Tony Kushner and Angels in America: An Artist-Activist in Action

Guest post by Paul Sukys

Some literary critics argue that the artist can no longer be content to simply create pleasing literary artifacts that exist only for their own sake. Such critics champion the activist writer who uses his or her art to reflect and perhaps even shape the social and cultural consciousness of a generation. On the other hand, the fact that certain artists are concerned with social issues does not relieve them of their responsibility toward their art. On the contrary, the artist-activist must pay close attention to his or her art or risk being labeled an agitator, or even worse, a fraud.

The split personality of the artist-activist has been actualized in a variety of different works. However, one of the most poignant contemporary settings for the presentation of this dramatic dual identity occurs within the chaotic universe of the AIDS crisis. One of the most celebrated of these literary works is the award winning, two part drama, Angels in America by Tony Kushner. This monumental work, which is set during the early days of the AIDS crisis, tells the story of that crisis from the perspectives of two persons with AIDS, plus several additional characters, all of whom share their bewilderment at the incomprehensible nature of the crisis and their struggle to cope with its chaotic implications. In Angels in America, Kushner has created a socially conscious play which dramatizes the plight of many persons with AIDS and compels the members of the audience to take notice of a problem they would just as soon, if not ignore, then certainly forget. Yet Kushner would not succeed in communicating this theme had the drama degenerated into a hard hitting polemic. Had he chosen the route of the polemicist, his voice might never have been heard (or at least not as loudly as it has been heard to date).

The play succeeds precisely because Kushner chooses not to abandon his art but to embrace it. This tact allows Kushner to create a believable central character who is more that an allegorical figure spouting philosophy as he “struts and frets his hour upon the stage.” The central character, Prior Walter, a former club designer, comes to life as a realistic hero lost within the chaotic world of the AIDS crisis. As a realistic hero, Prior acts very much like Camus’ hero, Meursault in The Stranger, as he, Prior, attempts to determine why he has been stricken with AIDS and condemned to the nightmare world that confronts every person with AIDS.

Prior, of course, unlike Meursault, is not trapped in a subjective world of irrational absurdity. Rather, he is immersed in a clearly identifiable, socio-historical moment. Prior is first and foremost a person with AIDS who must face the horrifying reality of his terrible affliction. To ignore or to downplay this crucial fact would be to dodge the central point of Kushner’s drama and would thus diminish its value. However, we must remember that Prior is also a victim of personal betrayal at the hands of his lover Louis Ironson, who abandons Prior in his hour of greatest need. The strategic addition of Louis to the plot, complete with its own set of emotional and social problems, transforms Prior’s crisis from a socioeconomic drama into one of deep personal loss. Prior can, in this way, be seen not only as an incarnation of social and historical forces that have converged at a particular existential moment in time, but also as an individual with whom the audience can identify and about whom the audience cares.

However, it would be a mistake to see Kushner’s addition of Louis and the abandonment of Prior as simple devices to trick the audience into identifying with Prior. To interpret that play in this way would be to overlook the subtle genius of Kushner’s art and would, quite frankly, demean the personality of Prior, whose quiet dignity makes him one of the most attractive and sympathetic characters to appear on the American stage in recent memory. No, Kushner is not involved in mere plot manipulation here. Rather, he has compelled the audience to understand that historical and social forces can make each of us act in ways that are either admirable or despicable, depending on our own inner character. The social and historical forces within the play do not deprive Prior and Louis of their ability to act freely. However, neither can these forces be ignored. Both Prior and Louis act within the context of the crushing events of the AIDS crisis, a crisis made worse by a society that refused to respond to the crisis in a timely and effective fashion. In this way, each of us is like Prior and Louis.

What Kushner has dramatized so effectively is that freedom is not a right as much as a privilege that we are permitted to exercise with few restrictions.  We are free, for instance, to walk through the park on sunny day unimpeded, save for the occasional “keep of the grass” sign. We are free to do this day after day, until that one day when a jogger in front of us collides with a biker and is seriously injured. At that precise moment, our freedom evaporates and we are obliged to help a fellow human being in distress. What is more, we all know intuitively that this is the case. Of course, even then we still have the practical freedom to walk on by; however, and this is the point, that practical freedom has been superseded by the moral responsibility to help. Sure, we can still walk on by, but to do so abuses the privilege to act freely and marks that action as immoral, no matter how we try to convince ourselves otherwise.

The success of Kushner’s play lies within his ability to dramatize that moment of choice within the context of the AIDS crisis. Louis has been walking through the park unimpeded for years and when, at the precise moment when he witnesses the horrible collision that plunges his companion into chaos, he chooses to walk on by. In this way Kushner places the humanity of the audience in touch with the humanity of the person with AIDS, as well as the humanity of those who have “walked on by.” At the same time, the audience is acutely aware of the socio-historical context of the play and is thus conscious of how human nature is shaped by and responds to that historical moment. Thus, Kushner’s play is both immersed within the historical moment and sufficiently distanced from it. This dual image compels the audience to examine critically the cultural matrix from which the events emerge, while never losing sight of the knowledge of how they as individuals would have acted had they been on that stage and in that moment.

Utopia or Dystopia: The Future According to Stapledon

Guest post by Paul Sukys

In 1974, Robert Heilbroner produced a dystopian book entitled The Human Prospect, in which he argues that humanity must meet three key global challenges if the human race is to survive. Those challenges are (1) uncontrolled population growth, (2) the breakdown of the global environment, and (3) the prospect of global warfare. After presenting these challenges, Heilbroner explores what it would take for the nations of the world to solve each one. The results of Heilbroner’s study are less than optimistic. The world, he predicts, will only solve these problems if some radical transformation takes place that forces the privileged nations of the world to take their eyes off their own situation and focus instead on the global picture. Predictably Heilbroner holds little hope that such a transformation will take place. Instead he sees a dystopian descent into poverty, terrorism, and war, all of which take place against a backdrop of dwindling energy reserves, increased starvation, extensive epidemics, economic upheaval, and impending environmental disaster.

Heilbroner revised his book in 1984, and once again in 1991, and neither time saw any reason to change his predictions. The international system may have changed somewhat since Heilbroner first penned The Human Prospect, but the problems remain the same. Unlike Heilbroner’s day, during which the international system revolved around the Cold War, the international system today focuses on two new global opponents who are about to face one another in a conflict that will dwarf all previous international encounters. Those two powers are the United States and China. Many analysts today see this conflict in apocalyptic terms, few see the result as pleasant, and most predict a dystopian outcome. In this article we are going to concentrate on the dystopian predictions of one such writer, Olaf Stapledon. Stapledon was a British novelist who, in the 1930s, wrote an epic science fiction narrative that is, in reality, a thinly disguised polemic worth close examination today.

Stapledon was able to make such predictions because he grasped two very simple things. First, he understood to a great extent the nature of the global system as it existed in his time period and he had the insight to follow the line of trajectory that system was following into the future. Stapledon envisioned a future in which two backstage players of the 1920s and 30s, the United States and China, would gain global dominance. Second, Stapledon also believed that Realpolitik, that is, the political philosophy that declares that leaders have one responsibility, save their own nation from destruction. According to adherents of Realpolitik their theory is now and always has been, the only accurate way of explaining how military and political leaders make real decisions in the real world of global politics. This is why Stapledon predicts a war between China and the United States for regional and global dominance in diplomacy, trade, finance, and military forces.


