The Granddaughter Paradox published in Sci Phi Journal

My story The Granddaughter Paradox has been published in Sci Phi Journal, an online journal of science fiction with a philosophical twist (or philosophical fiction with a science fiction twist?)

Reading the full story requires a subscription, or as the site says:

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So obviously I will encourage anyone reading this to follow the above instructions… but here is a preview:

Brendan McConnell’s morning began at 4.45 a.m. on a spring day in 2010. Between sleep and wakefulness for the whole night, as he realised the appointed time was nearing he willed himself fully awake. Penelope slept on beside him. When planning his actions that day, he had thought of kissing her, but had decided the risk of waking her up was too great. She hadn’t slept much lately. And if all went well he would be back before anything could be noticed by anyone. He slid out of the bed, lifting the polka-dot duvet only very slightly and replacing it so it was as if no one had slept there. Lit only by sodium street lamps, their light edging through the gaps at the edge of the curtains, the room seemed to be bulging with clothes and books and papers in every possible space. Brendan thought of the crash courses in biochemistry and molecular pathology they had put themselves through, scouring textbooks and journal articles for some hint, any hint of some answer, any answer. A paper sea of modern biomedicine in their bedroom; the books with their definitive and authoritative titles: Comprehensive Biochemical Pathology, Advanced Immunology. And the journal articles, forming blobs of stapled paper around the room, discarded part-understood. He went into the bathroom to change, folding his pyjamas and leaving them on top of the laundry basket. He had left out fresh clothes; a purple woolly jumper Rose liked to stroke, a clean white suit, black slacks, underwear, navy socks.

When dressed, he went into his four-year-old daughter Rose’s room. Tubes and monitors were attached to her, keeping her breathing. He spoke to her, knowing that she too was on the borderland of sleeping and waking, but at this point in the disease’s progression, she would not become fully alert:

“Rose, I am just going for a little while. I will be back, I will be back, and when I am you will be better. I promise”

He went downstairs, opened his work briefcase, took out two envelopes—one addressed to Penelope, one to Rose—and left them on the hall table. He put on his brown slip-on shoes. He opened the front door, and stood a little back from the threshold for a minute or so. Perhaps he would need this time when he came back, perhaps he would come across himself waiting at the door with the door open, and this would allow him to slip in, do whatever needed to be done with Rose, and slip in beside Penelope. Then he left. He had parked round the corner when he had come home the evening before, knowing that Penelope would most likely be too preoccupied to notice and if she did, he would just say that he was trying to get a little bit more exercise. There had been far more erratic behaviour than that on both their parts recently. He drove to the university and parked in an asphalt car park near the back of the School of Experimental and Theoretical Physics, rather than near the School of Business where he lectured. He got out of his car, and shook hands with a bearded, burly, short man. They walked, in the gathering dawn, to the back of the Physics building.

Five hours later, in 2090, he was sitting with Rose and the grandson of the man who shook his hand that morning. Suddenly, Brendan heard his own voice cheerily announce “Rosie-Posie, time for your medicine”. He turned, and saw a contraption consisting of the top half of a teddy bear on wheels rolling towards him.

“It has your voice, Daddy.” Rosie said. “We had video files of your voice. All my robot companions had your voice, when I was a child, and then in my teens, and now here I am an old woman, with a companion robot with my daddy’s voice.”

“It looks like you’ve got a friend with you today, Rosie? What is your name?” Brendan heard his own voice, the voice—friendly, jolly in an understated, unforceful way—of the days before Rosie’s diagnosis. “I am daddy,” he blurted out.

“Really? Whose daddy?”

“Rosie’s. Rosie has had me for seventy-four years.”

“Really? Really?” Brendan wondered how the artificial intelligence routines that presumably lay behind the robot companion’s bonhomie were handling this.

It repeated in Brendan’s voice “Really?” in the exact same intonation. Suddenly a little red light flashed on the side of its head, and the thing stopped, frozen.

“You’ve ruined it!” Again she was a four–year-old, with the icy clarity to her voice that was the familiar build up to an explosive tantrum. “You’ve ruined it! I could talk to him, and it was like you never went away. Well, for a short time I could believe it, but I really could believe it for that time. And now you’ve ruined it, and I’ll never believe it again.”

“But I’m here now—is this thing broken?”

