inkwell.vue.171 : Bruce Sterling: Tomorrow Now: Envisioning the Next 50 Years
permalink #26 of 111: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Wed 8 Jan 03 07:36
    
*Well, among the points I make in that article is
that basic scientific research is not driven by immediate
profit payoff.  Basic science isn't the same as industrial
research and development.  

Bell Labs used to come up with stuff that created entire
new industries.  Compare that to today's telephone companies,
who can't decide if they are natural monopolies, profit-driven
competitors or just plain Enrons.

The military isn't in it for the money, and they are
a huge source of innovation.

Government is not-for-profit and even bureaucracies
invent stuff sometimes.

Academia has a number of different business models
but if you are working in a university lab, lining
your own pockets is not supposed to be your
number-one consideration.

Science fiction writers make stuff up and write
entertainment about it.  It's rare for us to stop
typing and go get a patent.
  
inkwell.vue.171 : Bruce Sterling: Tomorrow Now: Envisioning the Next 50 Years
permalink #27 of 111: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Wed 8 Jan 03 08:28
    

I enjoy a free-software flame as much as the next guy
and more than most.  After 17 years of GNU, though, we
ought to well past the point of explaining to people
that there are alternate methods of creating software.
Free software is even older than commercial software, or
else IBM would never have sort of shrugged and let
Bill Gates "own" the operating system.

Free software works sorta, and it works much better if you
are the kind of guy who has it together to write some
yourself.  But it's not a panacea or a perfect solution
any more than commercial software is.  Apache works
pretty well, and if Apache didn't work, then the industry
would ignore free software the way Hollywood ignores
that guy making the dancing singing cats on his website.
It works well enough that it gets some attention.  It isn't
working well enough for 200 dollar Lindows machines from Walmart
to take the planet by storm.


Maybe someday.  I'm rooting for it, actually.  But
I'm getting used to the idea that free software is going
to remain clunky, ugly and unfriendly to Joe Sixpack
and Jane Winecooler.  There's nothing new about that,
and there aren't really many motives for free software
people to please anybody besides other free software people.

The thing that is increasingly intriguing to me is that
commercial software people have a crisis that's worse.
They are forced to turn their programs and
hardware into malignant, scarcely usable, Orwellian
spy devices in order to save their weird business model.

They are going into the same evil space that the airline industry is.
"Where do you want to go today?  Well, first let me smell
the inside of your shoes.  Are you a pirate, are you
a terrorist kidporn mafioso?  Prove it.  Stand there,
sign this.  Okay, now give me money.  You wan't pay?
Okay, then maybe I'll get the government to bail me out so
it comes out of your taxes."

And the airports are emptying and bankruptcies are
endemic.  Boeing can't sell a faster airplane.


We may get into a condition where people hate and fear
commercial software, and free software is barely usable
and semilegal or illegal.  What happens in that scenario?

I think the Information Age goes into the same historical
dumpster as the glamorous dreams of the Space Age.
  
inkwell.vue.171 : Bruce Sterling: Tomorrow Now: Envisioning the Next 50 Years
permalink #28 of 111: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Wed 8 Jan 03 08:30
    

*I've always been less interested in education than
scholarship.  Everybody is legally required to get educated,
and for good reasons, most people loathe this painful thing and quit
as soon as they can financially survive getting away with that,
or sooner, if it hurts them enough.

Scholarship, though, is acquiring and organizing knowledge with
sufficient
rigor that you actually understand what you are talking about
and can communicate that in a cohesive, reproducible way
to other people.  I'm interested in that because I can't do it.
I'm very curious, I'm a lifelong bookworm and my brain
is littered with fantastic clutter, but I'm an entertainer,
not a scholar.  I'm popularizing concepts sometimes, but I'm not
adding much of anything to humanity's general store of knowledge.
A science fiction writer is like a guy bowling with cannonballs.

Nowadays I learn a lot of stuff off the Internet; I'd never
even think to stop and take a class in anything, or aim
for another degree.  Professors are increasingly upset
at students Googling term papers or Blackberrying test
answers to each other.  An FAQ and a Google search
will winkle out some of the most arcane stuff in the
world with incredible rapidity. But it's also lacks
certification and intellectual rigor, it is producing a kind
of Golden Age of Charlatanry.