The Stapledon Dystopia: The Coming Sino-American War

Olaf Stapledon was born in 1886 in Wallasey, Merseyside, England, and educated at Balliol College, Oxford, where he earned a B.A. and an M.A. in history. He later earned a Ph.D. in philosophy at the University of Liverpool. Like many writers and artists of his generation (Ernest Hemingway and Louis Bromfield come immediately to mind), Stapledon was formed by his experiences in the Great War, during which he was an ambulance driver for the Friends Ambulance Unit in France. He was also greatly influenced by Modernism in the 1920s, and later by the Depression of the 1930s. His career as a writer began in 1930 when he published Last and First Men, the novel that was to become the blueprint for all of is later work. Other later works, such as Last Man in London (1932) and Star Maker (1937) are considered to be books that extend the implications of the philosophical and historical themes laid out in Last and First Men.[1]

In Last and First Men Stapledon first presents the details of his dystopian future, which extends for some 4 billion years, covering, as the book’s title suggests, the entire history of the human race, including its ultimate demise.[2] In scope and reach, the novel is unlike any of its peers.  Many writers aspire to create future histories of the human race but few, perhaps none, have managed to produce a future history with the breadth and scope of Stapledon’s vision. The book does not proceed along ordinary lines. There is no main character; no single setting, little dialogue, no traditional conflict, and certainly no happy ending. At times, the book reads like a philosophical treatise rather than a work of fiction. The novel reveals the future of humanity through eighteen successive versions of human development, each of which is less appealing and more decadent than the one before. Some genetic leaps, it is true, result in human offspring who possess valuable characteristics. Even these future generations, however, lack basic human values.  In this way Stapledon’s work is reminiscent of H. G. Wells’ Time Machine, the plot of which features a time traveler who visits a desolate human future.

Although Stapledon traces the future of humanity to the destruction of the solar system, a period better spoken of in terms of billions of years, he also devotes a great deal of space to the next five hundred years. This is critical because it is within those five hundred years that we see historical predictions that foretell a clash between the United States and China. He manages to make these predictions, first, because he has an innate grasp of the fundamental principles of Realpolitik, especially as those principles apply to the motivations of political leaders; and second, because he has the ability to extrapolate from present political conditions to those that will exist in the future. It is not possible to make such a leap into the future unless the “leaper” knows the ground on which he stands and from which he wishes to “leap.” Stapledon, our current “leaper,” has that knowledge.  Thus, he has the foresight and the intuition to see that China would eventually overcome economic, political, and military challenges to become a world power, despite the fact that it was a nation under siege in 1930.[3]

As noted above, Stapledon’s success in predicting these trends results from his clear grasp of Realpolitik. He understands intuitively that, in a world in which there is no central governing authority, nations will act to protect themselves, to preserve their power, and to increase that power whenever the opportunity presents itself.  Moreover, and perhaps more to the point, this process is not part of a conscious strategy any more than eating or breathing is a conscious strategy to all living things. The drive to exercise power is simply the natural way that the leaders of nation-states act. Nevertheless, there are several theories that attempt to explain why Realpolitik works. Hans Morgenthau, for example, believes that the drive for power on the international scene occurs because nations are inevitably led by alpha-level personalities who are compelled to exercise their “will to power.”[4]  In contrast, Kenneth Waltz suggests that nation-states act to preserve their power simply as a defense mechanism. The leaders of every nation-state know that, if they do not act to preserve their position within the balance of power among nations, someone will come along and take that power and that position away from them.[5]  Max Weber and Reinhold Niebuhr argue that the strategy to survive results from the nation-state’s moral responsibility to protect the civic peace of its own citizens[6] and John Mearsheimer suggests that it results from the need to acquire as much power as possible to offset the power of neighboring states.[7]

It is Mearsheimer’s vision of Realpolitik that Stapledon emulates. He envisions a world in which the major powers always seek more power in order to offset the growing power of their main rivals. This is why he pictures each successive war as a contest between two superpowers, first the Franco-Italian War, then the Anglo-French war, then the Russo-German War, followed by the Euro-American War [which occurs after the creation of the European Union] and finally the Sino-American War, between China and the United States.[8] It is this last war that especially fits Mearsheimer’s scenario and the one that most mirrors what is actually happening in the world of the 21st century.  This dystopian vision sees two major powers, the United States and China, in a virtual standoff. Stapeldon, however, does not see this power as resulting from military intervention. Instead he sees it as resulting from the intermingling of two powerful economic systems. It is in this way that Stapledon predicts globalization. He sees globalization as a process that begins peacefully but that ends in a war between the last power blocs on the planet.


Stapledon: The Four Dystopian Predictions

Before describing the ultimate confrontation between China and the United States, however, it will be helpful to take a closer look at Stapledon’s track record in relation to his predictions about globalization and the nature of the Sino-American relationship. Put simply, Stapledon’s predictions are correct in four fundamental ways: (1) First, Stapledon predicts that the tension that will exist between Beijing and Washington in the future will have an economic base founded on the problems associated with globalization; (2) Next, he forecasts a growing split between the two countries based on cultural differences; (3) Third, he believes that the greatest source of controversy between the two superpowers will be associated with the American belief that Western values, such as democracy and human rights, are universal and ought to be enforced globally; (4)  Finally, Stapledon predicts that the source of the ultimate armed conflict between the two nations will be energy reserves in general, and oil in particular.



The First Prediction: The Globalization Crisis

Stapledon’s first and most obvious prediction is that the future relationship between China and the United States is primarily economic and arises within a globalized world that has come to depend so much on the exchange of goods and services and the interrelated investment opportunities that national borders have become nearly irrelevant.


The planet was now a delicately organized economic unit, and big business in all lands was emphatically contemptuous of patriotism. Indeed the whole adult generation of the period was consciously and without reserve internationalist.[9]


Stapledon’s remarks, written in 1931, foreshadow the words of Anthony Giddens in his book, Runaway World: How Globalization Is Reshaping Our Lives.[10] In the opening chapter of this work Giddens describes globalization in words echo the same sentiment:


The global market place, they (the radicals) say, is much more developed than even in the 1960s and 1970s and is indifferent to national borders. Nations have lost most of the sovereignty they once had, and politicians have lost most of their capability to influence events. It isn’t surprising that no one respects political leaders any more, or has much interest in what they have to say. The era of the nation-state is over.[11]


Stapledon accurately predicts the trade and financial entanglements that now exist between the United States and China, when he writes that “American cutlery, shoes, gramaphones, domestic labour-saving devices”[12] had flooded the Chinese economy, and that China experiences an invasion of “American industry within her.”[13] Admittedly, in the world of the 21st century, the invasion of American industry into China has taken a form somewhat different from Stapledon’s vision. Nevertheless, the economic entanglement predicted by Stapledon has become a reality.[14]


The Second Prediction: The Cultural Conflict

Second, Stapledon accurately predicts the cultural conflict between the two countries. In this regard, he has hit the mark in several different ways. First, he accurately points out that, on one level, the two cultures are at odds with one another. For example, he shows that Americans are attached to their democratic ideals and their notions of human rights while the Chinese are more focused on the greater good of the entire community.[15] Stapledon puts it this way:


