Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 10 Jan 03 06:50
Which will happen anyway when he hits puberty, right? I get your point, but I'm not so sure... would they even notice? Or would they think, hey, I'm *just like Dad*, and think that's pretty neat? I think what people fear about cloning is the concept of mass production - factories for creating human beings for specific purposes, where we lose the mystery, where human life becomes a commodity. Or other sinister applications ... "The Boys from Brazil," where Mengele clones Hitler (but he has to duplicate other factors of Hitler's life to get an exact match over time).
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Fri 10 Jan 03 07:29
I'm not too worried personally about "losing the mystery." I recognize that this is an important psychological driver for a lot of people, but people who really need the stark facts of life made more genteel by a mystical fog can always make up some New Age hokum to deceive themselves. I don't think that the factory=model clone works out any more than the robot works out. If you look at BRAVE NEW WORLD, where people have all kinds of test-tube baby castes and classes, well, that is a wonderfully prescient book in many ways, but it's a satire. The world of BRAVE NEW WORLD has no future of its own. Nothing is happening there, it has no arc of development. There is no social innovation, and technology is going nowhere. Knowledge has ceased to expand. It's a vision of society as an industrial machine, and societies aren't industrial machines. Even our industrial machines aren't industrial machines any more.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 10 Jan 03 10:25
Is that why so much of science fiction isn't really all that prophetic? Because it's based on a mechanistic (or inorganic?) perception of the future?
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Fri 10 Jan 03 13:38
I tend to think it's "not all that prophetic" because "prophecy" is impossible even in theory. And it's even worse than that. Prediction doesn't work, and retrodiction doesn't work all that great either. Every historical epoch reassesses and re-explains every previous historical epoch. We can scarcely grapple with the past with any more ease and certainty than we do with the future. The twenty-first century's idea of the 14th century is radically different than the 18th century's idea of the 14th century. What the 18th century historians cared about was stuff like what the landed gentry were up to and what the Pope said, and what we are into is stuff like computerized records tracing the septic spread of bubonic plague with a sense of amazed horror. It wouldn't have occurred to the 18th century to do that. They didn't have databases and they didn't know microbes existed. So we can now "explain" the 14th century from a different perspective than they had, but the 23rd century will also look on our version of past events with a condescending smile.
nape fest (zorca) Fri 10 Jan 03 15:52
hi bruce. just finished the book. so cogent and thought-provoking. particularly when mapped against our so-called news. prompting me to ask a question. several threads knit the various sections together, but one that i find particularly troubling is the future of democracy. early in the book, you quote emerson, who wrote that one of the virtues of the truly educated is "...a sturdy democratic scorn for the weary truism of decadent aristocracy." if only. later, you write "Technocracy's dominance is firmly based on a general conviction that political activism isn't likely to get you anything worth having. Wherever technocracy thrives, voter turnouts dwindle as a matter of course." you go on to argue for "...physical strongholds and some model polities," stating as examples, forward-thinking cities that might attract both citizens and economies that bring prosperity and improved quality of life. my bags are already packed but meanwhile, we labor in a world dominated by multinationals with "...a hammerlock on titanic sums of money. They can afford better lawyers than a national government can. Or they can just buy themselves a nicer government." ha. i'll admit to my own numbing anomie in the face of all this. at my best, i at least worry about my privacy and threatened rights. i guess what i'm asking is whether you see any viable actions that individuals might take, either within the technosphere or, you know, meat space, that shore up a sense of democracy and free expression? that might actually have some effect?
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Fri 10 Jan 03 17:37
Well, when it comes to free expression, there's really no substitute for expressing yourself freely. As George Orwell said, in a period of general deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act. As things become dumber and more numb, as more and more people succumb to self-censorship or intimidation, it matters more and more that you, personally, just level with people. Vaclav Havel called it "Living in Truth," and it doesn't require a TV station or a massive PR budget. Also, you should be pretty content with your lot if you say something and five or ten people pay attention. This seems pretty modest and pathetic, but if you happen to say something and twenty million people pay attention to you, your life will be unrecognizable afterwards. I don't care if it's political or just "23 skidoo" or "where's the beef," you will be known to your dying day as that guy or gal who said "where's the beef," and man, you will get STUCK with that. THAT is the "effective" part of what you said, but it is never the thing you liked best. And it's never the thing you thought was most important. And they don't even quite understand what you meant by it. And you are hopelessly famous for it. And you can't get famous for the thing you want to be famous for. This happens all the time. It's kind of the secret tragedy of all those people who seem really confident and outspoken and influential. If you lack the eloquence to speak out, you can always say kind and supportive and worshipful things to people who do speak out. They always pretend that they don't care, but even fanmail from idiots secretly pleases these people. They read it and think "hey wow, I'm stealing the audience from Fox News," and it just feels great. When it comes to political activism, most everybody wants to devote their attention to their own side; the good people, the decent people, the People Like Me, in other words. There is always a famine of activists who can spend a lot of time studying the enemy. Because that is disgusting, and it hurts your head. You have to actually comprehend alien ideas and revoltingly wrongheaded people who are People Unlike You. On the other hand, a good Opposition Research guy has effects that are way, way out of proportion to the scale of that endeavor. That is a rare political skill. You don't need any political charisma or organizational skill to pull that one off, either. You can become a real hornet. If you're up for it, good luck with that.
