Emily J. Gertz (emilyg) Wed 5 Jan 05 12:09
Wouldn't you say the phenomenon Jelly Bean describes has a lot more to do with news media that doesn't report the connections? Plus, corporate PR professionals (including the ones who craft the policy emissions of the Bush administration) are smart at wagging the dog. They know that they can deforest, strip mine, belch fine particle pollution and sell multi-ton gas hogs even more effectively if these connections remain unexamined by the public, and tailor their communication accordingly. NGOs often seem to be one-issue organizations because the people involved love birds, or bears, or some other aspect of the biota to distraction. Most members of Audubon could make the connections between air quality, wetlands destruction, weather changes, pesticides, West Nile and birds any day of the week.
Seahorses of the Liver (mnemonic) Wed 5 Jan 05 12:57
"Also, this &*&%$#^ wifi provider doesn't want to play nice with Safari." Bruce, I often have to use the ancient, creaky Internet Explorer to arrange the setup with a wifi provider. After the connection is set up, you can revert to Safari (or, better yet, Firefox). Speaking as one OSX dude to another.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 5 Jan 05 14:10
BTW speaking of climate change, we're in for heavy weather this week: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2002141092_storm05.html
frequent flyer (sleepyjt) Wed 5 Jan 05 16:19
Anecdotal argument for climate change: As Bruce flits through the skies of Europe, I can offer the comforting fact that only about 50% of the flights I've taken around Europe in the last year or so have experienced severe turbulence. And only about 25% of those over the continental US! By severe I mean a 757 equivalent unable to maintain assigned altitude in cruise, then requiring the pilot to use repeated abrupt throttle changes and sharp rudder adjustment throughout approach just to bring it back to level flight from time to time, hopefully coincident with touchdown. Nothing like being slammed sideways at 38,000 feet while watching the drink trolley go airborne! I've flown quite a bit over the last 15 years, all over the world, and never experienced that particular form of unpleasantness until fairly recently...but now I almost take it for granted. Is the weather getting worse...or are airlines willing to fly in conditions they would have considered too marginal a few years ago?
frequent flyer (sleepyjt) Wed 5 Jan 05 16:20
..forgetting possibility 3 that I am simply unlucky...
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Wed 5 Jan 05 20:04
My flights seem eerily smooth lately, which makes up for the severe dysfunctionality of the security apparats on the ground. My checked bag disappeared in Paris, was nowhere to be seen in the customs port of Houston, and mysteriously reappeared in Austin. Of course, they insisted that I check the bag ; I would never have done that voluntarily, since the commonly subject them to weird antics. I'm not quite sure what the heck I'll do with Viridian List. Having an email list at all seems kind of archaic now. Why not an RSS feed, blog, podcasting, etc etc? If you want to join it, nothing simpler; just send me email. I just had an odd media experience in an aircraft over the Atlantic. There was multichannel video installed in the back of the seat. After my computer ran out of juice, I had to channel-surf to avert utter boredom, so I ended up watching a mainstream-TV American cop show off the back of the neighbor's chair. It immediately struck me that it must have been a COUPLE OF YEARS since I actually sat down and watched an entire television dramatic episode. I never much liked or hated television, I was more or less willing to watch it if the opportunity came up, but compared to websurfing, this TV show had the dusty, archaic feeling of vaudeville. I mean, those are real scripts, talented actors... it was the kind of vaguely progressive TV drama fodder that's supposed to be "punchy," "hard-hitting," "sizzling"... It was like watching ice melt, as a media experience. I wonder if television is doomed.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 5 Jan 05 21:07
Welcome back! There's already some questions in queue. Meanwhile as Viridian webmaster, I should note that we're not posting each new message on the front page at ViridianDesign.org using Blogger, and there's an RSS feed for the Viridian notes at http://www.viridiandesign.org/rss.xml.
