inkwell.vue.204 : The 2004 Bruce Sterling State of the World Address
permalink #0 of 131: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 1 Jan 04 14:31
    
This is our latest "state of the world, the future, and everything" annual
discussion with author Bruce Sterling, whose latest science fiction novel,
The Zenith Angle, is due in late spring from Del Rey.  Bruce is also known
for his journalism (e.g. his monthly column for Wired Magazine), futurism,
and culture hacks (the Dead Media Project and the Viridian Design
Movement). He's also a public speaker and world traveler.  Leading the
discussion: Jon Lebkowsky, a technoculture-focused writer, activist, and
consultant who, like Bruce, spends most of his time in Austin, Texas.
  
inkwell.vue.204 : The 2004 Bruce Sterling State of the World Address
permalink #1 of 131: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 1 Jan 04 14:35
    
2003 was a crazy year leaving so many issues on the table, I'm not quite 
sure where to start. From your latest Viridian note, I see that you're 
thinking about attention conservation vs increasing loads of spam... is 
that a good place to start? Should we scale the war on terrorism to include 
spammers?
  
inkwell.vue.204 : The 2004 Bruce Sterling State of the World Address
permalink #2 of 131: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 1 Jan 04 15:21
    
It was a crazy year.  Very.  I'm glad to have survived it.

I don't believe in "War on Terror," but there's definitely
a titanic struggle going on.  One side, the New World Order
side, has a capacity to wage war, so that's what they do,
even  though that's not one of their best moves.   The
other side is the New World Disorder, and they're
too disordered to throw any real wars, so they commit
mayhem on the tribal and individual level.  An individual
wrapped in a belt-bomb, that's their cruise missile.
Their great hope is that War creates more Terror and
not less.  It certainly worked for them in Chechnya
and Afghanistan.

The two worlds interpenetrate.  They even breed
one another.  It's very striking to dismantle one's
anti-spam armor and just look at the face of the Internet
these days.  This center of the high-tech
realm  is fantastically corrupt. There is most
every variety of mayhem represented there.  I haven't been urged
to strap on a belt-bomb yet (probably because I can't
read Arabic), but I get pitches for drugs, human trafficking,
oceans of porn, kidporn, 419 scams by the thousands, great
blooms of viruses...  And it's not somewhere "Out There,"
beyond the walls and scanners of Homeland Security;
this stuff is *in the homeland,* brother, it goes
wherever my laptop goes.
  
inkwell.vue.204 : The 2004 Bruce Sterling State of the World Address
permalink #3 of 131: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 1 Jan 04 15:48
    
I chuckled at the thought that the U.S. Congress figured it could stop 
spam. Waiting to see how that plays out. I used to say, vote with your 
delete key, but my delete key wore out.
  
inkwell.vue.204 : The 2004 Bruce Sterling State of the World Address
permalink #4 of 131: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 1 Jan 04 19:36
    

I don't believe that the almighty majesty of the US Congress
is enough to stop globalized spam, but I  also don't believe that the
forces
of civilization are helpless before bandits.  That is a counsel
of despair.  Once you believe that legitimated government
is mere empty posturing, you will end up in living
in a Russian-style mafia kakistocracy.  And you will
deserve that.

Spammers are not monsters ten feet tall.  Spammers are vermin.
If we all looked, acted, thought and behaved as badly as
spammers do, our world would be reduced to desperate penury. 

Spammers are parasites.  They contribute nothing to the
general welfare.  Spammers couldn't trust each other with
five bucks to walk down to the corner grocery and bring 
back a loaf of bread.  They are wicked and malicious
and they should be brought to justice.

The day when the delete key still ruled, well, these
cool clean technocratic days are over on the Net.  Microsoft might
patch some security holes here and there, but there are
no technical solutions to semantic frauds like
phishing.  The Internet has become a massive, worldwide medium.
It has become a global arena of massive popular struggle,
It's Chinese Indian American Brazilian European, the world wide works,
and it reflects our own faults and deficits with cruel accuracy.
When we look at the Net these days, we are staring
straight into the portrait of Dorian Gray.  