nape fest (zorca) Fri 10 Jan 03 18:04
thanks. nice take on fame distorting the message. being a decent citizen is hard enough these days. but daring to be a candidate is REALLY daunting. you wrote, "It's like having one's candidates ritually beaten to death by brooms." which is funny and terrifying at the same time. i wonder if we won't reach a point where, almost like a dynamic parliamentary system, the reins of power will be a function of constant polling. gwb's in today. tomorrow, the hulk!
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 10 Jan 03 19:59
I find myself wondering if power has any reins, as such, given the complex forces at work in the world. The reins were tossed off and trampled, the horse is on a rampage! I was riding a horse that nearly fell not long ago, while galloping a slippery slope (not a metaphor, a REAL slippery slope!) in the rain, and the reins weren't doing me much good at that point.
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Sat 11 Jan 03 12:54
Well, nothing lately has been quite as blatantly wild and insane as the Monica Lewinsky scheme, but the Trent Lott decapitation still proves than moral panic has all the punch it used to have. Interesting that we have advanced to the point where Republicans dare to use it to trim their own ranks.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sat 11 Jan 03 13:48
I was just looking at the S.A.F.E. page you blogged today. It was making me dizzy. I guess Homeland Security will be big business... but somehow those guys don't make me feel any safer? Time Magazine did an online poll a couple of days ago asking which of three or four nations is most dangerous to world security... the U.S. won hands down.
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Sat 11 Jan 03 15:12
I just got my first copy of "Homeland Protection Professional," and I can already tell that it's going to become one of my favorite publications. http://www.hppmag.com/ I know it's modish to wring our hands over the idea that the USA has gone militarily bonkers, but the USA is only 6 percent of the planet's population. It may be that if the USA becomes sufficiently aberrant, everyone else will get their ducks in a row. At least, they'll have means, motive and opportunity. Then the USA can stop being the world's policeman. It can go back to being the world's tequila-addled pro-league bowler, or the world's acerbic, bipolar comedian -- you know, something more inherently suited to the national character.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sat 11 Jan 03 17:06
I'm looking at their subscription page at http://www.emaildelivery.net/HPP/HPP.asp When you subscribed, how did you identify yourself? Hazmat Coordinator? Risk manager? You had a good point in our section on 'The Soldier': "Terror can destabilize, it can drive order away, but terror can't govern." Maybe the real point is that terrorism isn't meant to scale. We haven't seen a repeat attack of the magnitude of those on 9/11/2001, and I get the sense they're not really looking for a repeat performance, despite all the warnings we've heard. The terrorists must realize that escalation would be ruinous.
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Sun 12 Jan 03 07:51
If I recall, I identified myself as "contributing editor of WIRED magazine," which is a kind of a handy thing to be able to say, on occasion. I think guys like Al-Qaida are perfectly aware that escalation is ruinous. They want to be theocratic warlords and for that profession, ruin has its benefits. This morning I was looking at Kevin Kelly's book of travel photographs, ASIA GRACE. It struck me how many of these pictures look both pre-industrial and post-apocalyptic. It's a simple, devout, agrarian life where Sharia law really would answer pretty much any question you had. The drawback is that you have to live off a small flock of meat-bearing animals and you probably die sometime before age 50. But really, if you genuinely want to lead the kind of life the Prophet did, winning a war can't help; only genuine, general ruin could do that. And we've got surprising amounts of genuine, general ruin around. I mean, how do you ruin Afghanistan *worse*? You'd really have to work at it.
