A sleeping man holds in a circle around him the sequence of the hours, the order of the years and worlds. He consults them instinctively as he wakes and reads in a second the point on the earth he occupies, the time that has elapsed before his waking; but their ranks can be mixed up, broken.Marcel Proust, “Swann’s Way,” In Search of Lost Time, p. 5, trans. by Lydia DAvis
…we have no idea, now, of who or what the inhabitants of our future might be. In that sense, we have no future. Not in the sense that our grandparents had a future, or thought they did. Fully imagined cultural futures were the luxury of another day, one in which “now” was of some greater duration. For us, of course, things can change so abruptly, so violently, so profoundly, that futures like our grandparents’ have insufficient “now” to stand on. We have no future because our present is too volatile…. We have only risk management. The spinning of the given moment’s scenarios. Pattern recognition.William Gibson, Pattern Recognition
History and Gibson’s alternate history are caught in a set of loops and branches, where the distributed apparatuses of planetary computing meet all-too-human responses. “We are confronted with both a surplus of new worlds and a lack of clear civilizational frontiers,” Bratton says, “other than those simulated by various senile medievalisms now in ascendance. Can we survive that? Can we address the openings closest at hand fast enough that they generate new geographies before we can ruin them?”Roger Whitson, “Time Critique and the Textures of Alternate History: Media Archaeology in The Difference Engine and The Peripheral,” in William Gibson and the Futures of Contemporary Culture, Mitch R. murray and Mathias Nilges (eds.), University of Iowa Press, 2021, p. 144.
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