American culture was wholly concerned with the values of the individual life (and) was more sensitive than the Chinese with regard to the well-being of humble individuals. Therefore, industrial conditions were far better under American than under Chinese capitalism.[16]


In contrast, Stapledon sees China as a society that emphasizes the good of the entire culture over the good of the individual. This spirit is evident in its economic policies as well as the character of its government and culture. In describing these principles Stapledon focuses on the Chinese political system, in general, and the ruling party in particular. Although he calls the ruling party the Nationalist Party, he describes a party that has much more in common with today’s Chinese Communist Party (CCP) than with the “real life” Nationalist Party. For example, Stapledon’s Chinese Nationalist Party is “(m)odelled originally on the Bolshevic Party of Russia.”[17] In addition, the Chinese people approve of the Party and its activities, despite the fact that it consolidates power in the hands of a few. In Stapledon’s novel, the people depend on the Party to do what is best for the people. The Chinese believe that the Party represents the will of the people. This is why they can declare that their system is more democratic than the American system which relies on elections the results of which may or may not represent the will of the majority.[18] Stapledon’s fictional National Party, then, is very similar to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) as it operates in China today. In today’s CCP, as in Stapledon’s Nationalist Party, the leaders are trusted despite the fact that they stand above the law. According to Stapledon’s forecast, all of this will create a sense of national pride in the Chinese people. This new pride will be displayed in the rebirth of nationalism, the dawn of Asian manifest destiny, and a sense that its economy and political institutions are far better than those of the decadent Americans.[19]

Stapledon also describes the rebirth of Chinese cultural pride by noting that, “(i)n China a concerted effort had been made to purge the foreign element from her culture . . . and the study of Chinese classics was once more compulsory in all schools.”[20]  Stapledon’s prediction here reflects the actual state of China today. The CCP, like Stapledon’s fictional Nationalist Party has promoted a renewed interest in Chinese culture This “real life” rebirth of national pride in China is also seen in the development of position papers and manifestos, such as the “Harmonious World” statement issued by former General Secretary Hu Jintao.[21]


The Third Prediction: Western Universalism

Third, Stapledon predicts that another source of tension between China and the United States will be the American proclivity to force its cultural values on all nations, including China, in the belief that its values are universal.[22] Stapledon explains that, “America, indeed, professed to have outgrown nationalism and to stand for global and cultural world unity. But she conceived of unity as a unity under American organization; and by culture she meant Americanism.”[23]  Later he adds that the Americans in his fictional world, “assumed that America was the guardian of the world’s morals.”[24]  This picture of the United States as the purveyor of universal values and as the creator of a world culture based on those values clearly mirrors the world situation today

Moreover, Stapledon also predicts that whatever the economic, political, military, and philosophical reality might be, the cultural influence of the United States on China and the rest of the non-Western world is so overwhelming in the form of American music, art, movies, and so on, that it has resulted in an Americanized planet:

(T)he Americans were rapidly changing the whole character of man’s existence. By this time every human being throughout the planet made use of American products, and there was no region where American capital did not support local labour. Moreover, the American press, gramophone, radio, cinematograph, and televisor ceaselessly drenched the planet with American thought. Year by year, the aether reverberated with echoes of New York’s pleasures and the religious fervours of the Middle West. What wonder, then, that America even while she was despised, irresistibly moulded the whole human race.[25]

Stapledon’s words foreshadow the sentiments of James Laxter, of York University, who in his book Empire, explains that:


Cultural power is the fourth pillar of American global power. This is one of the ways in which the American Empire differs from its predecessors . . . It has been in the realm of mass culture—films, television, music—that American culture has become a truly global culture. This has had the effect of transmitting American values, products and attitudes to peoples around the world in an entirely novel way . . . Representatives of American film and television industries, with the full support of the American state, have worked ceaselessly throughout the world since the end of the second World War to keep the door wide open to the importation of American cultural products . . .The United States government guards American cultural products as important tools in its effort to win foreigners over to the acceptance of the American view of the good life and how society should be organized.[26]


In these first three predictions Stapledon has set the stage for his fourth and final prediction that of a dystopian world conflict that pits China against the United States in a major global war that totally changes the face of civilization and, in the end, causes its ultimate downfall.


The Fourth Prediction: The Final Battle and the End of the First Men

Stapledon’s fourth dystopian prediction relates to the final conflict between the United States and China. Stapledon predicts that the final conflict will be an energy war started by the discovery of an economical way to remove the vast oil deposits that exist under the ice in Antarctica. Before this conflict, however, Stapledon foresees the energy reserves of the planet placed under the control of the World Fuel Control Board, a cosmopolitan agency that establishes a set of global rules for the use of energy reserves. The rules work rather well until an American company discovers a way to remove oil deposits under Antarctica. The Americans claim the right to use the oil for their own domestic purposes because without their advanced techniques the oil would have remained inaccessible. China, in contrast, argues that the oil reserves are subject to the distribution protocols of the World Fuel Control Board which, by no coincidence is controlled by the Chinese. The events trigger a rebirth of nationalism as the two camps begin to tangle over the question of the oil reserves. The diplomatic maneuvering continues for some time, until an incident unrelated to the actual oil problem, ignites the Sino-American War.[27]

The war is a long and drawn out destructive campaign, characterized by the use of chemical and biological weapons. As is often the case, those who suffer the worst are not the Americans or the Chinese, but their allies.[28] Thus, Africa falls to American control, while Europe comes under the rule of China. Both Britain and Japan are devastated, and areas of the Middle East become an “uninhabitable no-man’s land.”[29]  Eventually, however, China is victimized by a new biological weapon used indiscriminately by the Americans who hold the military advantage over the Chinese. However, the strain of the war on the American economy sparks episodes of domestic violence between the “haves” and the “have-nots” in the United States. The war ends with the establishment of a global government, referred to as the World Financial Directorate.[30]

Despite this “happy ending,” Stapledon is not pleased with the outcome of the war. Nor does he see the conditions that result from the peace agreement and the establishment of the global government as a utopia. Instead, he depicts a dystopian world that is, on the surface, materialistically rich, but at its core, spiritually destitute.[31] Part of this schizophrenic condition is due to the fact that the world has reached this point of affluence by killing large numbers of people during the Sino-American World War. Part of the dissonance also results from the fact that, although the population is affluent, this affluence is not distributed in an even-handed fashion. Even in a world that is governed by a single autocratic government, there exists an elite who live in luxury at the expense of the poor.

However, according to Stapledon, the worst aspect of this dystopia is its moral bankruptcy.   He blames this moral insolvency on three interrelated factors. First, the new world has adopted an Americanized philosophy of life. In his fictionalized future, Stapledon blames this transformation on American biological weapons that destroyed the ability of the Chinese to resist the Americanization process.[32] The Americanization process leads to a second reason for the moral insolvency of the post war dystopia, and that is an obsession with the power of science. Science in this post war world has replaced religion. There is, in fact, a point at which religion and science are reunited but this is simply a facade that permits science to take over the lives and the beliefs of the people.[33] This leads to the final cause of the moral breakdown and that is an obsession with progress that leads to a frantic lifestyle of endless activity. This activity takes many forms, including work, flight, dance, and athletics, but each form holds one thing in common; it is ultimately pointless. This obsession with movement keeps the people occupied but also transforms them into slaves.[34]

Two rather poignant passages in the book illustrate Stapledon’s focus on the contrast between the materialistic wealth of the people and their spiritual emptiness. These two passages, more than any other in the book, represent the core of his empty dystopian future. The first passage describes the day to day material wealth of the population.