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 6 Jan 05 10:03
"First, the potential "Napsterization" of physical objects: why buy, for example, the latest Star Wars action figure when you could download a hacked CAD file free from the Web and make one for the price of materials? I know the costs won't bear out initially, but I assume such "makers" will get cheaper over time, and just the above scenario could kill the toy industry (which is usually wobbly in the best of times). What are the future social and economic effects of this technology?" *Well, as readers of my weblog know, I just got back from Serbia. The extent of product counterfeiting there is really shocking. You can't squeeze a tube of toothpaste without wondering if the thing is faked and, if so, exactly what substance is scrubbing the inside of your mouth. This isn't the old version of product counterfeiting, either. This is some pretty sophisticated manufacturing by people who obviously would have the skill to make, say, real shoes; except they'd rather undercut Reebok in order to line their own pockets without having to pay for Reebok's global PR budget. And you don't know who they are; and you'll never know who they are; and if the product harms you, you have no redress whatsoever. It's sinister. Needless to say the purported "government" that more or less runs "Serbia and Montenegro" is not going to do a thing about this. When is the last time you saw an internationally-known Serbian brand? They're just not gonna play the NATO branding game; they're like Adbusters, only they mean it. http://adbusters.org/metas/corpo/blackspotsneaker/
Gail Williams (gail) Thu 6 Jan 05 11:53
> And you don't know who they are; and you'll never > know who they are; and if the product harms you, > you have no redress whatsoever. It's > sinister. Yes. It's easy to be cynical about branding, but knowing the identity of manufacturers is of value to consumers, no doubt about it... I hadnt thought of knockoffs as corporate identity theft nor as a breach of faith with consumers who might need redress before now. That scenario is sinister enough, but toss in some real life internet phenomena like trojan horses. In what ways can a physical object make its purchaser a slave to someone who just enjoys messing with people -- or punishing consumption they feel is excessive, or terrorizing the minions of the great satan or global capitalism, for that matter? Ugh. Where can this go... ownzered by your trojan cell phone, crashed by your infected car?
Dennis Wilen (the-voidmstr) Thu 6 Jan 05 12:25
<bruces>, are you saying the Serbs and Montenegroans have an explicit anti-intellectual property component to their counterfeiting activities? It's not just for the money? Or is it just "collateral damage?"
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 6 Jan 05 12:39
At least they're not giving the products away. Bill Gates would almost certainly appreciate the capitalist mind-set of these hard-working Serbian entrepreneurs who, though they may be making unauthorized use of brand names, at least want MONEY for their wares... unlike American Free Culture commies who want to give everything away.
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 6 Jan 05 12:59
This is a popular effort, this fakery. People in the Balkans just don't think in a state-centered way any more. Everybody's his own smuggler; everybody's got cousins offshore who send money and gifts home. They all experienced international sanctions for years. They're not gonna strengthen the hands of intellectual property lords like the WTO or WIPO or RIAA. It just means building new whips so that NATO and the Europeans and the UN can scourge them. So it's not like a state conspiracy to pilfer; it's more like the Dutch and hashish. You just don't look real hard, and the traffic takes care of itself. A lot of the retailers who are behind the flow of fakes are refugees who lost everything. They were living out of car trunks. Now they're living out of kiosks, and they're kinda nicely settled in there; some of those Balkan kiosks have TVs, neon, and smokestacks.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 6 Jan 05 16:20
You were among the first authors to put substantial works online as "literary freeware." What do you think of Creative Commonas and Free Culture - threat, or menace? Stimulus for innovation or communist conspiracy?
