In Era of Pokemon, Simulation Is The "Real Reality"

Is simulation turning people into escapists, wonders this Argentinian philosopher and science-fiction expert.

Pokemon Go craze is world wide.
Pokemon Go craze is world wide.
Pablo Capanna

BUENOS AIRES â€" Years ago, I remember a cyberpunk writer in Barcelona saying that George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four made us fear that a Big Brother state would watch our every move through screens. In recent years, a show called Big Brother turned up on television, allowing us to gawp at a bunch of bored people in a house. You see, the state already knew everything about us. The difference was that now certain people delighted in being watched because they believed that they existed only if their image was broadcast â€" even if it was merely on social networks.

At the time the cyberpunk writer spoke to me, I sent that report to Buenos Aires using a phone booth on the street. Today, you would do that using a pocket-sized phone and, who knows, even that small device may soon become a chip that we embed in our skin. Technology is the only thing that progresses in our world, which seems to regress on every other front.

The speed of communication today and the merging of phones and computers has created a need for us to be constantly connected and to translate our personality into images. The web is no longer the mythical library we had dreamed that it could be. Instead, it’s a virtual playground where people shuffle between fictitious settings. It’s become a second reality that’s interfering with the actual one.

The virtual reality game Pokémon Go, which has been invading our streets lately, is more fearsome than Martians. It represents an offensive of the virtual world against realism. Authorities have had to remind drivers that cars and trucks are not animations. They are palpable objects that follow the laws of physics.

Modern man has decided to reshape nature in his own image. Post-modern technology has created simulations and imitations that allow one to ignore the disagreeable aspects of reality. The industrial robot was born copying the worker's movements and ended up stealing the employee of his work. Motion capture may rid cinema of its need for actors. Cellular automaton simulates the evolution of species. Imagination has languished since virtual games came about. Multi-User Domains provide us with hallucinations on demand. Daily social networking foments fictions and deceptions.

It would be easy to blame technology for everything. But we should consider that technology emerges specifically from our culture to meet certain needs. Modern humans have rediscovered realism in the form of environmental disasters, even if they continue to seek refuge in fiction and simulations. More than 30 years ago, when this technology was little more than a dream, James G. Ballard wrote that our world had become a soup of fiction with a few crumbs of reality floating in it.

We have zero-calorie foods, virtual sex and big-media politics that are closer to the television show Big Brother than the kind Orwell wrote about. We have trouble recognizing fakes in a world where everything is copied, where what we think of our economy is replacing what our economy really is, and where speculation and gambling have become the same thing. Argentines can recall that for 10 years we all thought we had a stronger currency, and, for even longer, we chose to believe the state's "proactive" social and political discourse. We should bear in mind that a sense of reality is the frontier between madness and sanity.

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In Argentina, A Visit To World's Highest Solar Energy Park

With loans and solar panels from China, the massive solar park has been opened a year and is already powering the surrounding areas. Now the Chinese supplier is pushing for an expansion.

960,000 solar panels have been installed at the Cauchari park

Silvia Naishtat

— Driving across the border with Chile into the northwest Argentine department of Susques, you may spot what looks like a black mass in the distance. Arriving at a 4,000-meter altitude in the municipality of Cauchari, what comes into view instead is an assembly of 960,000 solar panels. It is the world's highest photovoltaic (PV) park, which is also the second biggest solar energy facility in Latin America, after Mexico's Aguascalientes plant.

Spread over 800 hectares in an arid landscape, the Cauchari park has been operating for a year, and has so far turned sunshine into 315 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the local provincial capital of Jujuy through the national grid.

It has also generated some $50 million for the province, which Governor Gerardo Morales has allocated to building 239 schools.

Abundant sunshine, low temperatures

The physicist Martín Albornoz says Cauchari, which means "link to the sun," is exposed to the best solar radiation anywhere. The area has 260 days of sunshine, with no smog and relatively low temperatures, which helps keep the panels in optimal conditions.

Its construction began with a loan of more than $331 million from China's Eximbank, which allowed the purchase of panels made in Shanghai. They arrived in Buenos Aires in 2,500 containers and were later trucked a considerable distance to the site in Cauchari . This was a titanic project that required 1,200 builders and 10-ton cranes, but will save some 780,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.

It is now run by 60 technicians. Its panels, with a 25-year guarantee, follow the sun's path and are cleaned twice a year. The plant is expected to have a service life of 40 years. Its choice of location was based on power lines traced in the 1990s to export power to Chile, now fed by the park.

Chinese engineers working in an office at the Cauchari park


Chinese want to expand

The plant belongs to the public-sector firm Jemse (Jujuy Energía y Minería), created in 2011 by the province's then governor Eduardo Fellner. Jemse's president, Felipe Albornoz, says that once Chinese credits are repaid in 20 years, Cauchari will earn the province $600 million.

The Argentine Energy ministry must now decide on the park's proposed expansion. The Chinese would pay in $200 million, which will help install 400,000 additional panels and generate enough power for the entire province of Jujuy.

The park's CEO, Guillermo Hoerth, observes that state policies are key to turning Jujuy into a green province. "We must change the production model. The world is rapidly cutting fossil fuel emissions. This is a great opportunity," Hoerth says.

The province's energy chief, Mario Pizarro, says in turn that Susques and three other provincial districts are already self-sufficient with clean energy, and three other districts would soon follow.

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