My advice to kids in this book is to get into a line
of work they enjoy learning about.  You have to find
a proclivity.  Most societies don't treat education like this:
there are thousands of Iranian doctors and almost
no Iranian dentists;  when the Chinese want rocket
scientists, they don't wait for bright kids to get in the mood.
But it's a great bliss in life to be sincerely interested
in what you do to earn a living, and if school fails
to teach you that, then it's failed you.
  
inkwell.vue.171 : Bruce Sterling: Tomorrow Now: Envisioning the Next 50 Years
permalink #29 of 111: Life in the big (doctorow) Wed 8 Jan 03 08:44
    
Bruce, a data-point. You use free software all the time. OS X is built on
it.
  
inkwell.vue.171 : Bruce Sterling: Tomorrow Now: Envisioning the Next 50 Years
permalink #30 of 111: Reid Harward (reid) Wed 8 Jan 03 10:36
    

Doesn't http://www.viridiandesign.org use MySQl?

Why are Joe and Jane such an appealing demographic besides the fact that
they buy books?  Do they buy books?
  
inkwell.vue.171 : Bruce Sterling: Tomorrow Now: Envisioning the Next 50 Years
permalink #31 of 111: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 8 Jan 03 12:20
    
> Doesn't http://www.viridiandesign.org use MySQl?

Not yet!
  
inkwell.vue.171 : Bruce Sterling: Tomorrow Now: Envisioning the Next 50 Years
permalink #32 of 111: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 8 Jan 03 12:26
    
If you were the honcho at the Ministry of Education, and your task was to 
make schools work as learning environments, what would you change?
  
inkwell.vue.171 : Bruce Sterling: Tomorrow Now: Envisioning the Next 50 Years
permalink #33 of 111: Life in the big (doctorow) Wed 8 Jan 03 14:23
    
To expand on that point. Your Mac is like a mile-high skyscraper of elegant
and robust design, created by invisible, volunteer labor. You get a free
penthouse in that skyscraper, but in order to appoint that swanky pad,
you've got to pay a pricey designer -- Apple -- a hundred bucks or so to put
in the sofas and the wet-bar. Because the penthouse was free, it's
unobtrusive, and only the swell designer furniture catches your attention,
so there's a sense that the skyscraper is irrelevant as compared to the
labor of the designer.
  
inkwell.vue.171 : Bruce Sterling: Tomorrow Now: Envisioning the Next 50 Years
permalink #34 of 111: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Wed 8 Jan 03 17:19
    
I don't use Mac OSX all the time, Cory.
It doesn't have a word processor I like,
which is a pretty serious drawback for
a guy who types for a living.

I also get it totally about cool, far-out
metaphors about the grunt work of software.
Mile high skyscrapers, cathedrals, bazaars,
landslides in cyberspace, man you are talking
to a connoisseur here.  But it's talk.
There comes a point when you don't want
to talk.  A bicycle is a marvelously
elegant technology too, and I can buy
the designer carbon and titanium one,
or I can even get the free, politically correct,
Yellow Bike anarchist one.  But, you know,
flat tire. Pump.  Does it work?  Stop explaining.
I don't need more explaining.
  
inkwell.vue.171 : Bruce Sterling: Tomorrow Now: Envisioning the Next 50 Years
permalink #35 of 111: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Wed 8 Jan 03 17:22
    
If I were head honcho of the Ministry of Education,
my job would not be to make schools work as learning
environments.  Basically, my job would be to make
school-age children walk in straight lines and
salute the flag as I freed up the productive
capacity of their parents.

If schools were learning environments, all the smart
kids would clear out in half an hour.  Then they'd
go home and demand attention from Mom and Dad.
That just can't be allowed.
  
inkwell.vue.171 : Bruce Sterling: Tomorrow Now: Envisioning the Next 50 Years
permalink #36 of 111: Reid Harward (reid) Wed 8 Jan 03 17:48
    
How about Jane and Joe?  How much of this responsibility falls on
their shoulders?   Shouldn't we be wondering why these bums can't get
up off the couch and pitch in when it comes to creating open-source? 
With all of these cool digital tools at their disposal, shouldn't this
slack couple be transforming themselves into super-creators as opposed
to just vapid consumers of digital media?  