That's no longer the vector-graphic portrait of DARPA and
Bolt Beranek and Newman in the 89-column screen there. That
is the portrait of mankind, warts and all.  We are gonna see the face
in
there that we deserve.

We deserve better than this. People of goodwill need
to work toward that end, no matter what anybody's Congress
may attempt to say or do.
  
inkwell.vue.204 : The 2004 Bruce Sterling State of the World Address
permalink #5 of 131: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 1 Jan 04 21:41
    
Any ideas for 'working toward that end?' Like stuff you're doing, 
personally, that others might consider?
  
inkwell.vue.204 : The 2004 Bruce Sterling State of the World Address
permalink #6 of 131: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Fri 2 Jan 04 10:32
    
Well, it's easy to think that Big Wide World has got too much
going on compared to tiny little me, me, me, but
that's a fallacy.  if there are 7 billion people in the world
then you should feel just fine about it if you are doing
one seven-billionth of the work.

Probably the single thing I do personally that reduces the
crude havoc on the Internet is avoiding the Windows OS.
Use a Mac, for heaven's sake.  Stop adding to the
pollution of viruses, and stop offering slave machines
that spew spam for others.

Even Microsoft itself can't keep up with their own patches.
Why should you have to do all that labor?
Just step off that treadmill there and buy
a different machine that isn't easy prey
to every cybercrook around.  This offers the considerable benefit
that you don't have to act all conscientious about it 
all the time.  Bad design isn't your fault, but
it's your fault if you buy bad design, knowing
that it's bad.  And it is.

This is the skinny here, if you're all into tech-speak:
http://www.theregister.co.uk/content/55/34554.html

Complaining to the cops about crime is generally
a good idea.  Of course, they don't solve all the crimes,
but when they hear enough from the constituency
they reassign some personnel.

The Internet Crime Complaint Center:
http://www.ic3.gov/

In a lot of places on the planet, the cops
are also  the criminals.  if that's the case
then you should complain to "Transparency
International."  And good luck surviving.
http://www.transparency.org/

SpamAssassin here on the Well seems to
be doing a pretty good job for me, and
I also have  a spam label in my Mail program.
But that isn't going to stop the more
sophisticated spoofs and semantic hacks,
which I expect to be the big coming
thing in spamdom.  

It's an inherent
part of the problems of globalization,
that capital moves faster than institutions can.
This includes criminal capital of course.
We've reached a situation where any
nation-state that breaks becomes a
criminal haven, a narcoterror racket,
a money laundry, and a redlight district.
That's why we're chasing our own shadow
in a War on Terror.  We're gonna continue
chasing it until we get some kind of global
civil society happening.

I don't know how we do that, but that's
the challenge of the current epoch.
It's not a problem that's insoluble.
It's good to have challenges, they
get us out of bed in the morning.
  
inkwell.vue.204 : The 2004 Bruce Sterling State of the World Address
permalink #7 of 131: Andrew Alden (alden) Fri 2 Jan 04 10:58
    
Looking forward to a great discussion here! As for me, I'd like to do one
SIX-billionth of the work if I could, to make up for some of those who can't
or won't act.
  
inkwell.vue.204 : The 2004 Bruce Sterling State of the World Address
permalink #8 of 131: Berliner (captward) Fri 2 Jan 04 11:14
    
Actually, though, it'd be a bit more than that. No sense trying to
make an infant in Baluchistan shoulder a fraction.
  
inkwell.vue.204 : The 2004 Bruce Sterling State of the World Address
permalink #9 of 131: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 2 Jan 04 11:43
    
The Internet seems to be transitional at the moment. We're at a point where 
whole countries and very heavy commercial interests want to tweak the 
system to fit their biases. Media industries see their control of 
distribution mechanisms challenged by network-savvy kids building p2p 
networks faster than the RIAA/MPAA can slam 'em down. What's the future of 
the relatively dumb network that has served us so well?
  
