From the history of quarantine to space expansionism, this reading list from The Terraforming team offers an insight into the themes that will be covered in the final year of the design research program.
By Dipesh Chakrabarty
According to historian Dipesh Chakrabarty, climate change upends long-standing ideas of history, modernity, and globalization. Chakrabarty argues that we must see ourselves from two perspectives at once: the planetary and the global. This distinction is central to Chakrabarty’s work—the globe is a human-centric construction, while a planetary perspective intentionally decenters the human. Featuring wide-ranging excursions into historical and philosophical literatures, The Climate of History in a Planetary Age boldly considers how to frame the human condition in troubled times. As we open ourselves to the implications of the Anthropocene, few writers are as likely as Chakrabarty to shape our understanding of the best way forward.
By Martin J. S. Rudwick
Earth has been witness to mammoths and dinosaurs, global ice ages, continents colliding or splitting apart, and comets and asteroids crashing catastrophically to the surface, as well as the birth of humans who are curious to understand it. But how was all this discovered? How was the evidence for it collected and interpreted? And what kinds of people have sought to reconstruct this past that no human witnessed or recorded? In this sweeping and accessible book, Martin J. S. Rudwick, the premier historian of the Earth sciences, tells the gripping human story of the gradual realization that the Earth’s history has not only been unimaginably long but also astonishingly eventful.
By Russell Powell
In this book, Russell Powell investigates whether we can use the patterns and processes of convergent evolution to make inferences about universal laws of life, on Earth and elsewhere. If the evolution of mind is not a historical accident, the product of convergence rather than contingency, then, Powell asks, is mind likely to be an evolutionarily important feature of any living world? Turning his attention to complex cognitive life, Powell considers what patterns of cognitive convergence tell us about the nature of mind, its evolution, and its place in the universe. If complex bodies are common in the universe, might complex minds be common as well?
By Milan Cirkovic
The Great Silence explores the multifaceted problem named after the great Italian physicist Enrico Fermi and his legendary 1950 lunchtime question “Where is everybody?” In many respects, Fermi’s paradox is the richest and the most challenging problem for the entire field of astrobiology and the Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence (SETI) studies.
This book shows how Fermi’s paradox is intricately connected with many fields of learning, technology, arts, and even everyday life. It aims to establish the strongest possible version of the problem, to dispel many related confusions, obfuscations, and prejudices, as well as to offer a novel point of entry to the many solutions proposed in existing literature. Ćirković argues that any evolutionary worldview cannot avoid resolving the Great Silence problem in one guise or another.
Edited by Clapperton Chakanetsa Mavhunga
Contributors: Geri Augusto, Shadreck Chirikure, Chux Daniels, Ron Eglash, Ellen Foster, Garrick E. Louis, D. A. Masolo, Clapperton Chakanetsa Mavhunga, Neda Nazemi, Toluwalogo Odumosu, Katrien Pype, Scott Remer
In the STI literature, Africa has often been regarded as a recipient of science, technology, and innovation rather than a maker of them. In this book, scholars from a range of disciplines show that STI in Africa is not merely the product of “technology transfer” from elsewhere but the working of African knowledge. The contributions describe an Africa that is creative, technological, and scientific, showing that African STI is the latest iteration of a long process of accumulative, multicultural knowledge production.
By Jenny Andersson
The book is devoted to the intriguing post-war activity called—with different terms—futurism, futurology, future research, or futures studies. It seeks to understand how futurists and futurologists imagined the Cold War and post-Cold War world and how they used the tools and methods of future research to influence and change that world. Different forms of prediction lay very different claims to how, and with what accuracy, futures could be known, and what kind of control could be exerted over coming and not yet existing developments. Not surprisingly, such different claims to predictability coincided with radically different notions of human agency, of morality and responsibility, indeed of politics.
By Liam Young
Contributors: Benjamin Bratton, Stanley Chen, Ashley Dawson, Holly Jean Buck, Ryan Griffen, Nalo Hopkinson, Xia Jia, Giorgos Kallis, Ewan McEoin, Chen Qiufan, Amaia Sanchez-Velasco, Saskia Sassen, Kim Stanley Robinson, Andrew Toland
Planet City is a project by Los Angeles-based film director and architect Liam Young, exploring the productive potential of extreme densification, in a speculative future where ten billion people surrender the rest of the planet to a global wilderness.
Although wildly provocative, Planet City eschews the techno-utopian fantasy of designing a new world order. This is not a neo-colonial masterplan to be imposed from a singular seat of power. It is a work of critical architecture—a speculative fiction grounded in statistical analysis, research and traditional knowledge. It is a collaborative work of multiple voices and cultures supported by an international team of acclaimed environmental scientists, theorists, and advisors.