The amateur has a role in your future, I hope.  What about blogs? 
Don't blogs show that there is at least a desire to create media? 
  
inkwell.vue.171 : Bruce Sterling: Tomorrow Now: Envisioning the Next 50 Years
permalink #37 of 111: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 8 Jan 03 20:07
    
I finally saw Michael Moore's "Bowling for Columbine," which includes a 
couple of visits to schools and guns... lots of guns. Maybe that's what we 
should be talking about... GUNS.  This should probably segue into a riff 
about 'The Soldier,' but I'm actually wondering about the future of guns in 
the hands of ordinary civilians with anxieties heightened by exposure to 
televised crime and war fantasies (I'm talking about the news, not the 
action-adventure jive).
  
inkwell.vue.171 : Bruce Sterling: Tomorrow Now: Envisioning the Next 50 Years
permalink #38 of 111: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 9 Jan 03 05:49
    

I don't see why Joe Sixpack and Jane Winecooler
are any more obliged to help out with free software
than they are to help out with free bicycles.
It's a little arrogant to assume that they are
just inert.  Maybe they've got their own problems.

I'm all in favor of people being more creative
but creativity because of a sense of guilt
doesn't appeal to me much.
  
inkwell.vue.171 : Bruce Sterling: Tomorrow Now: Envisioning the Next 50 Years
permalink #39 of 111: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 9 Jan 03 05:53
    
I just saw a cable channel documentary on swords
axes and knives.  The last part was about Victorinox,
maker of Swiss Army knives.

A pretty good example of military-sponsored innovation.
It pointed out that the worldwide vogue for them
didn't start until GIs in World War II got their
hands on some.  Then, rather like jeeps, they civilianizes
and became more luxurious.  Nowadays there are over
a hundred models of them.

And, of course, I am no longer allowed to take mine
on an aircraft because I might be a member of Al Qaeda,
the Islamic Lafayette Escadrille, and I might destroy
a skyscraper with my two-inch metal blade.
  
inkwell.vue.171 : Bruce Sterling: Tomorrow Now: Envisioning the Next 50 Years
permalink #40 of 111: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 9 Jan 03 06:06
    
There's a scene in Moore's film that was snipped from some source, like
maybe a training film, that shows a middle-aged woman explaining why
schools should have uniform dress codes. While she's talking we see a kid
in baggy pants with his shirttail out, and he starts pulling guns out of
his pants.  He's got about a ton of concealed weaponry, including a rifle
that was stuck down the leg of his pants.
  
inkwell.vue.171 : Bruce Sterling: Tomorrow Now: Envisioning the Next 50 Years
permalink #41 of 111: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 9 Jan 03 08:24
    

Yeah, and think how many pirated CDs he's got in there.
  
inkwell.vue.171 : Bruce Sterling: Tomorrow Now: Envisioning the Next 50 Years
permalink #42 of 111: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 9 Jan 03 09:23
    
While my blood was boiling over, I nearly skipped stage 3 - the lover. This
is your chapter on design, where you talk about "organic behavior in a 
technological matrix." What does this mean?
  
inkwell.vue.171 : Bruce Sterling: Tomorrow Now: Envisioning the Next 50 Years
permalink #43 of 111: off-well participation (tnf) Thu 9 Jan 03 10:15
    

This one is signed "Anon":





Hello Mr. Sterling,

I noticed from your post(#28) that you would like to
see more scholarly research done. Also, from your
post(#39) you saw a cable program about Swords, Axes
and Knives. Is this the one on the History Channel?

I did get good advice from one of my professors on how
to look at these programs for some scholarship. He
points out that the narration voice is almost always
giving you incorrect knowledge. If you want to get
anything scholarly out of the documentaries then pay
close attention when they have someone actually
speaking. If he's a Ph D at a University then chances
are his information is scholarly. The history channel
not to long ago had a good program about Sparta with
well known scholars in that field.

A good example of "How the Narrator Misinforms" is to
look at various documentaries about the biblical
flood. Almost always the narrator excludes that the
same story was going around in other ancient civs.

Personally, I missed this point and had the "oh-yeah,
why didn't I think of that" line when my professor
pointed it out.

Thankyou for your time,

Anon
  
inkwell.vue.171 : Bruce Sterling: Tomorrow Now: Envisioning the Next 50 Years
permalink #44 of 111: Brian Dear (brian) Thu 9 Jan 03 12:37
    <scribbled by brian Wed 20 Mar 13 18:15>
  
inkwell.vue.171 : Bruce Sterling: Tomorrow Now: Envisioning the Next 50 Years
permalink #45 of 111: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 9 Jan 03 16:50
    
(bruces), why do so many of your posts in this topic have 
these asterisks at the beginning of each of your paragraphs?  


*You know, I'd like to pretend that it's just a nervous
habit of mine, but it's a really old one.

*I use those asterisks so that I can cut and paste stuff
from other sources into my email. 

*Thanks to these asterisks, people know that it is Me
speaking, the Narrator Who Misinforms.

