05.Nov.2012 Short glimpses of the future

New York City has flooded.

Already discussions (New York Times) are rising as to how to deal with increased flood activity and build resilent but malleable infrastructure to inhabit the lowlands in the future.

“New York became divided between wealthy, glittering Uptown and the struggling poor who remained in drowning Downtown because they had nowhere else to go. Instead of abandoning their homes, they adapted, closing off the flooded lower floors of structures that were otherwise still habitable and starting a strange, scavenger society in what remained … [snip] … Years passed. The sunken portion of Manhattan Island evolved. People Downtown tended to ignore the northern view, just as those Uptown liked to pretend the Drowning City did not exist just beyond their reach. Uptown continued to thrive, to flower with new business and gleaming, modern architecture, while Lower Manhattan canibalized itself, cobbling together a community of canals and bridges, of dangerous shadows and rebellious minds. The Drowning City, some of its older denizens called it.” (from Joe Golem and the Drowning City)

I’ve been reading Mike Mignola & Chrstopher Golden’s Joe Golem and the Drowning City which is set in a parallel New York where downtown has been flooded since “the great floods of the 1920s”.

Joe Golem and the Drowning City exists in that strange world of ‘young adult fiction’ most probably because of its connection to Mignola (Hellboy etc) and comics. With a strong 14 year old girl, Molly, as the heroine, It is a fun read, pulpy and fast paced, and not at all taxing.

It is hard to separate my mental image of the world of Molly with that of New York of the last few days – and also of Bioshock.

Video games shape so much of children’s reality at the moment – and their imaginative play. I’m excited by the best of this and fearful of the worst.

Just today my 8 year old daughter created a world in Minecraft and populated with a treasure hunt for her 5 year old brother’s birthday party. Staring into screens a squabble of children sat and hunted for the treasure buried deep inside a virtual cake. Whereas once we would have hidden treats around the house, the garden, and maybe the local park, today we’re doing these same activities in digital equivalents entirely of our own children’s construction. For them this is incredibly empowering – they’ve given their own imaginary worlds and dreams digital flesh. But I wonder what happens to the park – and when the park is the only malleable space available to other children.

In my grandchildren’s time I expect that what will be malleable will be actual flesh – if we can get bio-engineering to follow the same consumerisation path that 3D printing is. And that is exciting.

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