Sunday, October 14, 2018

"State Tectonics"

Malka Older is a writer, humanitarian worker, and PhD candidate at the Centre de Sociologie des Organisations studying governance and disasters. She has extensive experience in humanitarian aid and development, and has responded to complex emergencies and natural disasters in Uganda, Darfur, Indonesia, Japan, and Mali.

Older applied the Page 69 Test to State Tectonics, the third volume in The Centenal Cycle, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“Amazing thing, isn’t it?”

Roz looks up, mouth full of her fourth and fifth crackers. The centenal rep—his public Information shows he’s from a EuropeanUnion centenal not far from Budapest— nods at the model. “This kind of transportation speed and efficiency—and practically energy-neutral!”

Roz swallows the crackers. “The construction process is not energy-neutral.” She’s surprised by this guy’s enthusiasm; it’s not like the tunnel will have a stop near Budapest so he can get on.

He waves his hands. “That will be quickly offset in the energy savings as people forgo other types of transportation.”

“Energy use isn’t the only measure of environmental damage,” Roz adds, searching the cracker selection for something more exciting. They have some pâtés and vegetable spreads, but she doesn’t dare touch any of them without her scanner.

“You heard the woman—their tests have found no indication of substantial environmental degradation.”

Roz wished she didn’t care enough to educate this guy, but out of both personal inclination and professional training, she can’t let that half-truth slide. “The environmental engineer said ‘so far.’ The testing up to this point is extremely limited compared to the impact of the full tunnel.”
This selection is fairly typical of one aspect of State Tectonics, in that it describes a thorny policy problem and touches on deep (in this case, literally as well as figuratively) issues of risk and the unknown. In a way, it's a decent microcosm for the book in the sense of unseen dangers and complications to a major project that appears beneficial. On the other hand, quite a lot of the book involves more action and fewer crackers.
Follow Malka Older on Twitter and visit her website.

The Page 69 Test: Infomocracy.

--Marshal Zeringue