By definition a network is “a large system consisting of many similar parts that are connected together to allow movement or communication between or along the parts, or between the parts and a control center.” The Cambridge Dictionary (source) sums it up pretty neatly, considering the far reaching impacts networks have. The ability to think and organize in network terms is not new to us, it’s in the genes. Like a Wolf pack, we too are beings who rather team up, as a family or acquaintances, once in the wilderness and now on social media. A good and logical strategy which can be found everywhere in nature. While we have not even come close to understanding the complexity of given, natural networks which span from our very own neural network to quantum fields and galaxies, our man-made ones are becoming more compatible and capable by the day. What started off with migration and trade has evolved to become “the network of networks” which is still just a tool, transferring what is thrown on it. Boston born (Berlin resident) producer Stewart Walker composed this part’s priceless audio jewel, the “Network-Mix”, built on my field recordings.
The game changer of our time managed to turn everything upside down in just a few years and wasn’t even imaginable in its current form in 1982. It was ARPANET who adopted TCP/IP on January 1st 1983, from which researchers began to assemble the “network of networks” which would become the internet. The online world then took on a more recognizable form in 1990, when computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee invented the HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP), the foundation of your daily browsing experience. Since then, computer and data networks and the global digitization process, profoundly changed all aspects of life. What was once described as “cyberspace” (s. TRON, rel. 1982) is today, always and everywhere. By now online trade has reached enormous proportions with quite questionable consequences. While you still can you absolutely should shop at your local market and retailer. Undeniably, online shopping has its advantages and can get you things you’d otherwise not find and often cheaper. Even more so, local markets have to be cherished beyond just a heritage site because they are essential for everything local and fresh! They are furthermore the hearts, souls and control centers of entire neighborhoods, functioning in similar ways a swarm or orchestra does. Devastated I was to learn that Tokyo’s Tsukiji Fish-market had to make way for a hideous, one time sports event. But the vulnerability to sabotage and violent attacks of such hubs is a big problem in many other countries which rely on markets more than we do.
On the digital front the media as well as individuals have to handle the ever increasing flow of lies which are deliberately planted like a weapon, causing monstrous consequences due to instant distribution. Our global nervous system has become a distorted mirror and a dangerous place where your every move is monitored. Luckily, hackers have been around since before the invention of binary. While for the mainstream media a hacker equals a criminal, most are in fact rebels with a cause I much appreciate. Some are undoubtedly dangerous and capable of parallelizing whole infrastructures or infiltrating vital networks, it depends who they work for. But the digital rebels, how I call the independent hackers, pioneered “off-grid” for us and set up the dark- and deep-net. This “hidden” part of the net is made possible by The Onion Network (TOR) and Virtual Private Networks (VPN). It’s mostly perceived as a playground for criminals but this is only partly true. Its main purpose is to provide secure communication which saves countless lives in war zones, regimes and dictatorships. The real threat is “total surveillance” which, as unveiled by former NSA employee E. Snowden, has been brought upon us in the form of PRISM. Social media and careless browsing behavior do the rest. But now we have the choice to encrypt our data and even detach from the gangsters who run the banks. Crypto currency and block-chain technology will bring major changes, but not only to that game.
The analog world’s most relevant networks such as energy and transportation are sadly often in desolate conditions even in countries you wouldn’t expect it from. Car manufacturers alongside big oil, made sure that the gasoline and diesel driven options stay the only attractive ones. The space dedicated to the railway in this episode is no coincidence. Because the Japanese are the masters of railway technology and its application and show how it’s done. The volumes they move safely, fast, punctual and efficiently, make any transit authority chief or carrier jealous. The first “bullet trains” ran between Tokyo and Osaka in 1964 and did an impressive 210 km/h. Now, 64 years later, the German ICE coughs up no more than 180 km/h on most of its tracks due to insufficient capital. That went to the shareholders while about 80% of all German “high speed” trains are slow, chronically late and never fully functional. After the upgrade, the Shinkansen will efficiently fly you at 400+ km/h from A – B without the slightest hiccup. A few know but it’s worth mentioning that the US was once a railway and tram star with a future. Then came Detroit.
Considering the global traffic we generate, one would assume that energy and transportation questions are ranked top priority ever since those world wars ended. Yet we are still riding on the same principals which Nikola Tesla already marked outdated over a hundred years ago with new approaches at hand. Free energy, no cables, over land, at sea as well as airborne sounds like worth a try to me. The Transatlantic Railroad Tunnel was first discussed in the 19th century but never even considered again due to the cost factor and the lack of willingness to share it among the nations. Neither the technology nor the long term investments are the issues here. You could once ride an insane 560 km/h on a French high-speed train but required a nuclear power plant or coal mine every other mile. Some things just have to be put to rest like the Concorde because priorities change. Let’s look forward to our first Hyperloop rides then.
The problem is that little has been accomplished in all these years because big oil kills new developments on the research level. Short haul flights are a disaster, as long as planes keep spitting it out like that and are booked in such numbers. The first electric car was a 6 seater and built in 1890. The most successful mass-produced e-car in the US, was the 1996 – 1999 EV-1 which was loved by its owners but then forcefully taken away by GM in such a manner, which you’d only expect from the Mafia. If bankers become politicians, politicians become managers and scientists become lobbyists, something is evidently and seriously wrong. It was Exxon’s own scientific team who tried to convince the bosses that burning all that oil will inevitably and rather soon, in like 50 years, cause global warming to reach life threatening levels. This was in the 1960’s and those scientists shortly after either died or got rich.
Cargo which is currently still “continent-hopping” on planes and container vessels which burn heavy oil instead of sailing the seas, has an incredible impact and reveals that the way we consume, manufacture and trade has to change profoundly too (part 06). We are way too late already to retard any new efforts and developments. But at least the bicycle keeps evolving and has in the last thirty years, seen more upgrades than anything else rolling around on wheels out there. It’s all connected because we are a network and only high-tech and network-wide, far reaching concepts plus actions will have a noticeable effect. Whether golf is still a sport or just an outdoor couch if you ride a caddie is up to anyone to decide but to know how many decisions were made on golf courses instead of senates and parliaments over the last 50 years, would be interesting.
“Dangerous Days 03 | Network-Mix”: Stewart Walker (US), Berlin
Photos, text and audio field-recordings: Oliver Lins (AT), Berlin
Dangerous Days 04 (Architecture/Space)
with audio contribution by Japanese producer
S Katz, coming this June
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