquet-couch and died writhing, whilst Iranon, pale and slender, sang to himself in a far corner. And when Iranon had wept over the grave of Romnod and strown it with green budding branches, such as Romnod used to love, he put aside his silks and gauds and went forgotten out of Oonai the city of lutes and dancing clad only in the ragged purple in which he had come, and garlanded with fresh vines from the mountains.
Into the sunset wandered Iranon, seeking still for his native land and for men who would understand and cherish his songs and dreams. In all the cities of Cydathria and in the lands beyond the Bnazic desert gay-faced children laughed at his olden songs and tattered robe of purple; but Iranon stayed ever young, and wore wreaths upon his golden head whilst he sang of Aira, delight of the past and hope of the future.
So came he one night to the squalid cot of an antique shepherd, bent and dirty, who kept lean flocks on a stony slope above a quicksand marsh. To this man Iranon spoke, as to so many others:
“Canst thou tell me where I may find Aira, the city of marble and beryl, where flows the hyaline Nithra and where the falls of the tiny Kra sing to verdant valleys and hills forested with yath trees?” And the shepherd, hearing, looked long and strangely at Iranon, as if recalling something very far away in time, and noted each line of the stranger’s face, and his golden hair, and his crown of vine-leaves. But he was old, and shook his head as he replied:
“O stranger, I have indeed heard the name of Aira, and the other names thou hast spoken, but they come to me from afar down the waste of long years. I heard them in my youth from the lips of a playmate, a beggar’s boy given to strange dreams, who would weave long tales about the moon and the flowers and the west wind. We used to laugh at him, for we knew him from his birth though he thought himself a King’s son. He was comely, even as thou, but full of folly and strangeness; and he ran away when small to find those who would listen gladly to his songs and dreams. How often hath he sung to me of lands that never were, and things that never can be! Of Aira did he speak much; of Aira and the river Nithra, and the falls of the tiny Kra. There would he ever say he once dwelt as a Prince, though here we knew him from his birth. Nor was there ever a marble city of Aira, nor those who could delight in strange songs, save in the dreams of mine old playmate Iranon who is gone.”
And in the twilight, as the stars came out one by one and the moon cast on the marsh a radiance like that which a child sees quivering on the floor as he is rocked to sleep at evening, there walked into the lethal quicksands a very old man in tattered purple, crowned with withered vine-leaves and gazing ahead as if upon the golden domes of a fair city where dreams are understood. That night something of youth and beauty died in the elder world.
The Origins & Futures of the Creative City
by Charles Landry
The city faces an escalating crisis that cannot be solved by a ‘business as usual’ approach, including the challenge of living together with great diversity and difference, addressing the sustainability agenda, rethinking its role and purpose to survive well economically, culturally and socially and to manage increasing complexity. These are some of the future priorities for creativity. Creativity needs to address the issues that really matter globally. Curiosity, imagination and creativity are the pre-conditions for inventions and innovations to develop as well as to solve intractable urban problems and to create interesting opportunities. Unleashing the creativity of citizens, organizations and the city is an empowering process. It harnesses potential and is a vital resource. It is a new form of capital and a currency in its own right.
This new series of short Comedia publications seek to encapsulate briefly, key agendas and thought movements that are shaping the city today and have an impact on the future. The Origins & Futures of the Creative City
is the first title and sets the platform for a series of other forthcoming ‘shorts’
Charles Landry is presenting at our event about the future of Metro Vitality,
Exploring Tomorrow’s Organised Crime
A report by Europol
The Hague, the Netherlands, 2 March 2015
A decline of traditional hierarchical criminal groups and networks will be accompanied by the expansion of a virtual criminal underground made up of individual criminal entrepreneurs, who come together on a project basis. These people will lend their knowledge, experience and expertise as part of a ‘crime-as-a-service’ business model. Such dynamics can already be seen in the realm of cybercrime, but in the future these will extend to the domain of ‘traditional’ organised crime, governing crime areas such as drugs trafficking, illegal immigration facilitation and counterfeiting of goods.
These are the main trends detailed in Europol’s newly-released report ‘Exploring tomorrow’s organised crime’, which identifies a series of key driving factors that will impact the future landscape of serious and organised crime in Europe. The report also looks at how law enforcement authorities might counter and contain organised crime activities over the coming years.
“Organised crime is dynamic and adaptable and law enforcement authorities across the EU are challenged to keep pace with the changing nature of this substantial and significant threat. This report – the first of its kind for Europol – will enable us to look ahead and better allocate resources, plan operational activities and engage with policy- and law-makers to prevent certain types of crimes from emerging” says Rob Wainwright, Director of Europol.
The report is the outcome of Europol experts’ engagement with other experts from the private and public sectors, academia and partners in the European law enforcement community.
Key drivers for future change
- Innovation in transportation and logistics will enable organised crime groups to increasingly commit crime anonymously over the Internet, anywhere and anytime, without being physically present.
- Nanotechnology and robotics will open up new markets for organised crime and deliver new tools for sophisticated criminal schemes.