Every individual was a well-fed and physically healthy human animal. He was also economically independent. His working day was never more than six hours, often only four. He enjoyed a fair share of the products of industry; and in his long holidays he was free to wander in his own aeroplane all over the planet. With good luck he might find himself rich, even for those days at forty; and if fortune favoured him, he might yet expect affluence before he was eighty, when he could still look forward to a century of active life.[35]


This paragraph is followed immediately by this next passage:


But in spite of this material prosperity, he was a slave. His work and his leisure consisted of a feverish activity, punctuated by moments of listless idleness which he regarded as both sinful and unpleasant. Unless he was one of the furiously successful minority, he was apt to be haunted by moments of brooding, too formless to be called meditation, and of yearning too blind to be called desire. For he and all his contemporaries were ruled by certain ideas which prevented them from leading a fully human life. Of these ideas one was the ideal of progress. . . . For the all-pervading idea which tyrannized over the race was the fanatical worship of movement.[36]


All of this is, of course, an allegory. Stapledon does not really expect that the entire human race will be absorbed in pointless activity. Instead, he sees Western philosophy, Western economics, and Western politics as the root of all that is decadent in this future world. Thus, his dystopia results not so much from an obsession with progress as with the American desire to dominate the planet. In this way, Stapledon’s dystopia results not because the Sino-American War destroys most of the planet but because American materialism flourishes in its aftermath.

Despite all of this, the reader can take some comfort in the fact that, despite his grasp of Realpolitik, many of Stapledon’s predictions, especially those he foresaw in the years immediately in front of him, were proven to be completely wrong. For example, he misses the rise of fascism in Germany after the Great War and the Treaty of Versailles. Instead, he foresees a new German Renaissance, which reveals that “the Germans, in spite of their practical genius, their scholarly contributions to history, their brilliant science and austere philosophy, were at heart romantic.”[37]  In contrast, his post-war vision of France and England is less flattering. He pictures these two nations (and Italy as well) succumbing to war-like tendencies that lead to two fatal confrontations, the first between France and Italy, and the second between England and France. The Anglo-French War is fought to a standstill, although much of London and most of Paris are destroyed. After the Anglo-French War, the two devastated nations are placed under the trusteeship of the League of Nations which is responsible for reconstructing both ruined nations. It is only after this confrontation, that Germany begins, once again, to rise to a position of power in Europe. However, German ambitions are checked by similar aspirations on the part of the Russians leading to a third European war, the Russo-German War, during which large parts of both nations are rendered uninhabitable.[38]

In the details, Stapledon’s story and actual historical fact differ significantly.  France and England did not go to war with each other, but instead fought Germany, and both ended up as victors in that war. Germany, on the other hand, was broken. Its infrastructure was destroyed, its people homeless, its industry smashed, its military shattered, and its spirit broken.  Stapledon also misses the global nature of the conflict. He leaves out the involvement of both the United States and Japan, misses the use of saturation bombing, focuses instead on chemical weapons, and fails to forecast the most morally reprehensible event of that time period, if not of all remembered history, the Holocaust. On the other hand, if we look at Stapledon’s predictions in terms of probabilities and trends, rather than in terms of certainties and individual historical events, his predictions give us pause. Stapledon envisions a Europe shattered by war, forecasts the failure of the League of Nations, predicts a devastating conflict between the Germans and the Russians, foretells the invention and actual wartime use of atomic weapons, imagines the formation of the European Union,[39] and anticipates the rise of American hegemony. There is, therefore, still much to be learned from his perceptive, if dismal, allegory.

[1] Leslie A. Fielder, Olaf Stapledon: A Man Divided (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1983), 223.

[2] Our examination of Last and First Men will follow a line of study that is similar to the approach that would be taken by a Literary Darwinist. The underlying thesis of literary Darwinism is that human beings act as they do because such principles are located in their DNA as the result of the survivalist direction imposed on them by natural selection. Human behavior is, therefore, neither random nor accidental, nor, on the other hand, totally subject to the whims of human volition (although volition as a behavioral element cannot be underrated). Therefore, the examination of a text will reveal in most (though not all) cases universal patterns that can then be used as a model for future behavior. D.T. Max. “The Literary Darwinists,” The Best American Science Writing 2006. ed. Athul Gawande (New York: Harper, 2006), pp. 194-197.  

[3] The Japanese actually invaded China on July 7, 1937. See Robert Kee, The World We Left Behind: A Chronicle of the Year 1939 (London: Weidenfield, 1984), 243. However, before that time Japan had already defeated the Chinese in hostilities that ended in 1895. At that time the Japanese annexed Taiwan. In 1905, the Japanese also defeated Russia in the Russo-Japanese War and, as a result gained far-reaching concessions allowing them to control much of Manchuria. After World War I, Japan also succeeded in retaining control over the Shantung peninsula in China, a territory that the Japanese had seized from German control during the Great War. See Margaret Macmillan, Paris 1919: Six Months that Changed the World (New York: Random House, 2003), 310-311.

[4] John J. Mearsheimer, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics (New York: Norton, 2001), 19.

[5] Mearsheimer, 19.

[6] Max Weber, “Politics as a Vocation,” in The Great Political Theories: From the French Revolution to Modern Times, eds. Michael Curtis (New York: Harper, 2008), 427.  Reinhold Niebuhr, Moral Man in an Immoral Society: A Study in Ethics and Politics (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1932), 234.

[7] Mearsheimer, 21.

[8] Stapledon, Last and First Men, 19-51.

[9] Stapledon, Last and First Men, 48.

[10] Anthony Giddens, Runaway World: How Globalization Is Reshaping Our Lives (New York: Routledge, 2000), 8.

[11] Giddens, 8.

[12] Stapledon, Last and First Men, 43.

[13] Stapledon, Last and First Men, 43.

[14] See for example: Pete Engardio, “Can the U.S. Bring Jobs Back from China?” Business Week, June 30, 2008, 39-43. See also: C. Fred Bergsten, “A Partnership of Equals: How Washington Should Respond to China’s Economic Challenge,” Foreign Affairs (July/August 2008): 57-69.

[15] Stapledon, Last and First Men, 44-45.

[16] Stapledon, Last and First Men, 44-45.

[17] Stapledon, Last and First Men, 45.

[18] Robert Kagan, The Return of History and the End of Dreams (New York: Alfred Knopf, 2008), 54-80.

[19] Stapledon, Last and First Men, 46.

[20] Stapledon, Last and First Men, 43.

[21] Parag Khanna, The Second World: How Emerging Powers Are Redefining Global Competition in the Twenty-First Century (New York: Random House, 2009), 304.

[22] Stapledon, Last and First Men, 43.

[23] Stapledon, Last and First Men, 43.

[24] Stapledon, Last and First Men, 45.

[25] Stapledon, Last and First Men, 33.

[26] James Laxter, Empire (Toronto: Groundwood Books, 2006), 70-71.