In Planet City we see that climate change is no longer a technological problem, but rather an ideological one, rooted in culture and politics. This is a fiction shaped like a city. Simultaneously an extraordinary image of tomorrow and an urgent examination of the environmental questions facing us today.
By Lydia Kallipoliti
What do outer space capsules, submarines, and office buildings have in common? Each is conceived as a closed system: a self-sustaining physical environment demarcated from its surroundings by a boundary that does not allow for the transfer of matter or energy. The Architecture of Closed Worlds is a genealogy of self-reliant environments. Contemporary discussions about global warming, recycling, and sustainability have emerged as direct conceptual constructs related to the study and analysis of closed systems.
In The Architecture of Closed Worlds prototypes are presented through unique discursive narratives with historical images. Each includes new analysis in the form of a feedback drawing that problematizes the language of environmental representation by illustrating loss, derailment, and the production of new substances and atmospheres.
By Fred Sharmen
Many societies have imagined going to live in space. What they want to do once they get up there—whether conquering the unknown, establishing space “colonies,” privatising the moon’s resources—reveals more than expected. In this fascinating radical history of space exploration, Fred Scharmen shows that often science and fiction have combined in the imagined dreams of life in outer space, but these visions have real implications for life back on earth.
By Daniel Deudney
Dark Skies is the first work to assess the full impacts of space expansion, past, present, and future. Thinking about space, and the visions fervently promoted by the global space movement, is dominated by geographic misperceptions and utopian illusions. Astrocide—the extinction of humanity resulting from significant space expansion—must join the lengthening list of potential threats to human survival. Deudney argues that large-scale space expansion should be relinquished in favor of an Earth-oriented space program of arms control and planetary security.
By Holly Jean Buck
Around the world, countries and companies are setting net-zero carbon emissions targets. But what will it mean if those targets are achieved? One possibility is that fossil fuel companies will continue to produce billions of tons of atmospheric CO2 while relying on a symbiotic industry to scrub the air clean. Focusing on emissions draws our attention away from the real problem: the point of production.
The fossil fuel industry must come to an end but will not depart willingly; governments must intervene. By embracing a politics of rural-urban coalitions and platform governance, climate advocates can build the political power needed to nationalize the fossil fuel industry and use its resources to draw carbon out of the atmosphere.
By Peter Wolfendale
The Revenge of Reason lays out Peter Wolfendale’s vision for Neorationalism as a distinctive philosophical trajectory, exploring the outermost possibilities of Prometheanism, Inhumanism, and Enlightenment. This volume collects interviews and writings on various philosophical figures and topics, addressing the deepest questions of Physis, Logos, and Ethos—all with exemplary clarity and pedagogical generosity. Against those who would chain the fate of humanity to its animal nature, Wolfendale’s work makes the case for unbinding our rationality from every petty naturalism and every fixed image of thought, heralding an inhuman destiny unleashed by the revenge of Reason.
By Geoff Manaugh and Nicole Twilley
Until Proven Safe tracks the history and future of quarantine around the globe, chasing the story of emergency isolation through time and space—from the crumbling lazarettos of the Mediterranean, built to contain the Black Death, to an experimental Ebola unit in London, and from the hallways of the CDC to closed-door simulations where pharmaceutical execs and epidemiologists prepare for the outbreak of a novel coronavirus.
We live in a disorienting historical moment that can feel both unprecedented and inevitable; Until Proven Safe helps us make sense of our new reality through a thrillingly reported, thought-provoking exploration of the meaning of freedom, governance, and mutual responsibility.
By Kai Fu Lee and Quifan Chen
AI will be the defining development of the twenty-first century. It is at a tipping point, and people need to wake up—both to AI’s radiant pathways and its existential perils for life as we know it. In this provocative, utterly original work, Kai-Fu Lee, the former president of Google China and bestselling author of AI Superpowers, teams up with celebrated novelist Chen Qiufan to imagine our world in 2041 and how it will be shaped by AI. By gazing toward a not-so-distant horizon, AI 2041 offers urgent insights into our collective future—while reminding readers that, ultimately, humankind remains the author of its destiny.
By J.D. Bernal
Written by the pioneering scientist, theorist and activist J. D. Bernal, this futuristic essay explores the radical changes to human bodies and intelligence that science may bring about, and suggests the impact of these developments on society. Bernal presents a far-reaching vision of the future that encompasses space research and colonization, material sciences, genetic engineering, and the technological hive mind. In his view, it will be possible for the conditions of civilization to reach a state of materialist utopia. For all three realms—the world, the flesh, and the devil—Bernal attempted to map out the utmost limit of technoscientific progress, and found that there are almost no limits. With a new introduction by McKenzie Wark.