“That red light means that something stumped the nets. That hardly ever happens. The nets are as good if not better than a person at knowing what someone is talking about. It sent a file back to the manufacturers. They’ll come and take it away.”

“But how can you be angry. I’m here now, the real thing. You don’t need a robot to have my voice.”

“Don’t you tell me what I should feel. You left, out into nowhere, you left that stupid letter I got after Mum died. It didn’t help. At least the robot didn’t leave.”

“I’m sorry,” he began, with tears forming. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” This last “sorry” was said with a suddenly explosion of rage, and suddenly an angry torrent of words emerged: “I’m sorry for travelling through time and leaving everything behind to save your life, to save your life, and you would rather have a little bloody robot than me.”

She had calmed, and now looked at him with another familiar expression from her childhood, an expression of infinite patience and gravity. “Of course I would rather have you, but you have to remember you have been a dim memory for all these years. The first memory I have… holding your hand on a beach while eating ice cream, on a blindingly sunny day. I asked Mum about it before she died, and she said that we never went on a beach holiday. Yet I remember it, as clear as I remember opening that door and seeing you there an hour ago.”

“I see.” He sat, any anger gone. “At least with the companions you had something definite.”

“Yes. Yes. Daddy, daddy, I’m sorry.”

“No, I should be sorry. I’m the sorry one. You see… they said you were going to die. It wasn’t weeks, but days.”

“I felt such a hole in my soul all those years. As if part of me had been cut out.”

“Do you remember being sick?”

“I was in and out for years. Of course I remember but not really the specifics. I remember vividly enough some of the times they thought I was going to die, but as I got older it was just a sort of irritating backdrop.“

“What happened? How did you get better? They kept telling us not to hope. They kept telling us—”

“Mum always said that it just happened. I didn’t die. They thought I would die for years and years, until I was almost ten. But I didn’t die. I just got better. I think I was kind of famous. Granny used to say it was her novenas.

“Whether our work leads to victory becomes irrelevant to us” Jeffrey Bilbro on the happy loser

I am not (yet) familiar with the work of Wendell Berry, though I think I am going to make it my business to be. Berry is the inspiration of this wonderful essay by Jeffery Bilbro . As Bilbro tweets:

This is one of those pieces that “read the whole thing” applies to, in spades. While Berry is obviously the inspiration for this piece, and quotes from him serve as the connective tissue of the argument, it is not really a piece “about” Berry:

Both sides claim that we cannot be happy or hopeful unless “we” are winning. And both sides tend to paint grim pictures of “American carnage” to show how much we are suffering and how badly we need to do something so that we can start winning.

But what if we turned our attention away from the latest indications of whether we’re winning or losing and instead focused on practicing good work where we are? It is in this vein that Wendell Berry speaks about the need to resist both optimism and pessimism. While these may seem like opposite postures, both stem from a fixation on metrics and quantities: I’m optimistic if I expect to win and pessimistic if I expect to lose. As Berry puts it, “Optimism and pessimism are based on the idea of how things are [going to] turn out.”

In one of those odd synchronous coincidences, I read Jean Giono’s “The Man Who Planted Trees” just last Friday, and here he pops up in this piece, in a quote from Berry.

Happiness is a great mental faculty. It happens. One of the best things I know about happiness is that some days I’m happy… I don’t have anything in particular to be happy about or happier than I was yesterday, but I’m happy. I read that the French novelist Jean Giono … said in 1954, 1954, “I’ve been happy for the last 30 or 40 years.” Well, you know what happened in the 30 or 40 years before 1954. I just love him for that… . That just turned me upside-down when I read that. Well, what a great thing that is. Suppose you’re supremely happy for just five minutes, that just destroys everybody who’s trying to sell you something to make you happy. How subversive. Let me tell you young people, it’s possible sometimes to go for a whole day and be happy and not buy a thing.

This article is not a call to quietist arms, so to speak:

Subversive happiness is not quietist or passive. Berry has himself participated in sit-ins and protests and has penned his share of manifestos, but he doesn’t rest his hopes on these tactics. Indeed, happiness provides a very different motivation for our work than does optimism or pessimism. Happiness leads us to do good work because it is good; because it brings joy; because it deserves our attention and energy.

Whether our work leads to victory becomes irrelevant to us.

