Sunday, December 27, 2009

Destruction, the Past and the Future

In The Sunday Times I wrote about the world in the noughties, compulsively destructive artist Michael Landy and science and technology in the next decade.


  1. Next to the Noughties, the decades of the cold war (1945-1989) were a psychological garden party.

    I'm afraid, sir, this just reveals that, like me, you were never but a child in the first decades of that period. I was eight in the fall of 1962, and I just thought bomb drills were like fire drills, something everybody went through in elementary school. I suspect my parents thought differently.

  2. I enjoyed both the retrospective on the noughties and the prospective on the teenies. And nice to see Michael Burleigh, John Gray and James Lovelock getting a rare mention from Bryan.

    One thought on the nineties: given that they featured an interminable war of illimitable savagery and barbarism in the Balkans, not to mention the genocidical obscenities perpetrated in both the latter and in Rwanda, was this really a pause, or actually more an augury of things to come?

    On the separate issue of predictions for the next decade, how about the advent of artificial womb technology?

  3. yes, it would be the teenies, it seems obvious.

  4. Another possible invention: terahertz scanners at airports, capable of penetrating clothing, and therefore capable of preventing the type of terrorist attacks seen over Christmas.

    Oh, hang on, they already exist. Yet airports are apparently still dependent upon metal detectors, X-ray scanners, and random frisk-searches.

    Development of such technology seems to have proceeded at a glacial rate over the last decade, despite the obvious urgent requirement. It's a pity that government hasn't provided a 'surge' of funding for such transparently beneficial technology (if you'll excuse the pun).

  5. I was just hearing on the TV at work, that anatomical details can be seen now. This brings up the tension between privacy and security, which could be resolved by having machines also detect whether there is any guns or chemicals or whatnot. The human eye would not need to be involved.

    That, then, leads back to our conversations about AI. Is it okay for a sophisticated computer to scan what's underneath someone's clothing? I suppose so, as long as any voice commands has the machine being a perfect gentleman (or lady), especially with no construction-worker remarks and whistles.

    We'd get the further capability of ID-ing a terrorist by genital characteristics, which would make it more difficult to be a master of disguises. ("No, definitely not him. I'd know that terrorist anywhere.") All anatomical details of everyone who ever goes through a terminal, whether it be for a bus, train, or plane, would be scanned, or genital-printed as it were.

  6. Indeed Rus. Although it's worth pointing out that when an aircraft disintegrates in mid-air, the passengers are generally stripped of their clothing anyway as they hurtle to their deaths.

  7. Happy Nude year Mr A! I shall be blogging on as I trust you will be...

  8. All brilliant, inspired articles - now cut out from said paper and filed for future reference.

    Please not the terrible teenies ... nor the Tweeting tens? Tweeties? Tweenies? Lots of bins - Bin Laden, Art Bin - what about bitweenies?

    Thought experiments in progress - and may there be many more in 2010.

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  10. Inbitweenies?

    Inbintweenies. HNY!

  11. If we examine the Middle and Old English found in the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, our word "twenty" of the upcoming Twenties, derives from "twēntig," from twēn- (akin to Old English twā two) + -tig group of 10. And the word "thirty" is from Old English "thrītig," from thrītig group of 30, from thrīe three + -tig group of ten; akin to Old English tīen ten. Note here that the word "teen" does not come from ten or tig, but from tene, from Old English tēon, which means grief or injury.

    So we could say that we have entered the Tigs, or even the Tens, but not the Teens. Trying to remain true to the pattern, we would say the Ties (pronounced "tees," as in Twenties without the twen). But that's not precisely the pattern, especially as we have just come from the Noughties. What we would need is a word for the One-Tens, the One-ties.

    If our two-three-four-five is twā-thrīe-fēower-fīf in the Old English, what is "one" in Old English? The answer is "ān". This means that as thrītig comes after twēntig, and as āntig comes just before twēntig, we have entered the Aunties.

  12. They're not over yet, one more year to go, there was no year zero.

    Nigel S

  13. Hi Nigel,

    Yes. There was a year zero. So the decades are over when the nines are over.


  14. Okay, wise men, how did they used to call the decades before this year zero?

  15. Of course I cant in any sense prove it but I would argue that the past decade was the worst decade in human history, especially in the USA under the Bush "administration".