[27] Stapledon, Last and First Men, 64.

[28] Stapledon, Last and First Men, 49.

[29] Stapledon, Last and First Men, 49.

[30] Stapledon, Last and First Men, 50-57.

[31] Stapledon, Last and First Men, 64.

[32] Stapledon, Last and First Men, 58-59.

[33] Stapledon, Last and First Men, 59-61.

[34] Stapledon, Last and First Men, 64-65.

[35] Stapledon, Last and First Men, 64.

[36] Stapledon, Last and First Men, 64.

[37] Stapledon, Last and First Men, 26.

[38] Stapledon, Last and First Men, 19-32.

[39] Stapledon calls the organization the European Confederacy, but it has all the earmarks of the present day European Union.

In the Kitchen-Cultural Clashes in Britain

copyright Amy Yi-Mei Chen, 2008

Our kitchen was a battleground for all things British and American. It was

where the eight of us converged every day: four Brits, four Americans, some hung

over, and all hungry.

At first we tripped over each other, literally. Too many people, not enough

space. Our two tiny fridges and freezers couldn’t handle all of our groceries at

once. Eventually we learned to cook in shifts and alternate shopping days. Things

continued to get easier as we Americans began to adopt British habits. We started

drinking tea in copious amounts, fascinated by the swirls we could make on the

surface by adding milk. It never took long to boil the kettle, but it was always a

challenge to remember who took what kind of milk (0.1 percent skimmed, 1.7

percent semi-skimmed or 3.6 percent whole), not to mention who liked sugar and

how much. Even more confusing was when “tea” became more than just the

beverage but also what the Brits called dinner.

Just when buying non-refrigerated eggs became almost normal for us

Americans, we were confronted with the wrath of our British flat-mates for our

failure to purchase free-range products. “Think of the chickens in the cages,” they

told us in their Leeds or Durham accents. (Not to be confused, they always

insisted, with accents from any other regions.) The guilt, we decided, wasn’t worth

the 50 pence we might have saved otherwise.

The cultural differences that surfaced in our kitchen didn’t all revolve

around food. Over tea, I once questioned a British flat-mate as to why Brits

pronounced the letter “Z” as “zede.” “Because we invented the language!” she

haughtily replied. “It’s you who says it wrong.” We Americans were confronted

with similar outrage when questioning our British roommates as to why French

fries were called “chips” and potato chips “crisps.” As the year progressed, I found

it was often better to quietly accept such differences.

Whether gossiping, arguing or just shooting the breeze, life essentially

revolved around our kitchen, complete with its stacks of dirty dishes and arrays of

empty wine bottles. As with all communal living situations, we endured our share

of conflicts and accidents, which often resulted in broken cups or shattered rice

cooker lids. But hey, it could have been worse. At least we had our own


Fish That Eat Dead Skin

There are those of us who simply cannot live without getting a pedicure. And who can blame them? It’s a jungle out there, you don’t need to be part of the problem by having unsightly talons attached to your feet. But, in our efforts to find the most ‘alien’ way to get a pedicure, we discovered one way that has proven to be a little bit on the fishy side. We are talking about fish that eat dead skin.

Imagine having a school of one inch long fish swarming around your feet and simply nibbling away! The Gurra rufa, or fondly referred to as ‘doctor fish’, have a thing for eating people. Well, the dead skin off their feet anyway. The highly popular and quite frankly, a little strange fish pedicure fetish came up a few years back. This is back when if you weren’t serving your feet to some fish in the name of a pedicure then you weren’t allowed to vote.

A practice that started in the Middle East and the Far East, it found it’s way to the rest of the world and caught on like fish sticks. But it has recently come to light that this way of grooming just might not be as healthy and as chic as we all thought it was.

Why the ‘doctor fish’ might be making you sick

A study conducted by the Centers for Disease (and you know it is serious when these guys get involved) shows that the Gurra rufa species may be transferring some bacteria to their unassuming ‘main course’. Researchers say that the ‘doctor fish’ maybe playing host to colonies of a group of bacteria called ‘Streptococcus agalactiae’. That by itself may not be such a big deal considering the fact that many of us will not know what ‘Streptococcus agalactiae’ is. But they go on to explain further that this particular brand of bacteria can lead to pneumonia, sepsis and meningitis. All conditions that tend to make life a little ‘hectic’ to say the least.

The researchers said that water, the primary address associated with the ‘doctor fish’, is the perfect breeding ground for a host of ill meaning nasties such as bacteria. To add to that, the Gurra rufa have numerous types of bacteria that live on their scales. Further more, they tend to go to the bathroom in that water. Add that the tiny little mouths nibbling away at you and the smallest of cuts may lead to a little more than just another Sunday afternoon with the girls at the spa. You will need to see an actual doctor!

Although, truth be told, these health threats have remained incredibly theoretical, it is still highly advised (by the best doctors on the Planet), that the following people should not go for any of these spa treatments involving fish:

– People with compromised immunity due to HIV/AIDS
– People with medical condition like diabetes
– People with sores or skin cuts
– People who generally do not like getting eaten alive.

It may seem like a fun way to clean your feet but if you are not highly fond of bacteria and taking chances that involve getting bacterial infections, then you might want to steer clear of this kind of pedicure. Oh and if you also have no desire to have fish nibble on your feet…


A Nostalgic Look At Technology That is Dead and Gone

[pullquote position=”left”]We live in an age preoccupied with novelty…[/pullquote]

Technology is evolving as such a rapid pace, with everything from disruptive technology to smarter, lighter and more intelligent products that make our lives easier, we take a look back at technology that is still around that you may come to never see again, or maybe you’ve seen this stuff at all! If you’re a millennial that’s probably the case.

Many believe that advances in technology will radically transform society, and we are witness as humans to this shift. We can already see the effects everywhere around us in our day to day lives. Our relationship with technology is an interesting subject. New advances in product innovation and technology push us to adapt to using these new gadgets. New devices and services are replacing things of the past, present and the future (even before products are made) and becoming part of our everyday lives.

With technology evolving at such a high rate, we can’t say for sure what’s around the next corner. When a new high-tech gadget is born, something else will become obsolete. Sometimes, the loss might be a positive thing, but at other times, the product’s extinction or eventual demise may stir some bittersweet or nostalgic emotions.

We live in an age preoccupied with novelty. The adoption of new gadgets is happening faster than ever. For example, we have moved from the launch of tablet computing in the year 2011 to tablets sharing over half of the global market in personal computers in the year 2014.

If you are over 30 years old you will most likely remember all these, yet you may never see them again due to advances of technology that will likely make them extinct either now or in the near future:


— they were cutting edge technology just 20 years ago and more than half of all American homes
still have at least one. But they are no longer made and people who still have one never use them anymore.


Arcade Game Venues

– once a favorite entertainment of geeks, playing video games at an arcade
already began fading away in the mid-1990s. A few arcades survive nowadays, but their days of glory are
long gone. The advent of high-tech gaming systems allows you to enjoy a better gaming experience at home.
Today we can even play on our mobile phones. Arcade games will soon be totally extinct and live only in our memories.