This reminds me of the famous accounts of medieval craftsmen labouring over statuary which would stand hundreds of feet above them, and devoting as much attention to the backs of these statues as the faces. What Bilbro conveys to me – and which, I presume, is a main theme of Berry (though I better read him to be able to pontificate more!) is the sheer subversion – in the true, proper sense – of this stance on life. Reminds me too of a passage from “The Monks of Tibhirine: Faith, Love and Terror in Algeria”  by John W Kiser:

I also began to better understand why my exposure to the Trappist culture had a certain resonance for me. Simplicity is one reason. Doing less, not more, and doing those fewer things more intensely, are values in perpetual struggle in a world that is always offering more – more activities, more choices, more means of communication, things that distract and require decisions. Trappists have stripped their lives down to a simple triad of prayer, study and manual labour. They have made only one decision: to love and praise God in the  Trappist way

This monastic mission is a deeply subversive one. And it also reminded me of another recent read, Geoffrey Moorhouse’s , “Sun Dancing” about life on Skellig Michael, especially the story of the Culdee Aedh, whose extremism in the name of asceticism – which has disastrous results – is surely a manifestation of “winning” as a summum bonum  There are many many other examples – and perhaps this is an eternal human temptation rather than a specific feature of modernity – but it is one which the world of Likes and Retweets and Going Viral intensifies greatly.

2008: “Driving in my car” -Clive Thompson on erasing traffic jams

Having recently rediscovered my postings on the Stirling Behavourial Science Blog, I am finding some interesting (well, to me anyway) posts I wrote and totally forgot. Such as this:

Clive Thompson’s always-interesting blog links to a great video illustrating how traffic jams form:

 
Thompson writes:

This also puts me in mind of William Beatty, the electrical engineer who — while stuck in traffic in 1998 — figured out a way to hack traffic jams and erase them. Basically, when he was stuck in a jam, he’d slow down until he had a really large amount of space between him and the car in front of him. Then he moved forward in at very slow, uniform speed, so that he no longer stopped and started. Sure enough, the wave stopped at him: Everyone behind him began driving at a uniform 35 mph. “By driving at the average speed of the traffic around me, my car had been ‘eating’ the traffic waves,” he wrote. The only problem, of course, is that he himself was stuck traveling at the average speed of the wave in front of him, which — at 35 mph — is pretty pokey.

I can recommend from recent experience not to try this in Dublin. At least not in the city. There are two many traffic lights which totally ruin the exercise (and attract much ire from one’s fellow drivers) But the concept Thompson describes – that driving in a kind, respectful, letting-the-other-guy-in way reduces traffic and thereby is in all our interests – is an interesting one from the behavioural point of view?

Here’s a video of Beatty describing his technique:

“L’imagination au pouvoir” Edo – giant cardboard bricks

“L’imagination au pouvoir” Edo – giant cardboard bricks

Recently, via Kickstarter, I acquired no less than 50 giant cardboard bricks. These are the work of Simon Marussi of Edo, an Italian startup.

The blocks came just before Christmas but for various reasons I could only get them in the New Year. A pleasant evening – or two – of block assembly ensued. Initially my children played with the box the Edo bricks came in, while I tried to work our the (initially slightly confusing) instructions. Once up and running, assembly was straightforward and in its own way mindful, and the children could join in some of the tasks,

There are basically two bricks – a single “stud” (to use the Lego terminology) one:

and a double “stud” one:

There is also a junction piece to connect up blocks.

With these, an awful lot can be built. Edo bricks lend themselves to the building of forts very well:

And also to small prisons useful for holding captured toy dogs. In the top left hand corner of this photo we see the bricks in their pre-assembly state. 

Edo blocks have proved a hit with my own brood, although they are often the target of demolition work as much as they are used for construction work. I also have found by experience the importance of proper assembly, especially bending down small cardboard bits as per the instructions, and trying to ensure that the folds are as smooth as possible (fortunately, it is much easier than origami!) Edo bricks obviously evoke Lego, but also the creative spirit of Caine’s arcade (if you don’t know what that is, please follow the link or watch the below:

Computer games on paper: MiG-25, Colosseum, Mental Mills

Around 1986 my family bought an Amstrad PCW 8256 in Derry. I suppose at this distance it is OK to recall it was hidden under a blanket in the back seat of the car (and  I suppose this sort of thing may happen again)  At that point, computers meant games to me and my brother, rather than the all-purpose panopticon of our lives they have become. Unfortunately, the PCW was not a games machine by any stretch of the imagination. A few years later, I discovered 8000 Plus , a magazine for PCWs, which opened my eyes to a whole world of PCW software (as well as David Langford’s wonderful column) – especially text adventures, but also the likes of Starglider.