inkwell.vue.204 : The 2004 Bruce Sterling State of the World Address
permalink #10 of 131: Brian Dear (brian) Fri 2 Jan 04 12:38
    <scribbled by brian Wed 20 Mar 13 18:15>
  
inkwell.vue.204 : The 2004 Bruce Sterling State of the World Address
permalink #11 of 131: virtual community or butter? (bumbaugh) Fri 2 Jan 04 13:45
    
The Net long relied on various forms of trust that now seem pretty
unreliable. Do you think there are ways to get back the trust, or do we
need trust workarounds?
  
inkwell.vue.204 : The 2004 Bruce Sterling State of the World Address
permalink #12 of 131: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Fri 2 Jan 04 14:43
    
My thinking on these issues has been affected by hanging
out with computer cops since the early 90s when I wrote
"Hacker Crackdown."  Cops are never really much afflicted
by the "trust" business.  You rarely see cops get all hurt
and down in the mouth because some trusted city solon
or universally admired Ken Lay business figure turns
out o be crooked.  They just consider that part of the human
condition.

Gail Thackeray once told me that 15 percent of the population
was impeccably honest and would rather starve than steal.
And fifteen percent would steal anything not nailed down.
And the cause of law enforcement was to establish an
atmosphere of deterrence that would win the hearts and
minds of the remaining 70 percent.

At the time, I found this alarmingly cynical, but as more
time passes I've come to take some comfort in it.  The
percentages may not move that much, but individual human
beings can move through those categories.  I've seen a whole
lot of people outgrow cracking; they just get over it.
The weed of crime bears bitter fruit.  People who are
sociopathic harm themselves in a lot of other ways,
they can't keep a marriage together, they can't sit still
in a room, they're addictive, itchy and compulsive; to
be a bad person in love with transgression is bad for you.
Societies where the 70 percent are thieves -- they can't
pave the roads, they can't cure the sick, they have
no future.

The Internet has always been "very transitional." Stuff
just booms and blooms and collapses in there, there
are vogues and rumors and moral panics.  I suspect
that the deep driving forces are social and ethnic and
civilizational now, it's no longer a matter of sort-of engineering
the hubs to be smarter or dumber, or sticking in spam
guards and security patches.  The driving forces are
things like vast batallions of Chinese and Indian software
engineers who are discovering that this stuff can be
bent to their own civilizational purposes.

In my new daily weblog I spend a lot of time just
looking over national boundaries.  This used to
be really tough.  Now it's just there: Google in
a dozen languages, translation software, reams
of stuff in servers all over Asia, Europe, Australia.
It's point-and-click globalization.
  
inkwell.vue.204 : The 2004 Bruce Sterling State of the World Address
permalink #13 of 131: Theodore C Newcomb (nukem777) Fri 2 Jan 04 16:04
    
Bruce, do you think this is all just a transitional phase of new
technologies intersecting with globalization, as we come to see
ourselves as citizens of the world? Or do you think there may be new
divergent technologies on the horizon that will continue to change how
we communicate? Or both?

I guess what I'm thinking is that if the Net is what we are all going
to be using for the next 40 years or so as a primary method of
communication then it's up to us to educate ourselves accordingly.

 RFM has been the catch phrase ever since I began pointing and
clicking 10 years ago. But it seems as the various digital technologies
interconnect with the Internet, people want to know even less and less
as to how it works and how to work with it.
  
inkwell.vue.204 : The 2004 Bruce Sterling State of the World Address
permalink #14 of 131: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 2 Jan 04 21:23
    
Hey, I googled RFM and got 578,000 hits; still not certain what you were 
referring to, nukem-san. Do you really get the impression that people want 
to know less about how this stuff works? I keep running into people who 
are just catching on, and want to know more... and more and more. 
Political consultants, especially. The Howard Dean campaign made the 
Internet real for them, and now they want to figure out how to replicate 
his success... not easy to do, because it's not just a set of practices 
you can adopt. Dean was successful because he was willing to defer some 
control, instead cultivating emergent support. Which brings me to another 
question, Bruce - some peple see the Internet as a platform for Democracy, 
where weblog technology enables whole communities of Thomas Paines writing 
virtual tracts. Is that your sense... that the Internet drives a kind of 
political renaissance?
  