*You'll want to look carefully at that stuff without the
asterisks as it may have been stolen from an actual
scholar.

*Thank you for your attention.
  
inkwell.vue.171 : Bruce Sterling: Tomorrow Now: Envisioning the Next 50 Years
permalink #46 of 111: Gail Williams (gail) Thu 9 Jan 03 17:06
    
It's an interesting effect.  All footnotes.

Say, Bruce, I want to thank you for suggesting I actually read Salman
Rushdie this year, rather than simply know his name as a literary light and
enemy of fundamentalism.

I read "Satanic Verses" and your own "Zeitgeist" almost as a set, and I
liked that quite a bit.

So, who are you reading now?
  
inkwell.vue.171 : Bruce Sterling: Tomorrow Now: Envisioning the Next 50 Years
permalink #47 of 111: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 9 Jan 03 17:10
    
"Organic behavior in a technological matrix."
What does this mean?

*Another great question.  I'm not quite sure what
it means.  I'm pretty sure it's really happening,
though.

*I think maybe this can be summed up in the native
21st century experience of pausing with a laden
fork halfway to your mouth and wondering just how
much technological ingenuity has been invested
in that forkfull of foodstuff.  There it is,
you know...  "caulobroccoflower" or whatever that
is... dipped in that so-called "cheese sauce"....

*You can put the fork down and go to the hippie grocery
and get some organic substances that spend a lot
of time and energy telling you how "natural"
they are, and how jealously sheltered they are
from an incoming tide of bovine hormones,
copyrighted genetics, antibiotics, weedkillers
and so forth...  But how "natural" is that?

*And besides, given that the air is full of
CO2 from industrial fossil fuels, aren't
the world's most "natural" plants, even
in the remotest parts of the Amazon,
substantially built of smokestack effluent?

*So you eat the stuff on the fork.  And now
it's part of you.

*That's not exactly what it means, but maybe
that's a little bit of how it feels.
  
inkwell.vue.171 : Bruce Sterling: Tomorrow Now: Envisioning the Next 50 Years
permalink #48 of 111: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 9 Jan 03 17:20
    
I read "Satanic Verses" and your own "Zeitgeist" almost as a set, and
I
liked that quite a bit.

So, who are you reading now?


*Well, I'd love to claim I am reading something
really elegant and literary and wrily subversive,
but in point of fact I'm reading a book called
ANGLES OF ATTACK: AN A-6 INTRUDER PILOT'S WAR,
and it's written by this hot-shot Navy aviator
who blows up Iraqis in our most recent Gulf War
but one.

*It's an amazingly dull book, but it's dull
in a kind of interesting way.  It's dull
like watching NASA cable access.  I mean,
here are these guys *in orbit,* doing something
incredible and technically advanced, but it's
all inventories and safety checks and acronyms.

*This ANGLES OF ATTACK book has page after page
of eye-burningly detailed, almost Ballardian
narrative about exactly how one buckles in
to the cockpit in one's crash helmet and
inflatable nylon flight suit.  It's really
pretty far from conventional men's-adventure
History Channel military-porn, but as a human
witness it's really kind of compelling.
It's like reading Pepys, almost.

*And Samuel Pepys has his own 17th century daily weblog
now, too.  That kills me. I mean, not in the
literal sense.  That was the author's job in
this ANGLES OF ATTACK thing.  And there is
no question he achieved considerable success
at that, too.
  
inkwell.vue.171 : Bruce Sterling: Tomorrow Now: Envisioning the Next 50 Years
permalink #49 of 111: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 9 Jan 03 20:34
    
Going back to those red hot microbes for a minute, I just ran across this 
story at New Scientist:

>>>
Data stored in multiplying bacteria
 
11:02 08 January 03
 
NewScientist.com news service

A message encoded as artificial DNA can be stored within the genomes of 
multiplying bacteria and then accurately retrieved, US scientists have 
shown.

Their concern that all current ways of storing information, from paper to 
electronic memory, can easily be lost or destroyed prompted them to devise 
a new type of memory - within living organisms. 

(continued at http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99993243)
<<<
  
inkwell.vue.171 : Bruce Sterling: Tomorrow Now: Envisioning the Next 50 Years
permalink #50 of 111: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 9 Jan 03 22:17
    
And you know, you can have another copy of that in 
20 minutes.

Copy a human being, man, you're looking at 20 years,
and about year 5 that kid realizes what you have
pulled on him and he becomes one of your deadliest enemies.
  

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