Arcade games


— running out of space on your hard-drive will become a thing of the past soon. Terabyte
size drives are already selling for affordable prices. But soon the hard drive technology will become totally
extinct and replaced by holographic drives and cloud storage.

hard drive

Floppy disks

– storing data on a floppy disk was once the standard protocol for transferring and storing
data on personal computers. But by today’s file size standards the 1.44 MB of storage seems almost
ridiculous. PCs are not being built with a floppy disk drives anymore these days and the floppy disk is
already nearly extinct.

floppy disks

56k Computer Modems

– once hearing the sound of a modem connecting was the sign of getting Internet
access. Today, in the age of high speed Internet, 56k modems have become nearly extinct.


Polaroid Cameras

— Polaroid will soon stop selling its instant film. All film-based cameras will be soon
completely gone, as well digital cameras are everywhere and provide many more advantages.



— The traditional typewriter is already nearly extinct, being replaced by computers, word
processing software and keyboards.



The dot matrix printer, born in the 1970s, delivered low-quality printouts before
laser and inkjet technology took over the market. It will be soon a thing of the past, with its slow and noisy
operation, frequent paper jams, and general faults no one can or be bothered to figure out – and its thin strips of perforated paper.


Answering Machines

Most people are using now dial-in voice mail instead of the answering machines.

answering machine

Calculator Watches

— one a favorite gadget of nerds, the calculator watch is nearly extinct today. It was
replaced by phone watches.


Public Phone Booths or Pay Phones

— in an age of mobile phones public phone booths are on life support.


Dial Phones

— the ease of the touchtone dial has made rotary phones virtually deceased.


Mobile Phones for Cars

— the early mobile phones were installed in people’s cars. The spread of mobile
phone technology lead to the extinction of mobile phones attached to cars.

car phone

Laser Discs for Movies

— this technology is definitely obsolete now.

laser disc

Car Cigarette Lighters

— most automobile manufacturers are dedicating ports to electronics charging
instead of the classic cigarette lighter.

car lighter

Incandescent Light Bulbs

— more and more people are using instead energy saving, ecologic friendly

incandescent bulb

CRT TV’s and Monitors

The huge and wieldy TV’s and monitors of the past are most likely now to be seen on the side of a road or in a dumpster somewhere.

tv side of road


Audio Cassettes

— the life of the cassette is over in the era of mp3 players and smartphones.


Hardcover Books

— in our age of increased interest for ecologic-friendly technologies the hardcover
printed books might be close to their end. They are being replaced by digital versions that are easy to read on mobile
devices such as Kindle. Thousands of bookstores have closed in the past decade, victims of Kindle, Apple,
and Amazon readers. In ten years’ time it’s possible that all reading will be done via digital means.

hardcover book

Carbon Copy Paper

– with printers now able to scan and copy, you don’t see the old-fashioned carbon
copy paper so often anymore.

carbon copy paper

Fax Machines

— today the fax machines are nearly extinct, since most documents are now created on
computers and easy to attach and send by email.


Clock Radios

— Replaced by smartphones.

clock radio

DVD players, Blu Ray players

– these will be soon become extinct, being replaced by streaming video. In
the near future new technology will allow us to enjoy 3D and holographic movies.


Stand-alone GPS devices

— since the car’s infotainment system or your smartphone does the same
thing, the stand alone GPS device is a thing of the past.


Desktop Computer

— once considered a revolutionary gadget, desktop computers are becoming extinct,
being replaced by laptops, netbooks, and tablet PCs. Computing is going mobile and in the near future we’re
going to see a wide range of handheld computing devices.

desktop pc

It’s obvious that some of the items enumerated are already nearly extinct, available for sentimental viewing in museums or to buy at thrift stores, or on some huge landfill in China, all we know, or will come to know will be extinct before its new, as technology rates increase.

Cyborg Implants And The Rise Of The Human Cyborgs

In the late 1970’s people watched a science fiction film created by Martin Caidin entitled ‘Cyborg’. It featured how an individual lost an arm and a limb but was immediately replaced with mechanical prosthetics using cyber technology. These bionic replacements were stronger and powerful than the original replaced extremities.

Inspired with this new fictional concept, it was made into a TV series where people got glued to watch ‘The Six Million Dollar Man”. The ‘Bionic Woman’ was a spin-off of the former. Today, nobody would ever think, even in his wildest dreams that cyber fiction on lost organs and limbs can now be a reality, that is, actual restoration through cyborg implants. Sutherland, W. (2009) explained that “the term cyborg was initially coined by NASA scientists Manfred Clynes and Nathan Kline in 1960 when they discussed hypothetical advantages of human-machines in space.

Today, cyborg implants are real. They are part- machine, part- biological organism which can be used for medical and scientific purposes to include military/ law/ intelligence enforcement purposes. When it comes to modern medical technology, there were significant medical breakthroughs intended to improve patient care, deliver longer life expectancy and the right quality of life. The expectations in this field go over and beyond. For example, Divorsky, G. (2012) discusses the recent breakthrough on powering implants in the brain: “MIT engineers have developed a fuel cell that can run on your brain’s own glucose_ a breakthrough that could result in powerful neural prosthetics that could restore and control a number of bodily functions”. According to SCImago Journal and County Rank Journal (2013),

“You can now find cyborg implants being used in each body organ of the human body. Most likely, medical implants must be accompanied with biomechanical features as good as those of tissues arising from within without any adverse effects. Studies of the long-term effects of medical implants in very human anatomical site must be carefully calculated in order to ensure accuracy, safety and effective performance of the implants”. Nowadays, surgery cyborg implants demand an interdisciplinary cooperation of a number of qualified and exceptional consultants. A good example is the successful cochlear implants that required the involvement of audio specialists, medical audio experts, speech and language teachers, and other professions involved with repairing and curing hearing-impaired and deaf individuals”.

Taking up several challenges ahead and in quest for effective and sustainable solutions, cyber research technology is now into laser and advanced implant systems, complemented with thermo-fluid dynamics, mechanics, nanoelectronics, metrology and numeric simulation to bioprocess, biomechanics, other variant bio-systems.

Believe it or not but the following individuals were benefitted from the cyber research technology through cyborg implants. Nelson, B. (2013) presents a few out of the seven recorded actual cyborg patients who benefitted from Cybernetics.
“One is Neil Harbisson was born with extreme color blindness. Equipped with a cyborg eye, he now is adapted to a device implanted in his brain that renders perception of colors as sound on a musical scale. This device allows Harbisson to ‘hear’ a color. Next is Kevin Warwick, a Professor in a University in United Kingdom. Using himself as guinea pig, he experimented by inserting microchips in his arm to perform several functions that allowed him to operate a heater, doors and light.

Nelson, B. (2013) continues by explaining that “Cyber technology is most immediately helpful for amputees like Jesse Sullivan. Sullivan was equipped with new robotic limbs, connected to his nervous systems, capable of functioning like normal limbs. Lastly, Jens Naumann was struck with both blind eyes. He became the first recipient of an artificial vision system which is connected directly to his visual cortex through brain implants”.
All these real-life cyborg individuals volunteered to become cyborg, half-man, half machines. All of them are said to be inspiring harbingers of the future. At least none of them were converted as “Terminators”_ at least not for the time being.