inkwell.vue.204 : The 2004 Bruce Sterling State of the World Address
permalink #15 of 131: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Sat 3 Jan 04 07:39
    
I think Nukem is politely referring to the programmer
acronym "RTFM", meaning "read the fucking manual."
It's the commonest guru response when newbies are
hassling you to do their own homework for them.
RTFM and you'll be able to do that on your own.

In the case of the American polity, the manual is
supposed to be the Constitution.  It gets kinda
spooky when power-players in the USA decide
to no longer read it.  

I'm very interested indeed in smart-mobs, but
a mob isn't a democracy, no matter how much
hardware its members may be carrying or
how clever they get at deploying it.

Woodstock is unexpected, delightful and surprising,
because nobody expected it and there are huge
raw energies there.  Altamont comes to
grief.  It's like a principle.  

Burning Man doesn't come to grief, but 
Burning Man has a cabal of hardened, experienced cadres,
it only lasts three days, and it's swarming with cops.
Burning Man is organization disguised as licence.
If bikers started beating and knifing naked people
at Burning Man they'd be jumped on by 
Danger Rangers and Nevada cops with guns.

Burning Man is a party, not a city-state.

I'm gonna believe in the Internet as a true-blue "platform
for democracy" when a bunch of people go
start some new settlement, using the Internet
first, and then a town *grows up around that.*

It's like the apotheosis of the "smart house,"
which isn't a normal house with some wiring
and chips strung through it, but a place
specifically built to shelter the network.

A functional polity needs a social infrastructure.
Government requires things like separation of powers, balance
of powers, consent of the governed, rules
of order for debate.  It needs civility.  Its
institutions have to command public credibility.
It helps a lot if they've been around a while
and their workings are open and obvious.
The Internet has been around a while but
it's conspicuously lacking in those other things.

I'm glad that major candidates are understanding
that the web is around, and I'm all for Thomas Paine
getting a few sentiments off his chest.  Radio
used to have much the same political role, when it
was shiny new and sexy in the 1930s.
Radio is technology, not a political panacea.
Roosevelt was great at radio, but so were
Goebbels, Huey Long, Father Coughlin and
Mussolini.  Those particular struggles weren't
resolved by building better vacuum tubes.

Radio is still around, and we don't have
highly advanced, highly democratic radio now.
We've got awful radio.  
  
inkwell.vue.204 : The 2004 Bruce Sterling State of the World Address
permalink #16 of 131: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sat 3 Jan 04 09:58
    
Radio technology is the basis for wireless data technologies, like the 
802.x evolving standards, and people like David P. Reed and Kevin Werbach 
are lobbying for more open spectrum. My understanding of the open spectrum 
arguments is that we could stop licensing spectrum and depend on smarter 
technologies, e.g. cognitive radio, to mitigate interference. I had these 
fantasies of radio like the web, where the barriers to entry are low, 
anyone can generate signal, and eventually we have thousands, even 
millions, of radio stations, just like we have thousands of blogs today. 
We could have Viridian radio broadcasting eco-design rants 24/7. Do you 
have room on your roof for a radio transmitter?
  
inkwell.vue.204 : The 2004 Bruce Sterling State of the World Address
permalink #17 of 131: Brian Slesinsky (bslesins) Sat 3 Jan 04 10:29
    
The thing I find kind of scary about the Internet is that it's not
going to be too long before you can't turn it off without becoming some
sort of survivalist kook.  Radio and TV have been around for decades
but you can easily do without them, plus the fact that there's so much
crappy radio and TV makes it not too hard to do.  But in a decade or
two, I could see it being damned difficult to pay your bills,
correspond with friends, find a job, do your job, or shop without an
Internet connection.

