Futurespeak: Shane Hope's Keywords Defined

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Image: Shane Hope, Copylution, 2009

Shane Hope’s sprawling prints can’t be processed with one or two looks. They are built on thousands of tiny details, rather than around a single focal point, and as the eye travels across the picture field, it sees lines and pieces accumulating in recognizable bodies and then collapsing into chaos, or maybe an order that can’t be discerned by the naked eye. Hope calls them Molecular Modeling prints, or “Mol Mods,” and they are informed by his belief that “the molecule is the brushstroke of the future”—that nanotechnology, the manipulation of matter on a molecular scale, will transform industry sometime soon. For now, Hope’s tools are coding languages Python and Perl. Because of the Mol Mods’ size he can only work on one screen-sized swath at a time, and because of their complexity, that is all that can be rendered even on Hope’s homemade desktop, which he proudly calls "faster than any factory-built Mac on the planet."

“Your Mom Is Open Source,” an exhibition of Hope’s work at Winkelman Gallery that opens Friday, features Mol Mods as well as the series “Compile-A-Child,” imagined school assignments by artificial kids (only the latter are reproduced here, because the Mol Mods lose too much when shrunk to bloggable dimensions). Hope’s art is a visual analogy to hard science fiction, a genre where authors base their narratives on projected technologies rather than transposing contemporary dramas to a fantasized, futuristic stage. For viewers poorly versed in hard sci-fi, the conceptual platform of Hope’s work can be opaque; the announcement for “Your Mom Is Open Source” concludes with a mystifying list of keywords, both of his own coinage and borrowed from the fields of his interest. Hope agreed to discuss some of them here.

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Image: Shane Hope, mehums are going, 2009

Singularitarianism
In an analogy to the breakdown of modern physics near a gravitational singularity, Vernor Vinge defined the Singularity as a theoretical future point which takes place during a period of accelerating change sometime after the creation of a superintelligence, an artificial brain more intelligent and creative than the human mind. Hard sci-fi authors, as well as professional forecasters, realized some two decades ago that nobody could realistically write about anything occurring past this Singularity. Far-flinging extrapolations could be flung no further. Simply put, they realized that we were inching toward inventing the next inventors and couldn't presume to imagine their imaginings. Futurological films and other envisionings became sort of mostly doomed to deploy dystopic dramatic drivel—a.k.a. disasterbation—because it's plainly more possible, however implausible, to picture a future having fallen into decay than having been sustainably built. An exponentially divergent Posthuman technocracy couldn't necessarily be pictured as a trompe-l'