Possible Worlds: Optopia: From Fiction to Action on Climate Change

November 30, 2021

6:30pm UCLA | Fowler Museum’s Lenart Auditorium – Los Angeles, CA

Possible Worlds: The UCLA – Berggruen Institute Speaker Series is a new partnership between the UCLA Division of Humanities and the Berggruen Institute.

This lecture was featured on IDEAS, a documentary radio program from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Listen to IDEAS host Nahlah Ayed interview Kim Stanley Robinson about his talk and his optimistic vision for our climate future here.

About Kim Stanley Robinson
Kim Stanley Robinson is an American science-fiction writer. He is the author of more than 20 books, including the internationally bestselling Mars trilogy, and more recently The Ministry for the FutureRed Moon, New York 2140, Aurora, Shaman, Green Earth, and 2312. In 1995, he was sent to the Antarctic by the U.S. National Science Foundation’s Antarctic Artists and Writers Program, and he returned in 2016 as part of their Antarctic media program. In 2008, he was named a “Hero of the Environment” by Time magazine. He works with the Sierra Nevada Research Institute, the Clarion Writers’ Workshop, and UC San Diego’s Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination. His work has been translated into 25 languages and has won a dozen awards in five countries, including the Hugo, Nebula, Locus, and World Fantasy awards. In 2016, asteroid 72432 was named “Kimrobinson.”

Featuring a discussion with moderator Ursula Heise
Ursula K. Heise is Chair of the Department of English and Director of LENS, the Lab for Environmental Narrative Strategies, at the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability at UCLA. She is a 2011 Guggenheim Fellow and former President of the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment. Her research and teaching focus on contemporary literature; environmental culture in the Americas, Western Europe, and Japan; narrative theory; media theory; literature and science; and science-fiction. Her most recent book is Imagining Extinction: The Cultural Meanings of Endangered Species (University of Chicago Press, 2016). Heise is the managing editor of Futures of Comparative Literature: The ACLA Report on the State of the Discipline (Routledge, 2016), and co-editor, with Jon Christensen and Michelle Niemann, of The Routledge Companion to the Environmental Humanities (2016). She wrote and produced Urban Ark Los Angeles for the public TV station KCET, a short documentary film about the red-crowned parrots of East Los Angeles. Detailed information about her publications, upcoming lectures, and courses can be found on her website, www.uheise.net.

About the Series
Possible Worlds: The UCLA – Berggruen Institute Speaker Series is a new partnership between the UCLA Division of Humanities and the Berggruen Institute. This semiannual series will bring some of today’s most imaginative intellectual leaders and creators to deliver public talks on the future of humanity. Through the lens of their singular achievements and experiences, these trailblazers in creativity, innovation, philosophy and politics will lecture on provocative topics that explore current challenges and transformations in human progress.

UCLA faculty and students have long been at the forefront of interpreting the world’s legacy of language, literature, art and science. UCLA Humanities serves a vital role in readying future leaders to articulate their thoughts with clarity and imagination, to interpret the world of ideas, and to live as informed citizens in an increasingly complex world. We are proud to be partnering in this lecture series with the Berggruen Institute, whose work addresses the “Great Transformations” taking place in technology and culture, politics and economics, global power arrangements, and even how we perceive ourselves as humans. The Institute seeks to connect deep thought in the human sciences — philosophy and culture — to the pursuit of practical improvements in governance.

A selection committee comprising representatives of UCLA and the Berggruen Institute has been formed to make recommendations for lecturers. The committee includes:

Ursula Heise, Professor and Chair, Department of English; Professor, UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability; Marcia H. Howard Term Chair in Literary Studies
Pamela Hieronymi, Professor of Philosophy
Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, Professor of Urban Planning; Associate Provost for Academic Planning
Todd Presner, Associate Dean, Digital Initiatives; Chair of the Digital Humanities Program; Michael and Irene Ross Endowed Chair of Yiddish Studies; Professor of Germanic Languages and Comparative Literature
Lynn Vavreck, Professor, Department of Political Science; Marvin Hoffenberg Professor of American Politics and Public Policy
David Schaberg, Senior Dean of the UCLA College; Dean of Humanities; Professor, Asian Languages & Cultures
Nils Gilman, Vice President of Programs, the Berggruen Institute

Upcoming


composed by Arswain
machine learning consultation by Anna Tskhovrebov
commissioned by the Berggruen Institute
premiered at the Bradbury Building
downtown Los Angeles
april 22, 2022

Human perception of what sounds “beautiful” is necessarily biased and exclusive. If we are to truly expand our hearing apparatus, and thus our notion of beauty, we must not only shed preconceived sonic associations but also invite creative participation from beings non-human and non-living. We must also begin to cede creative control away from ourselves and toward such beings by encouraging them to exercise their own standards of beauty and collaborate with each other.

Movement I: Alarm Call
‘Alarm Call’ is a long-form composition and sound collage that juxtaposes, combines, and manipulates alarm calls from various human, non-human, and non-living beings. Evolutionary biologists understand the alarm call to be an altruistic behavior between species, who, by warning others of danger, place themselves by instinct in a broader system of belonging. The piece poses the question: how might we hear better to broaden and enhance our sense of belonging in the universe? Might we behave more altruistically if we better heed the calls of – and call out to – non-human beings?

Using granular synthesis, biofeedback, and algorithmic modulation, I fold the human alarm call – the siren – into non-human alarm calls, generating novel “inter-being” sonic collaborations with increasing sophistication and complexity. 

Movement II: A.I.-Truism
A synthesizer piece co-written with an AI in the style of Vangelis’s Blade Runner score, to pay homage to the space of the Bradbury Building.

Movement III: Alarmism
A machine learning model “learns” A.I.Truism and recreates Alarm Call, generating an original fusion of the two.

Movement IV: A.I. Call
A machine learning model “learns” Alarm Call and recreates A.I.Truism, generating an original fusion of the two.


RAVE (IRCAM 2021) https://github.com/acids-ircam/RAVE