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Fri 7 Jan 05 05:07
Well, Free Culture is not a "communist conspiracy." A communist conspiracy would want to nationalize intellectual property through the dictatorship of the proletariat (assuming that it recognized intellectual property as something other than "theft".) I would classify Creative Commons as an ingenious if somewhat complicated scheme which may or may not prove to have legs as an actual workaday institution. All these copyleft schemes have to involve somebody who cares enough to keep track of who copylefted what under what circumstances. Creative Commons aren't public domain, they're not abandonware. They're gonna require some kind of bureaucracy and some kind of grievance squad. That makes them vulnerable, and with the passage of time, possibly top-heavy. I wonder, for instance, if Creative Commons couldn't be harassed to death by a deliberate blizzard of SCO-style petty lawsuits. I also wonder if their zealots might just get bored and despair over the dullness of their bookkeeping when they expected the Creative Revolution, baby. As far as the "threat or menace" aspect goes, the menace is not in some Saddam dictatorship of creative Marxist-Lessigists. The danger is in the general collapse of law and order and its replacement by nothing in particular. I'm getting worried that the WTO - WIPO regime, the general respect for law and order in the realm of intellectual property, may just collapse worldwide. It may fail through imperial overstretch and get nibbled to death by global guerrillas. It may be that as the means of production get offshored into areas like China and India, where there traditionally has not been little respect for IP, the West's standards of behavior may simply be ignored. That fish is rotting from the head down. If the USA is itself widely regarded as an outlaw state, why should anybody pay even lip service to the IP interests of its multinationals? That system cannot be enforced with cruise missiles; the global populace in general has to agree that the scheme is legitimate and just and the best way to produce prosperity. Otherwise they just pirate stuff and buy fakes. People don't physically have to pay money for IP; they're merely required to do it. So trying to drag money out of IP means imposing a regulatory framework on globalization. That's not easy. It's like trying to dam up black water. The WTO doesn't run the world. Seen from inside, they're very rickety, balky and feeble. There's just not a lot of enforcement power there. Their appeal is mostly moral, believe it or not. Global law and order of any kind is in deep trouble now. We could find ourselves living in a "failed globe", where states fail all over the place, including the USA. Then most everybody would find themselves living in the way that the planet's majority have always lived. And that's not the "American Way," that's the third-world way. Instead of a thriving Group of 7 with its vast tinkertoy of advanced-state infrastructure and legalisms, we could find that the 21st century globe looks a lot more like Brazil. Like Turkey. China. India. Big, ramshackle, semi-stable, randomly violent, mostly poor, amazingly corrupt. Given that Creative Commons is a lawyer's invention and wondrously and nitpickingly legalistic, I wonder what kind of future Creative Commons would have in such a world. I tend to think that people would just shrug and forget it was around.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 7 Jan 05 14:43
Don't Americans seem to believe that we've already has a collapse of law and order, to which the respond by electing candidates who promise more social control? Isn't that what follows a perceived social chaos - an authoritarian backlash?
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Fri 7 Jan 05 16:50
As far as I can figure it, that's in reverse order. I mean, in the Balkans, it was Tito, an authoritarian of the first order, whose social order went to pieces. Then there was some nasty Balkan phony-war terror-war bloodletting that looked very rigorous and tough-guy, but was just a front for the well-nigh complete ethical, political, military, economic and social rot in Yugoslavia. The place imploded. It's statelets now. Bosnia, Herzegovina, Kosova, I don't even know what the proper name is for those entities. UN protectorates? Global colonies? NATO hot potatoes that are now somewhat cooler EU potatoes? We haven't even invented the terminology. We're still trying to pretend that we can state-build them back to the way they were. The late Zoran Djindjic kinda figured that after Milosevic was deposed, he'd act like the take-charge revolutionary leader and shake some law and order back into Serbian government. But the biggest smuggling gang in town just shot Djindjic in the back and he died on the spot. His successors are a lot more circumspect. They know that the state can be whacked in the streets by the gangs and that nobody that matters will turn a hair. The situation is Serbia is actually kind of stable. It doesn't have a grim, violent feeling. The police are not feared by the populace. You don't see blatant acts of race-hate. It's just that the place is profoundly crooked. It's like a world capital of black globalization. I know this all sounds pretty grim, farfetched, alien and freaky to most Americans, but that's more or less what happened to our own dark twin, the "Soviet Union." You remember them, that other continental superpower full of white guys and bristling with military power? They alienated all their allies, bogged down fighting Moslems, went broke, and then collapsed like a burst tire. People still call that area "the former Soviet Union", what, fifteen years after the thing died? That's like calling Texas "the former Confederate State" in about 1880! I think people instinctively call it "the former Soviet Union" because there's so little national character to the diffuse entities that appeared after that collapse. Putin makes authoritarian noises and can bust the heads of some of his moguls, but the guy's got no economy. There's no rule of law to speak of. The Russians pipe oil and gas. That's about it. They're a rentier enterprise. Serbia looks like a jolly vacation spot compared to the Russian situation. They're losing half a million people a year in Russia. Their demographics are catastrophic. You'd think they'd pick their socks up and patch a civilization together, but they're dying off like the buffalo. By the middle of the century half the Russian ethnic group will be gone. Just, you know, Gone With the Wind. Nobody's killing them. They're not being invaded by tyrants. Nobody's putting them in camps. But whatever the hell it is that they've got: the Disorder, the Decline -- man, that stuff is fatal. It's more serious to the health of nations than a major shooting war. They're in a tailspin. You think they'd get all better if they elected and installed a bunch of Republicans? Or for that matter, Democrats?