However, in the years between getting a PCW and finding out that, actually, games did exist for it, I tended to try and use the word processor Locoscript to “make games” – basically word processor files full of symbol characters which I would move the cursor around (with the arrow keys, naturally) as “gameplay.” I am sure this was very good for my imagination. Recently I discovered a old project notebook from those days  in which I had written out three possible games.

The first was “MiG-25.” This was the Cold War, don’t forget, and the library was full of worthy books about the possibility of nuclear war. Therefore a game based on the Soviet jet was not that much of an outlier

It was over a decade before “Gladiator” but, as well as Soviet weaponry, all things Rome fascinated me. Still does, I guess. However, my spelling needed work – here was “Colossuem”

 

Finally there is “Mental Mills.” I must admit to finding this one hard to relate to any interest I had then or have now, or any other context, except evidently I wanted to “neutrailise” atom bombs.

Chopping firewood – from “The Man Who Made Things Out of Trees” by Robert Penn

Chopping firewood can be done in short bursts – in fact, little and often is the best way to approach a large pile – yet, as the logs mount in a stack around your choppping block, there is an obvious and pleasing sense of progress after just half an hour. If I keep at it for longer, I can fall into a trance chopping wood: it is a form of meditation, albeit with a lethal weapon. Somehow my capacity to concentrate, and strike the log precisely where I want, is heightened in this state; meanwhile the general debris of daily life gently empties from my head, leaving a void. Paradoxically, in this void, I sense I am exercising my judgement and sharpening my cognitive attentiveness, a human virtue that degenerates in many otehr parts of my daily life.

From “The Man Who  Made Things Out Of Trees”, Robert Penn http://www.thisiswhyimbroke.com/the-man-who-made-things-out-of-wood

To Solve Everything, Click Here – Evgeny Morozov

I first came across Evgeny Morozov via the computer history mailing list SIGCIS. In essence, Morozov had written a New Yorker piece which drew heavily on the work of the historian Eden Medina – which in fact was ostensibly a review of her book Cybernetic Revolutionaries – while only mentioning her name once, in passing. This is a somewhat familiar maneouvre in a certain strand of highbrow book reviewing – the book is an occasion for an essay on a topic, with only peripheral mentions of the book itself.

I don’t feel qualified to comment any further on the issues raised in the Morzov-Medina affair. Some time later, I came across his “To Solve Everything, Click Here” – the precís of which, with its concern with “solutionism” and “epochalism”, resonated. Epochalism is perhaps easier to define – the belief that our times are unique. This is often mixed up with the idea that it is “the internet” and “technology” are what makes our times unique. “Solutionism” is slightly less obvious. Here is how Morozov introduces the concept:

Alas, all too often, this never-ending quest to ameliorate – or what the Canadian anthropologist Tania Murray Li, writing in a very different context, has called “the will to improve” – is shortsighted and is only perfunctorily interested in the activity for which improvement is sought. Recasting all complex social situations either as neatly defined problems with definite, computable solutions or as transparent and self-evidence processes that can be easily optimized – if only the right algorithms are in place! – this quest is likely to have unexpected consequences that could  eventually cause more damage than the problems they seek to address.

I call the ideology that legitimizes and sanctions such aspirations “solutionism.” I borrow this unabashedly pejorative term from the world of architecture and urban planning – where it has come to refer to an unhealthy preoccupation with sexy, monumental and narrow-minded solutions – the kind of stuff that wows audiences at TED Conferences – to problems that are extremely complex, fluid and contentious. These are the kind of problems that, on careful examination, do not have to be defined in the singular and all-encompassing ways that “solutionists” have defined them; what’s contentious then, is not their proposed solution but their very definition of the problem itself. Design theorist Michael Dobbins has it right: solutionism presumes rather than investigates the problems that it is trying to solve, reaching “for the answer before the questions have been fully asked.” How problems are composed matters every bit as much as how problems are resolved.