At the same time, there's this tremendous potential for wasting time,
just like TV, that's always one step away and you can't throw out.  And
the Internet hasn't yet reached its full addictive potential as a form
of entertainment yet.  It's going to be like having a slot machine in
every home, and at work, too.

And if enough talented people work at it hard enough and the business
model turns out right, it might be a slot machine with high artistic
and cultural merit and good production values.

So maybe if it all gets clogged up with spam, it's not the worst thing
in the world.
  
inkwell.vue.204 : The 2004 Bruce Sterling State of the World Address
permalink #18 of 131: Berliner (captward) Sat 3 Jan 04 10:44
    
Seems to me if Bruce had an antenna on top of his house, he'd get a
visit. Weren't there a couple of low-watt FMers busted in Austin some
years ago?
  
inkwell.vue.204 : The 2004 Bruce Sterling State of the World Address
permalink #19 of 131: Ted (nukem777) Sat 3 Jan 04 10:51
    
Yes, I was being polite about the manuals, which I still don't believe
too many people are reading. I just switched to Linux and I'm
surrounded by manuals and links to all the user groups I could find so
that I can get started learning it.  From my experience I'm in the
minority.

I have friends who own their own small businesses and have virtually
no security to their computing networks because they don't want to
learn anything and just find it all too complicated. I think that's
probably the norm.

Jon, I'm not too taken with the Dean internet hype, even tho I've been
contributing. First of all we're only talking about 180,000 people.
That's really not much politically and not the swing group that will
make the final decision anyway.

Bruce, I agree with you about mobs and democracy.  I don't see the web
as providing any more than a means of communication and information. I
don't think any messiah's, political or otherwise, are going to be
coming out of the web.  Actually, just the opposite.  I think we are
moving toward the 'iconization' of sentiments and trends...ala William
Gibson's Idoru.
  
inkwell.vue.204 : The 2004 Bruce Sterling State of the World Address
permalink #20 of 131: Theodore C Newcomb (nukem777) Sat 3 Jan 04 11:01
    
Re: spammers...Neilson/Net Ratings released a
survey,http://www.bigblueball.com/news2/article.asp?id=463, saying 75%
of connections to the Net are via IM's, media players, and P2P's...I
think that's probably the trend...away from e-mail. I'm looking for the
next improvement on the cellphone/PDA/web connection and that will
probably be about all I'll use communication wise. A home computer will
pretty much be for research, news and entertainment tied in to some
big screen replacing the TV.
  
inkwell.vue.204 : The 2004 Bruce Sterling State of the World Address
permalink #21 of 131: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Sat 3 Jan 04 14:06
    
I do have room on my roof for a radio transmitter, and 
I have New Year plans -- vague ones, but real  plans --
to have some commercial guys come in and
splash wi-fi all over my neighborhood from
a mast on my roof.  I was gonna offer it as
a free-rider thing, and then I thought -- y'know --
it's just a dead cinch that warchalking
spammers are gonna come park  vans
in my front yard.  I don't have time and energy
to keep these predators at bay from people
I am trying to help.   So let a commercial
service do it, and pull some money out of the
system in order to keep the infrastructure on
the up-and-up.  It's less of a menace to 
civilization that way.

I wouldn't mind becoming a home-DJ and
doing some kind of round-the-clock
iPod spewing Internet music thing.
I've been checking that out on iTunes,
and boy is that stuff weak.  There ought
to be an Internet radio channel that is
amazingly, mind-blowingly keen-o,
the very voice of musical liberation,
but if so, I've yet to find it.  It has
the soporific qualities of cable access,
only more so.

One is tempted
to just boldly dash out there and cut
those zombies at ClearChannel a new one,
but, well, hobbies like that have the bad
habit of becoming massive attention hogs.
Even assuming, of course, that armed RIAA
agents didn't come to kick my door down.