The future is here. Cyborg implants as major component s of Cyborg technology or Cybernetics have already made several steps of advancement to a point where it is now safe to say that bionic humans are no longer stuff of science fiction. All individuals who subject themselves to become recipients of cyborg technology are said to be inspiring harbingers of the future. At least, none of them function as “Terminators” for the time being.
What holds Cyborg technology in the future? Cybernetics will continue to provide more freedom and improve life to quadriplegics, the blind imprisoned in their world of darkness, the deaf and other people who will seamlessly need synthetic replacement parts that will gain widespread acceptance and use. However, there is the trepidation that the cyborg technology will hopefully not be used to control human mind unethically or that will violate human rights.

Vertigo Inducing Surreal Cliff Concept House in Australia

[intro]After a couple asked for a concept home to be designed along “extreme parcels” of coastline in Victoria Australia Modscape got to work…[/intro]

bond villain house

Australian modular architects and home designers Modscape have devised a futuristic looking concept home which is designed to resemble a barnacle attached to a ship’s hull, that seemingly defies physics by being suspended off the side of a cliff in Australia. With a certain Bond villain look, the home hangs rather precariously with the ocean beckoning below. It pushes their use of modular home design concepts and technologies to new levels by anchoring itself to the side of a cliff by way of engineered steel pins and was built in a modular fashion level by level.

The cliff concept home has three bedrooms, a living area, kitchen, and gigantic floor-to-ceiling windows that display breathtaking (or vertigo-inducing) views of the horizon and ocean beneath. There were obvious design challenges such as how to hang the house off the side of the cliff, but also how to transport the owner through the home’s five levels. The upper level houses the entrance and carport and the owner is then transported through all five levels by way of a elevator with the lower level dedicated to a fully outdoor BBQ and spa.

inside cliff home

cliff home


Songdo City – Why its the Smartest City in the World

[intro]Some have dubbed it as “The World’s Smartest City”, while others call it “The City of the Future” and “Korea’s High-Tech Utopia”. It has also been called “A City in the Box” because of its massive reliance on technology. Built on a reclaimed sea-land, Songdo International Business District has been dubbed as the world’s smartest and greenest city, with tall and beautifully designed buildings planned around a 100-acre central park and about 40% of the total space accounting for green spaces around the city. The city’s developers call it the smart city or future city.[/intro]

In 2000, the area around which the city is built on was just a marshy stretch of mudflats in the Yellow Sea and a home to a number of fishermen. No one would ever have imagined that years later, the land that many people saw as unproductive would emerge to become one of the most beautiful technological real estate developments in the world. What’s even more impressive about this city is that it was developed from scratch, unlike many cities. The Songdo project was started approximately 20 years ago as the construction of Incheon International Airport began. The airport is located 35 miles west of Seoul, the capital of Korea.

The Korean government had several things in mind. First, any smart city is a big attraction to many foreigners and business investors and true to this, the city has managed to lure foreign business, which is a huge economic leap. Secondly, the government hoped to build a city that would demonstrate Korea’s unique technological prowess. The developers envisioned that Songdo would grow into a global Asian city like Singapore and Hong Kong. Even though most cities around the world try to make themselves “smarter”, Songdo’s beauty and functionality is exceptional.

So, What Makes Songdo the Smartest City in the World?

A city that has been built from scratch in a country that uses advanced technology in construction is definitely unique. You can imagine why the city is not only the smartest, but also is one of the high-tech capitals in the world. Here is a brief description of the city that will leave you astounded.

City Infrastructure

Songdo city owes its super-efficient infrastructure to Korea’s advanced technology, which is amongst the best in the world. To start with the transport system in the city is incredibly coordinated, with well-planned road networks, many transit options (buses, waterways, pedestrian thoroughfares, cycling, trains, subways) with all stations displaying the arrival and departure time on the laser panels, and numerous charging stations for electric trains. It’s also one of the most walkable cities in the world as everything is designed to be reachable in a short time by foot. Surprisingly, it also has the longest subway system in the world. Apart from its cutting-edge infrastructure, Songdo also boasts of its ultra-fast Wi-Fi network. With a city build on a technology base, you can expect a lot more, especially now that Korea has become renowned for its hi-tech industry.

This master-planned metropolis has been recognized as a model of sustainability, innovation, and city-scale development. Designed by a renowned international architectural company, Kohn Pedersen Fox, Songdo city is largely recognized for its innovative building designs which consist of massive retail shops, hotels, office space, residential apartments, as well as cultural and civic facilities. In fact, it’s the only city in the world where all buildings meet the LEED requirements. The 68-storey Northeast Asia Trade Tower stands as Korea’s tallest building and the most advanced corporate center. The Songdo Convensia, an architecturally stunning building operates as Incheon’s primary conventional center and is Korea’s largest column-free interior space. The Incheon’s Arts Center is a cultural complex housing an opera house, concert hall, music conservatory, a library, design school, and the museum of Asian Contemporary Art.

The city consists of public and private schools offering a state-of–art learning environments, public and private healthcare facilities such as the Songdo International City Hospital that boasts of the latest medical diagnosis and various treatment technologies.

The city’s 600-acres of open space including the famous Central Park offer a beautiful relaxation place for those working in the city. With its numerous green spaces around the buildings, the city provides a conducive environment with fresh and clean air.

One feature of the city’s infrastructure that stands out is the city’s waste management system. Forget the common waste disposal methods. The city’s waste disposal is high-tech as all the kitchens are installed with pneumatic trash shoot that funnels waste materials to a central water processing center. The food waste is used for agricultural purposes while the rest of the garbage is recycled. The city’s also uses a powerful central utility that recycles approximately 40% of waste water from all around the city. The city’s infrastructure also incorporates Korea’s powerful technology with high-tech sensors that regulate and monitor temperature, energy consumption, traffic, and every other type of infrastructure running in the city.

As for leisure and shopping, Jack Nicklaus Golf Club, IFEZ Songdo Arts Center, Central Park, Lotte Shopping Town, Sheraton Incheon Hotel, and others are some of the best places to hangout for cultural activities, shopping, and leisure. Other iconic sites include the Gateway Center, the Songdo Convenesia Center, and International Business Square, all in the modern architectural design.

Additionally, Songdo has been identified as one of the most beautiful and affordable places to live in. Forget the boring life in other cities. Songdo has it all. For city lovers, there are numerous charming garden residences with over 22, 500 housing units, state-of-the-art high-rise apartments, sleek low-rise loft spaces in the Songdo Canal Walk, and beautiful penthouses with crystal clear views of the Yellow Sea and the Incheon Bridge – all connected to the city’s unending supply of water, energy, and the efficient waste collection facilities.

Unlike what many people think, Songdo is more than just a high-tech district with sleek building designs and technologically controlled facilities. There is much more to business investments and the economical development. The city was specifically designed to appeal to the foreign investors especially with its dense network frame, green spaces for extra luxury, and its efficient infrastructure.

With billions of dollars invested in its construction, Songdo is expected to become Northeast Asia’s hub for business, culture, and leisure.

Top Ten Engineering Predictions For The Future

[intro]A panel of engineering experts predictions suggest a future of cities built on top of water, farms on top of buildings and more.