 

I find myself agreeing entirely with the above. During the week I attended the CCIO Summer School in Leeds. One presentation was a video talk by Dr Robert Wachter whose report on IT in the NHS will soon be with us. Dr Wachter discussed many of the unintended consequences of electronic health records and eHealth approaches so far; the end of radiology rounds, doctors staying in a computer room doing their work rather than being on the wards, and most poignantly the redefinition of the doctor patient relationship itself (illustrated by a young girl’s picture of a visit to the doctor, who was depicted with his back turned to the girl and her mother, typing away – shades of Cecil Helman’s “technodoctors”)

Passages are excellent, and indeed at times reading Morozov I felt an excitement that at last some of my own ambivalences and qualifications (and enthusiasm) regarding technology were being crystallised. Morozov is as much against technophobia as techno-utopianism – pointing out that both postulate a sort of undifferentiated Technology (such as “the Internet”, as seen in phrases like “the grain of the Internet” and other reifications and indeed personifications of the Internet) with an inherent power. Morozov summarises a vast array of academic literature – the rate in the above quote of one academic namecheck per paragraph is probably lower than most. Therein lies some of the problem – much of the book is a rather relentless account of the work of these academics and various thinkers.

Again, I can’t judge if there are other thinkers and scholars he should be citing and acknowledging more, but in this book (published pre-Medina) his citations are exhaustive (and exhausting)- so much so that a rather annoying rhetorical tic is evident. TechnoUtopian A states X, but X is evidently absurd because Academics B,C and D say so. And Morozov has a verbal tic to match the rhetorical one – his references to “Canadian anthropologist Tania Murray Li” and “Design theorist Michael Dobbins” and many, many more are reminiscent of no less than Dan Brown:

This use of a person’s name preceded by the name of a job, without a preceding article (an anarthrous NP, as we grammarians say when chatting with our own kind in the secretive cabals that we sometimes hold) is odd because occupational descriptions like “fertilizer salesman” aren’t normally used as titles. “Cardinal” is a title; selling fertilizer is merely a job. It is true that noun phrases like fertilizer salesman Scott Peterson are found in newspaper articles (in fact John Cowan points out to me that it is a well-known feature of the style associated with Time magazine), but I have never yet found anyone but Dan Brown using this construction to open a work of fiction. The construction sounds to me like the opening of an obituary rather than an action sequence. It’s not ungrammatical; it just has the wrong feel and style for a novel. (from this Language Log post)

I would argue that, repeated at length, it also has the wrong feel and style for a book length argument, rather than a newspaper piece. Anyway, this is something of a digression.

 

Many reviewers seem to have missed that Morozov is as opposed to techno-scepticism as techno-utopianism. This is a very different book to those of Andrew Keen, for instance. This is possibly because his opposition is confined to sideswipes. Towards the end of the book there is a – to my mind – rather ignorant swipe at Jacques Ellul:

As far as analytical categories go, “Technology” holds as much promise as “the internet”: it’s very hard to reach precision as the cultural bias implied and produced by such terms are too many. Once we move to a lower – that is, more detailed, empircial and analytically precise – level of analysis, we are likely to notice things that may have escaped the attention of French theologians.

The tone of this is a little surprising as earlier in the book Morozov has referred to Ellul more neutrally:

Steven Talbott, a technology critic in the deeply spiritual tradition of Jacques Ellul, correctly observes that “we have invested only certain automatic, mechanical, and computation aspects of our intelligence in the equipment of the digital age, and it is these aspects of ourselves that are in turn reinforced by the external apparatus. In other words, you will see what engineers will insist on calling a ‘positive feedback loop,’ a loop almost guaranteeing one-sidedness in our intelligent functioning.” We ought not to be as pessimistic – the last chapter of this book will show that digital technologies can help awaken us from the ethical and aesthetic slumber we’ve been enjoying for far too long – but the gist of Talbott’s assertion is right: we have to watch for positive feedback loops.

This passage is quite typical of Morozov’s style – the invocation of the authority of another thinker or academic, a rather directive approach to the reader (“we ought not to be as pessimistic”), a tendency to use the very epochalist language he otherwise disdains (“awaken us from the ethical and aesthetic slumber”)

Techno-evangelists and “epochalists” of the Internet-changes-everything school tend to make pronoucements that are hostages to fortune, and good sense. As with Andrew Keen’s books, Morozov’s cataloguing of these follies is at times a fish shoot in a barrel. It reminded me of books on alternative medicine such as Rose Shapiro’s “Suckers” which list various absurdities and evident follies, but don’t consider the more interesting questions – why? Why, in the case of alternative medicine, are people drawn to all this, if it is so ineffective and evidently absurd? Why, in the case of Morozov (or Andrew Keen), are people to make and admire such statements?