I'm never going to run a propaganda station.
When it comes to my own rantings,
I draw the line at forcing them on people
without some kind of warning.
  
inkwell.vue.204 : The 2004 Bruce Sterling State of the World Address
permalink #22 of 131: Uncle Jax, the Nicest Asshole on the Well (jax) Sat 3 Jan 04 15:17
    
Very poetic!
  
inkwell.vue.204 : The 2004 Bruce Sterling State of the World Address
permalink #23 of 131: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sun 4 Jan 04 00:10
    
You've been focusing on 'new world disorder' for years, and we've billed 
this as a 'state of the world' discussion, so we should talk about this 
latest war - not so much Iraq, I think that's just a battle in a larger 
war, which is probably best characterized as the U.S. "New American 
Century" neoconservatives vs the rest of the world. Did you see this 
coming?
  
inkwell.vue.204 : The 2004 Bruce Sterling State of the World Address
permalink #24 of 131: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Sun 4 Jan 04 09:34
    

Well, it didn't take genius to see that the Bush clan
had it in for the Tikritis.  As soon as they hauled
Saddam out by the scruff of the neck, everybody goes
"whoo" as if it were all over now.  Because everybody
had it figured that the UN resolutions, the tons
of nerve gas, the human rights blither, that was
all pretext.

"He tried to kill my Dad," you know.  Al Qaeda
is more sophisticated than people let on, while
American power centers seethe with tribal rage.

It there was a shock about this, it was the
way the Disorder revealed itself *inside Washington.*
A raid by mountain bandits on the World Trade Center
really was a kind of PR genius, but I don't think
anybody, including the neocons, really got it that
the US Administration would be willing to cut all the
barbed wire, ride hell for leather and try to settle every
issue on the planet  with a vigilante shotgun.

The neocons are okay with that, though.  They
see themselves as heroic rebels against a
choking global orthodoxy, a small but
divinely inspired elite who will bend the
world their way if they can just hold on long
enough for truth to prevail.  The Disorder
always thrives on these sentiments; they've very
Serbian, very Afghan, very US Confederacy, too.
Women in the Balkans really love "Gone with the Wind."
There's a kind of cult for it. If Croats and Serbians
lived in America they'd live in some of those pro-Bush
Red States.
http://observer.guardian.co.uk/magazine/story/0,11913,1115505,00.html

"I won't think about occupying Baghdad today;
I'll think about it tomorrow." Very Scarlett O'Hara, that.
(Rhett Butler works for Enron and  Halliburton.)

As Cavour once put it, "you can do anything with bayonets
except sit on them."  So there's not gonna be a lot
of "major combat operations", but there's gonna
be a whole lot of nationalist intifada. 

There's a fractal quality to it, it's a nested series
of Venn diagrams. The American neocons are a
nationalist intifada.  The Disorder and the Order
interpenetrate, the Lexus is parked under the Olive Tree,
and McWorld is where the children of the Jihad eat.
  
inkwell.vue.204 : The 2004 Bruce Sterling State of the World Address
permalink #25 of 131: Ted (nukem777) Sun 4 Jan 04 10:01
    
"The Disorder and the Order
interpenetrate, the Lexus is parked under the Olive Tree,
and McWorld is where the children of the Jihad eat."

Now that's poetry. Well put, both sides feed off one another. More to
the point, they need one another to keep their agendas going.

What about the rest of the world though? Don't you find it strange
that here we are at a point in history where there is one dominant
superpower that could take a giant leap forward for civilization on the
planet and instead chooses to revert to form? 

Well, I guess that doesn't surprise me so much. But I am surprised
that the rest of the world seems to be sitting back and taking it. And
I would have hoped that whatever forces of civilization are being
formed and/or unleashed by and on the Internet would spring forth. But
I'm not sensing much of that either. Am I missing something or hoping 
for too much too soon? 
  

More...



Members: Enter the conference to participate

Subscribe to an RSS 2.0 feed of new responses in this topic RSS feed of new responses

   Join Us
Home | Learn About | Conferences | Member Pages | Mail | Store | Services & Help | Password | Join Us