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Sun 12 Jan 03 11:13
*I'm about to depart on the Tomorrow Now publicity tour and may have a little trouble logging on here, unless there is Wi-Fi in all those planes and taxis. bruces Viridian Note 00357: Tomorrow Now Tour Key concepts: futurism, nonfiction books, publicity tours, Viridian Pope-Emperor Attention Conservation Notice: The obligatory labor of stoking the starmaker machinery. My new nonfiction book "TOMORROW NOW: Envisioning the Next Fifty Years" has just come out. It doesn't have one single mention of the word "Viridian" in it, but boy is it Viridian. http://www.well.com/conf/mirrorshades/ I'm taking on all comers at the Well's "inkwell" conference online. http://www.well.com/ William Gibson's got a weblog now. http://www.WilliamGibsonBooks.com/index.asp Cory Doctorow has published his first science fiction novel, and he is giving away copies online literally by the tens of thousands. http://www.boingboing.net/ ------------------------------------------------------------------------ I'm on a brief West Coast tour to support my new book. If geography allows, come by and press the Papal flesh. Seattle Tuesday, January 14, 02002 3:45 pm Third Place Books 17171 Bothell Way NE Lake Forest Park, WA 98155 7:00 pm Reading, Talk, & Signing University Bookstore 4326 University Way NW Seattle, WA 98105 San Francisco Wednesday, January 15, 02002 12:30 pm Reading, Talk, & Signing Stacey's Books 581 Market Street San Francisco, CA 94105 7:30 pm Reading, Talk, & Signing Cody's Books 2454 Telegraph Avenue Berkeley, CA 94704 O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O "GEE, I REALLY LIKE YOUR BOOKS, ESPECIALLY THE EARLY, FUNNY ONES" O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sun 12 Jan 03 20:58
Hope you can log in from hotels, if nothing else! Taschen has the entire Kevin Kelly book online (and the page for the entire book is pretty nifty): http://www.asiagrace.com/entirebook.php We could become sadhus if things get really bad: http://www.asiagrace.com/detail.php?i=166 When I interviewed Jim White of the University of Colorado for my global warming piece in the Viridian Whole Earth, he said that an upgrade of all the world's population to the standard of living we enjoy in the U.S. isn't possible with the resources available. The typical U.S. citizen (for whom the rest of the world is just a shadow) doesn't get it, but to other countries, there must be a perception that our riches are sustained by their poverty, no?
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Mon 13 Jan 03 15:46
I am indeed logging on from a hotel. Logging on from a hotel is a pretty high standard of living thing to do, but it you'd tried to explain that activity to the Limits of Growth crowd in the 70s, they'd have no idea what you were talking about. I might feel an instinctive "hey yeah" if you argued that the insane riches of the American upper class are sustained by the relative luxury of the dwindling American middle class, but, y'know, that's probably one of those blinkered, parochial, American things. I can tell you one thing for sure: there's no way a population of nine billion or so is gonna be sustained by preindustrial Asian goat-herding. Those goats have an environmental impact that is catastrophic.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 13 Jan 03 16:34
Yeah, but they make a tasty cabrito! I'm beginning to think the U.S. will never attack Iraq, just pile a bunch of troops along the border and squeeze. Those troops could consume a hell of a lot of cabrito. There must be a solution in there somewhere. Meanwhile scientists said today that the end of the world is relatively near (just a few billion years away), so we should appreciate what we've got. http://boston.com/dailynews/013/ascribe/_End_of_World_Has_Already_Begu%3A.shtm l
Andrew Alden (alden) Mon 13 Jan 03 17:53
That's wonderful. Peter Ward, the co-author of that book in the link, cut his teeth telling the S.F. Bay area about earthquake hazards. He seems to have progressed to the ultimate catastrophe.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 13 Jan 03 18:13
"It's the end of the world as we know it, And I feel fine!"
nape fest (zorca) Mon 13 Jan 03 20:55
ha. so, perhaps i'm just not paying attention to the, um, right prognosticators, but it almost seems that despite the dire state of world affairs, we're seeing fewer end-of-the-worlders getting regular airplay these days. dod you have any feel for how doom cults are going to fare in the new future, bruce?
proud to be flesh (emilyg) Tue 14 Jan 03 09:13
Hi, jon, bruce, and all; sorry to be joining the convo a little late. I'm in the last chapter of Tomorrow Now; aren't you suggesting there, bruce, that it's just /how/ the world will end that's changed, not the actual forecasting thereof? The Bomb is passe; now it's biowarfare?
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Tue 14 Jan 03 12:16
You know, those things don't "end the world." A full-scale nuclear exchange between who heavily armed superpowers might conceivably kill everybody, but that is no longer a big likelihood and even in retrospect I think that prospect was overblown. What you get is a holocaust of unimaginable proportions. Then next morning somebody still wakes up and has to find breakfast. And eventually some historian gets to write something like, "Well, there were nine billion of us, and now there are about 750 million of us. And 'we' are no longer 'them,' because their world has perished and now we must do our best to become us." Clocks continue to tick and leaves still fall off the calendar. Infants are born who have no emotional attachment to the previous way of life. It's sort of soothing to us to think that "the world ends" when everything we know and love is reduced to ashes, but, you know, it just doesn't.
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Tue 14 Jan 03 12:19
Hey, this hotel has got a feeble little trickle of T-mobile Wi-Fi. I thought Seattle would be saturated with this stuff. Now that Steve Case has resigned, I feel so sorry for him that I may actually KEEP this AOL account. That seems kind of touchingly old-fashioned, really. It's like feeding the alligators at the zoo. In an hour I've got to go to the Microsoft campus. Pray for me. Soon, San Francisco beckons.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 14 Jan 03 12:37
Right! One of those prayers that ends... World without end, Amen.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 14 Jan 03 12:37
Instead of asking another contrived interview question, I await your report on the visit to Microsoft.
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