UrbanIxD Summer School

A glossary of the digital dark ages

A glossary of the digital dark ages is part of the Humanside series.

Futuristic ideas need science foundations so they can be believable and consistent. This glossary aim to provide an integrative and plausible scientific background for the scenarios presented in the summer school, taken from known scientific early 21st century theories.


(Big) Corporations

Big Data* is linked to Big Businesses and Big Money. In the early 21st century, big companies compete on the battlefield of the Smart Cities market. They all want to own a part of this huge market. Big companies went more aggressively into monetizing all the available space, physical, virtual and dark space, benefiting from the legal vacuum and confusion about public space. Soon this huge market led to higher hacking probabilities, bringing the bankruptcy of these big companies and followed by the collapse the data stock market, which replaced the Nasdaq in the 2030s.


(Big) Data

In the early 21st century, the cult of quantitative data became tremendous. To transmit more and more information faster and faster, knowledge has to be divided in units, bits, fragmented, atomised. Big Data became a mantra. The information pyramid (Data, Information, Knowledge, Wisdom) became the new Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Wisdom (top of the pyramid) is still embryonic. 2038: big data is not trusted anymore.


Dark Matter

At the end of the 20th century emerged the theory of dark matter, a hypothetical matter that is undetectable by its emitted radiation, but whose presence can be inferred from gravitational effects. In the early 21st century dark matter was attributed extraordinary physical or magical properties. In similar ways, the darkweb was an early 21st century denomination for rogue networks, hidden services or online black markets. As it became more important, a whole part of the virtual space that couldn’t be controlled was called “Dark Matter”. The Techno_Shaman* is the high priest of dark matter manipulation.



In the early 21st century, quantitative data became so available and cheap that qualitative data (tacit knowledge, intuition, trust, etc) was proven to be far more valuable. With the rise of artificial intelligence and neural networks, forecasting the future became the new goal. Design Fiction became obsolete.


Information Overload

Too much data led to inconsistency of data, and created a new kind of virus. Misleading GPS, darkweb, etc were the symptoms. In the early 21st century, people suffered from information overload but only in a shallow, non-invasive manner, just causing some migraines. Soon information overload became a post-modern disease that encompassed all the psychological problems and was rated as the primary cause of illness: the unnatural and growing quantity of data altered the DNA (information system of the body) of future generations, triggering auto-immune reactions attacking the nervous system. Only the Techno_Shaman*, with his knowledge of the two worlds (data and dark) is able to heal both people and machines.



Despite being a fuzzy notion, as big data became more blurry, intuition came more into focus.


Techno_Shaman (The)

Both technologist and shaman, the techno_shaman heals people from Information overload* by Forecasting* their unique future.

History of the techno_shaman: After years of speculation about the wisdom of the crowds, it appeared that only certain individuals can acquire wisdom and not the masses. The techno_shaman is the personification of a cloud or concentration of aspirations.

Anatomy or the techno_shaman: The techno_shaman operates like a black box, he inputs personal data, mixes it with the data hacked in the environment, and reads the dark matter. Technically, he inputs Data* in its tremendous complexity, and he outputs Intuition* and meaning.


Source: Wikipedia (an early 21st century stammering attempt to synthesize all the knowledge of the world)