Anthropocene readings

For class we read Oreskes’ & Conway’s The Collapse of Western Civilization: a view from the Future, a science fiction book that examines our current climate crisis from the future, when the social, economic, and environmental consequences have been realized and the human race has somewhat recovered thanks to the overgrowth of a CO2-consuming fungus. I really enjoyed the mode of address and found the story to be haunting and compelling. For my Video for New Media final, I also employed this vision-from-the-future set once the world had been destroyed as a result of climate change, so it was really interesting to see this similar, but much more detailed and scientifically accurate piece. My focus was also a bit different.

That faith in Baconianism and statistics resulted in a failure to act was disturbing because of my own faith in science and reason–I’m not sure I’m willing to concede this is what is to blame. That knowledge isn’t translated into power, and the evidence of a good idea does not translate into policy, does seem particularly salient in this political climate, although I think it has always been more true than not. What I see is an incredibly resistant and entrenched capitalist elite with a disregard for life or convenient disbelief for the consequences of their pursuit of wealth (what will they use their wealth for when the habitability of the planet is destroyed?). The current state of information wars seems almost as important and many times more baffling to me. How do we change the current social/economic structure, which requires the movement of massive amount of capital and (presumably through) pressure on those who hold it, when debate is manipulated?

We also read Kolbert’s  Enter the Anthropocene, which examines the geological changes that characterize the Anthropocene, the history of the term, and when might be a valid time to apply it. It was a fascinating examination of the record we know we will leave behind. Because my first topic is “Limits to Growth,” it was thought-provoking to see human population growth characterized as “bacterial.” The potential power in redefining this era is perfectly captured by Crutzen, who hopes the term he coined, Anthropocene, “will be a warning to the world.” It also may be true that this sort of change is significant to scientists but perhaps unnoticed by others, reflects the isolated expertise that The Collapse of Western Civilization presented as a core problem.

Built to Last: ch.1-2 response

It was interesting to reflect on the take-aways presented in the first chapters of Built to Last that apply to any organization. This weekend I was thinking about the non-profit organizations at which I’ve worked, faith in U.S. government institutions (I was amused the the U.S. government’s founding was brought up as as example), and non-state groups and movements. We are in a school that emphasizes technology, and of course there are implications for the entrepreneur building a more traditional company.

Last year during NYC Media Lab’s conference, there was a speaker addressing how to keep a company relevant in a rapidly changing technological climate. I remember thinking, why should companies endure indefinitely? Maybe a company should do one thing well and when that thing becomes irrelevant, it should die so something else can take its place. Built to Last suggests a shift in thinking that focuses not on a particular product, instead emphasizing the processes and cultures in place that allow whatever its current goals are to be realized, and realized well. In order to assess the uniqueness of companies that have been able to “transcend dependence on the original visionary founders” the authors selected a sample of “premier institutions” that are “widely admired,” that have had an “indelible imprint” on the world, “multiple generations of chief executives,” “multiple product/service lifecycles” and that were “founded before 1950,” as well as a set of comparison companies. Chapter one lays out the methodological rigor of their study while chapter two expands on one key quality of the founders of visionary companies: they were “clock-builders” rather than “time-tellers.” They built an organization that could “tell time,” or do whatever it was they did well, even after they were no longer leaders of their companies.

I’m currently working at a company where we have a lot of discussions about how we see our work affecting the world and how we can use a clear understanding of our mission to be more strategic. Something we’ve stated less explicitly, but that has come out of these discussions and that chapter two allowed me to identify, is the values we all share. They underly everything else. I think they are aligned and consistent across the organization but I’m not sure I thought of them as “core.” Now I wonder how I can create processes that reflect these core values and outlast me. It’s a new frame with which to evaluate leadership at the organization as well.

The authors asserted the United States needs to “gain a better understanding of our enduring core purpose” which pushed me to further evaluate the usefulness of this paradigm. Not to oversimplify the current democratic crisis in the United States, but it does seem as though there’s a fundamental disagreement about the core purpose of this country, and moreover, who has a valid voice in defining this. This frame also seems useful in evaluating social movements: for example, the Black Lives Matter movement now seems to be much less centrally governed than civil rights movements in the past, but has a very clear core purpose and this is part of what makes it so powerful. Last, I think its useful in understanding the persistence of certain groups and ideas that strike terror: for example white supremacy and nazism in the West, and radical Islamic groups in the Middle East and North Africa. Again, while these groups have a leadership structure, vanquishing them requires much more that simply eliminating leaders likely in part because there is that strong and well-defined core purpose.

Finding IMSI and IMEI numbers

We were tasked this week with finding our phones’ IMSI and IMEI numbers. In researching how to find these, I came across how-to’s that mentioned several other kinds of numbers. Quora helped me clarify exactly what I was looking for:


International Mobile Subscriber Identity. This is a unique identifier that defines a subscriber in the wireless world, including the country and mobile network to which the subscriber belongs. It has the format MCC-MNC-MSIN. MCC = Mobile Country Code (e.g. 310 for USA); MNC = Mobile Network Code (e.g. 410 for AT&T), MSIN = sequential serial number. All signaling and messaging in GSM and UMTS networks uses the IMSI as the primary identifier of a subscriber.
The IMSI is one of the pieces of information stored on a SIM card.


IMEI is short for International Mobile Equipment Identity and is a unique number given to every single mobile phone, typically found behind the battery.

I have an iPhone, so I found my phone’s IMEI number by going to “Settings” then “General” then “About.”

Finding my IMSI was more complicated. Instructions I found indicated “In order to find your IMSI you must have a jailbroken and activated iPhone. Otherwise your attempts will fail,” and my iPhone is not jailbroken. I found an Apple thread that suggested I could use a SIM card reader (these do not seem easy to find but I’d be happy to know where to find one). Finally, I found instructions for displaying IMSI when you dial “* # 0 6 #” which did display a number! The same site seemed to be saying the IMSI and IMEI/MEID codes were functionally equivalent numbers for Android and iPhone, respectively, but I’m not sure if that’s right. If it is, I’m not sure what number I got to display.