Morozov, for instance, makes heavy weather of “lifestreaming”; Microsoft employee Gordon Bell (see, it’s catching) who has collected nearly every detail of his life using a range of technologies is held up as a sort of cautionary tale.

 

Morozov’s rationale, on one level, is not superficial at all – indeed, as pointed out above, it is rather exhaustively referenced. But the weakness of his rhetorical arsenal of weak sarcasm and invoking academic masks a deeper rhetorical weakenss.  The twin bogeys of solutionism and epochalism can be invoked in almost any situation. Loose talk of “the internet” is very common, and Morozov seems ever vigilant to jump on its use as an example of sloppy thinking.

The most extraordinary passages, however, are in the final chapter where Morozov summarises various conceptual art works and design experiments which, for him, provide a way out of solutionism.

There’s the “erratic appliances”, which “Swedish designers decided to build … that start to behave strangely as energy consumption increases. The strangeness is deliberate: it seeks to introduce aspects of risk and indeterminacy into the use of such devices. Thus the behaviour of, say, a toaster will depend on the overall electricity consumption in the apartment; users are thus deliberately forced to make choices.” The same “Swedish designers” have a radio set which changes frequency when the energy consumption goes above a certain level.

There’s the “trio of German designers” who have set out to build what they call “transformational products” such as the Caterpillar – “that seeks to make its owner think about the energy wasted by products in standby mode.”  They also came up with the “Forget Me Not reading lamp. Once switched on, Forget Me Not starts closing like a flower, as it light gradually gets dimmer and more obscure. For the lamp to reopen and shine again, the user needs to touch one of its petals. Thus, the user is in  a constant dialogue with the lamp, hopefully aware of the responsibility to use energy appropriately.

This leads to the work of “media and design theorist Carl diSalvo” who is a proponent of “adversarial design.” Never fear, Carl di Salvo in turn is “drawing on the work of political theorists like Carl Schmitt and Chantal Mouffe.” (FYI – Carl Schmitt was known as “crown jurist of the Third Reich”) and in a very Morozov line, “DiSalvo’s thought is worth studying in depth, if only because it provides the much-needed theoretical scaffolding that turns the disjointed insights of “erratic appliances” and “technological troublemakers” into a paradigmatic program and philosophy of design.”

DiSalvo “marshals up numerous examples to show what adversarial design looks like in practice; crime maps that, instead of showing the distribution of crimes on a city map, show which city blocks have the most former residents incarerated; browser extensions that add information about military funding to the websites of universities or convert all prices on sites like Amazon into their equivalent in barrels of oil based on current prices.” Two examples are discussed in more depth. One is Spore 1.1

a rubber tree plant bought from the Home Depot retailer with the unconditional guarantee that it can be exchanged for a new plant if it dies in the first year. The plant is connected to an automated watering system that works on a somewhat bizarre principle: Every Friday it checks how the Home Depot’s stock is performing … if the stock performs too poorly, no water is administered to the plant; if it does well, water is administered… The art project was meant to get observers to reflect on the potentially high but invisible costs of unchecked economic growth

The other diSalvo example is the Natural Fuse. At this point, rather than yet more of me summarising Morozov summarising someone else, those interested can look at the link. Suffice it to say that in Morozov’s words:

The Natural Fuse aims to go beyond the reductionism of numbers and give citizens a better understanding of the logic and ethics of carbon offsets. In other words, it seeks to promote narrative imagination.

 

There is nothing wrong with any of these projects  of course (although they do smack to me of the irritatingly vapid “provocative” nature of much conceptual art) but surely Morozov is engaging in some solutionism of his own – “users are thus deliberately forced to make choices”, “seeks to make its owner think “, “the user needs to touch”, “to get observers to reflect”, etc. This is all surely the language of solutionism, and while the Natural Fuse may aim to “go beyond the reductionism of number”, Morozov has a staggeringly reductionist view of the experience of art (and design) The viewer/user of these projects is portrayed (in Morozov’s account) as a rather passive creature pushed into critical reflection and “narrative imagination” just like that!  Critical of the assumptions of so many others (especially when they impinge on human agency and on complexity, here he uncritically repeats the comments of the artists  and designers themselves.