Engineering predictions for the future are some of the most interesting predictions because these predictions can mold our entire way of living in the future. We can actually see some of these predictions already starting to come to life before our eyes. With all of the technology and possibilities out there, it’s quite possible these predictions can become our children and our grand children’s actual future. Here are a panel of experts top ten engineering predictions for the future.[/intro]

Super Deep Basements

This prediction is one that we are already starting to see in our present rather than our future. Multi-layered basements or super deep basements, are already starting to be built in certain highly valued areas of London. Experts say that it will be possible for these basements to have as many levels as the above ground portion of the house or building. They theorize that these basements can have as many as six stories. Right now, the majority of people having these basements built are obviously people who have the means to do so. However, it’s quite possible that in the future, this can be a common layout for newer houses that will be built. Apparently, this will be used to help to solve any lack of space issues. There are a number of reasons why this future prediction of engineering is already being proved to be the number one most likely prediction of the future.

Floating Sea Cities

Floating cities is one of the more interesting predictions of our future. This theory is motivated by global warming and a rise in our sea levels. If and When global warming occurs our sea levels will drastically rise, forcing us to adapt to a water world. This is why this prediction is not too farfetched and can one day become a life saver for the future of our children. In theory, these cities will be solar powered and more importantly, they will also be powered by tidal energy. Tidal energy is the ability to use the energy of the tides to create electricity.

High-Rise or Rooftop Farms

We know that it’s possible for people to grow vegetable gardens and things of that nature on city rooftops, but this suggests entire farms on top of roofs. These experts predict that there will be farms complete with cows, chickens, pigs and other farm animals that play an imperative role in not only our food sources, but our economy. This theory is also geared around disastrous events due to global warming.

3d Printed Homes

3D printed homes are homes that are constructed using bio-based, renewable materials and a 3D printer. Experts predict with future engineering possibilities, 3D printed homes with Micro Ecosystems are possible. A Micro Ecosystem is something that allows the climate and ecosystem that is imperative to our survival to be sustained in smaller confined spaces. This would allow us to live and survive in our 3D printed homes regardless of the conditions of the ecosystem outside.

Buildings with Their Own Microclimates

If this prediction proves to be true it can open the door to many possibilities for the future of the human race. These experts say that it is likely that in the future there will be buildings with their own Microclimates. This would make it possible to survive in places that would otherwise be uninhabitable.

Huge Bridges That Span Entire Cities

In a future that’s based upon us adapting to floating cities and rooftop cattle, you have to wonder how people would commute. Well the experts have a prediction for that as well. They are predicting that enormous bridges will be built. These bridges will be so big that they will span an entire city. People of the future will use these huge bridges to travel and commute to work.

Spaceports With Easy Access To The Moon And Mars

One of the more unbelievable predictions that were made was the spaceport predictions. These experts believe that in the future, we will be traveling to the moon and mars via spaceport. I would assume the prediction of micro climates and micro ecosystems would have to be evident for the possibility of traveling to mars and the moon.

Super High Buildings-Cities In The Sky

This prediction suggests that in the future there will be buildings taller than some of the biggest sky scrapers in the world. Experts suggest that these super high buildings will be like cities in the sky. They are going to be upwards built with levels on top of levels. This would also help us to sustain survival in the event of global warming.

Underwater Cities

Most of the predictions revolve around building on top of the water, but experts also predict that cities will probably be built under the water as well. If global warming was to occur, experts say this is also a possibility that will allow us to thrive in an ocean filled world. I imagine there would have to be cities on top of the water as well as under the water in order for plant life to grow.

Collapsable/Stackable Living Pods

Just making the bottom of the top ten list of engineering predictions for the future, are collapsible living pods. This suggests that we will be able to have living spaces that we can collapse when they are not in use and then stack them to save space. It would also give the added element of having portable living quarters in case someone was in need of immediate shelter.

These predictions were concluded by a panel of experts from established institutions such as the University of Westminster. They believe their predictions will take place over a time period of 100 years. They based their predictions around the events that would occur due to global warming. Although some of these predictions may seem farfetched, global warming is inevitable and it is possible that some of these predictions can be the future of our children and grandchildren.

How our Brain Interprets Smell and Taste

How our Sense of Smell Affects Taste

[intro]Eating is an activity which involves the collective effort of taste, sight and smell. Therefore the smell of the food can influence its taste. Similarly, the color of the food or the look of the dish can change the taste of a meal. In most cases, something which smells sweet influences the brain hence translating to better taste.[/intro]

The senses of smell and taste play an important role in our lives by stimulating the desire to eat hence providing nourishment to the body while enhancing our social activities. When our smell and taste becomes affected by other factors, e.g. cold, we eat poorly, socialize less, and generally feel worse. These two senses also warn us of other dangers, like poisonous fumes, fire and spoilt food.

How smell and taste work

Our body has a chemical sensing system (chemosensation), which smell and taste are part. Smelling and tasting involve complicated processes which start when molecules from the substance around us cause stimulation in specific nerve cells in our nose, mouth or throat. Messages from these nerve cells are then transmitted to the brain where identification of the actual smell or taste is done.

The smell nerve cells (Olfactory cells) are usually stimulated by fragrance, smell of bread baking, or any other odors around us. These cells are located in a small patch of tissue in the nose and are connected directly to the brain. Taste nerve cells (Gustatory cells) are found in the taste buds of both the mouth and throat. When food or drink mixes with saliva, they react to eat hence figuring out its taste. The tongue has some small buds which mostly contain taste buds. These taste nerve cells usually send taste information through nerve fibers to the brain for interpretation.

The chemosensory system of the body has thousands of nerve endings which contribute to the sense of smell and taste. These nerves are mostly concentrated in the moist surfaces of the nose, mouth, throat and eyes. They help in identifying sensations like the Ammonia, Menthol, or the heat of chili peppers, etc. When a drink or fruit is placed in the mouth, the taste cells become activated and helps us to perceive the flavor.

In a research conducted by French researchers, a white wine was covered with an odorless dye and several wine experts were asked to describe its taste. Surprisingly, the wine experts described it using red wine descriptors instead of using their expertise to figure out the white wine taste. This suggested that the smell plays an important role in determining the taste of a drink or food. Although smell is not technically part of taste, it definitely influences a person’s perception about a food or drink. Drinks and foods are therefore predominantly identified by the sense of smell and not necessarily taste.

The human brain recognizes taste from a combination of the food’s smell and touch. The brain behaves so because while eating or drinking, all sensory information comes from the same location irrespective of the type of food or drink. “Favor” can be used to describe the taste of a food more accurately because it carries smell which is used in determining the taste.

Whenever we sip or eat something, the sensory cells which are located side by side with the taste cells become activated to help us perceive additional qualities of the drink or food, such as spiciness, creaminess or temperature. Taste is therefore mostly perceived in the act of touch caused by the contact of the mouth with food or drink creating the flavor sensation.

Although the mouth has no cells which can detect scents in the mouth, smells also appear to come from the mouth. For instance, the strawberry sensation is felt from the smell cells found at the far end of the nasal passage. The information generated by these cells is then sent to the mouth through olfactory referral process hence making the smell to be felt in the mouth. You can as well demonstrate this phenomenon by chewing a strawberry bean. You will notice the strawberry odor as long as your nose is open, you will feel the blackberry odor which won’t be the case when the nose is held. This proves that smell cells in the nasal cavity are connected to the mouth which helps a person to get information related to the scent of the food or drink.

Therefore smell affects taste and taste affects smell as well.