- The increasing exploitation of Big Data and personal data will enable criminal groups to carry out complex and sophisticated identity frauds on previously unprecedented levels.
- E-waste is emerging as a key illicit commodity for organised crime groups operating in Europe.
- Economic disparity across Europe is making organised crime more socially acceptable as organised crime groups will increasingly infiltrate economically weakened communities, portraying themselves as providers of work and services.
- Organised crime groups will increasingly attempt to infiltrate industries that depend on natural resources, to act as brokers or agents in the trade.
- Virtual currencies increasingly enable individuals to act as freelance criminal entrepreneurs operating on a crime-as-a-service business model without the need for a sophisticated criminal infrastructure to receive and launder money.
- Organised criminal groups will increasingly target, but also provide illicit services and goods to, a growing population of elderly people exploiting new markets and opportunities.
Read the full report here
Futurist Portrait: Marc Goodman
Marc Goodman is a global security futurist and global thinker, writer and consultant focused on the disruptive impact of advancing technologies on security, business and international affairs. Over the past twenty years, he has built his expertise in next generation security threats such as cyber crime, cyber terrorism and information warfare working with organizations such as Interpol, the United Nations, NATO, the Los Angeles Police Department and the U.S. Government. Marc frequently advises industry leaders, security executives and global policy makers on transnational cyber risk and intelligence and has operated in nearly seventy countries around the world.
In addition, Marc founded the Future Crimes Institute to inspire and educate others on the security and risk implications of newly emerging technologies. Marc also serves as the Global Security Advisor and Chair for Policy and Law at Silicon Valley’s Singularity University, a NASA and Google sponsored educational venture dedicated to using advanced science and technology to address humanity’s grand challenges. Marc’s current areas of research include the security implications of exponential technologies such as robotics, artificial intelligence, the social data revolution, synthetic biology, virtual worlds, genomics, ubiquitous computing and location-based services.
Since 1999, Marc has worked extensively with INTERPOL, the International Criminal Police Organization, headquartered in Lyon, France where he continues to serve as a Senior Advisor to the organization’s Steering Committee on Information Technology Crime. In that capacity, Marc has trained police forces throughout the Middle East, Africa, Europe, Latin America and Asia and has chaired numerous INTERPOL expert groups on next generation security threats.
In recognition of his professional experience, Marc was asked by the Secretary General of the United Nations International Telecommunications Union (ITU) to join his High Level Experts Group on Global Cybersecurity. He has also worked with other UN entities including the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research on cyber warfare and has served as a Senior Researcher for the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Task Force on technical measures to counter terrorist use of the Internet.He also is a member of the Halifax International Security Forum’s Network.
Marc has authored more than one dozen journal articles and ten book chapters on cybercrime, information security, critical infrastructure protection and cyberterrorism.
“Technological advances have benefited our world in immeasurable ways, but there is an ominous flip side: our technology can be turned against us. Hackers can activate baby monitors to spy on families, thieves are analyzing social media posts to plot home invasions, and stalkers are exploiting the GPS on smart phones to track their victims’ every move. We all know today’s criminals can steal identities, drain online bank accounts, and wipe out computer servers, but that’s just the beginning. To date, no computer has been created that could not be hacked—a sobering fact given our radical dependence on these machines for everything from our nation’s power grid to air traffic control to financial services.
Yet, as ubiquitous as technology seems today, just over the horizon is a tidal wave of scientific progress that will leave our heads spinning. If today’s Internet is the size of a golf ball, tomorrow’s will be the size of the sun. Welcome to the Internet of Things, a living, breathing, global information grid where every physical object will be online. But with greater connections come greater risks. Implantable medical devices such as pacemakers can be hacked to deliver a lethal jolt of electricity and a car’s brakes can be disabled at high speed from miles away. Meanwhile, 3-D printers can produce AK-47s, bioterrorists can download the recipe for Spanish flu, and cartels are using fleets of drones to ferry drugs across borders.
With explosive insights based upon a career in law enforcement and counterterrorism, Marc Goodman takes readers on a vivid journey through the darkest recesses of the Internet. Reading like science fiction, but based in science fact, Future Crimes explores how bad actors are primed to hijack the technologies of tomorrow, including robotics, synthetic biology, nanotechnology, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence. These fields hold the power to create a world of unprecedented abundance and prosperity. But the technological bedrock upon which we are building our common future is deeply unstable and, like a house of cards, can come crashing down at any moment.
Future Crimes provides a mind-blowing glimpse into the dark side of technological innovation and the unintended consequences of our connected world. Goodman offers a way out with clear steps we must take to survive the progress unfolding before us. Provocative, thrilling, and ultimately empowering, Future Crimes will serve as an urgent call to action that shows how we can take back control over our own devices and harness technology’s tremendous power for the betterment of humanity – before it’s too late.”
A vision of crimes in the future
Watch The Future Now Show!
|Season Events 2014 / 2015|
April 24, 2015
the future of Metro Vitality
Location: ARUP London
A collaboration between the Association of Professional Futurists and the Club of Amsterdam and hosted by ARUP Foresight + Research + Innovation.