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 7 Jan 05 21:10
The New American Century may be ready to go there. They see a world in chaos and disarray, and figure they can fix it with American know-how and spunk, like Teddy Roosevelt's boys in "The Wind and the Lion," which I can imagine they're screening in heavy rotation at the White House. Despite their bungling, I think these guys really think they're the only hope for the world. I suspect you've read Jim Moore's "The Second Superpower Rears Its Beautiful Head." He says "As the United States government becomes more belligerent in using its power in the world, many people are longing for a 'second superpower' that can keep the US in check. Indeed, many people desire a superpower that speaks for the interests of planetary society, for long-term well-being, and that encourages broad participation in the democratic process. Where can the world find such a second superpower? No nation or group of nations seems able to play this role, although the European Union sometimes seeks to, working in concert with a variety of institutions in the field of international law, including the United Nations. But even the common might of the European nations is barely a match for the current power of the United States. There is an emerging second superpower, but it is not a nation. Instead, it is a new form of international player, constituted by the 'will of the people' in a global social movement. The beautiful but deeply agitated face of this second superpower is the worldwide peace campaign, but the body of the movement is made up of millions of people concerned with a broad agenda that includes social development, environmentalism, health, and human rights. This movement has a surprisingly agile and muscular body of citizen activists who identify their interests with world society as a wholeand who recognize that at a fundamental level we are all one. These are people who are attempting to take into account the needs and dreams of all 6.3 billion people in the worldand not just the members of one or another nation...." Could something like this work? A loose network of global citizens connected online and united in their alienation from their various governments - governments that don't seem to be effective in doing what governments are theoretically supposed to do, maintain some semblance of order, justice, safety?
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Sat 8 Jan 05 05:35
"Could something like this work? A loose network of global citizens connected online and united in their alienation from their various governments - governments that don't seem to be effective in doing what governments are theoretically supposed to do, maintain some semblance of order, justice, safety?" Well, I've been looking for that for a long time -- "post-national governance." "Twilight of Sovereignty" and all that, this is one of the oldest riffs in the cyberpunk metier. Not a new question at all. Back in the early 80s, we used to have it figured that multinational corporations would do it, you know, some of those Japanese Zaibatsu Lifetime Employment Corporate Feudalist Apparats, They should have had the world well sorted by now. Well, the megacorps were even more frail than national governments. You want the classic version of a politically ambitious multinat, it's Enron. The guys are one phosphot-dot thick! As for Japan Inc., it was so subject to regulatory capture that the entire population ended up sitting on their hands. What does seem to have happened is not corporate dominance but the arrival on the scence of a new class of ultrarich moguls, your basic "They Rule" crowd. http://www.theyrule.net/ But they don't actually rule, they just profit. They don't bother to interface with the employees. They don't bother with labor, they don't even bother to own the physical means of production; I'm not sure what these guys do, besides appoint each other to directorial boards. Well, I do know what Enron did. They ran a vast Ponzi scheme. I know what Mikhail Khodokovsky of Yukos did. Same thing, basically. We're not gonna find any "semblance of order, justice, safety" around the likes of Enron and Yukos -- heck, they can't even offer the semblance of a genuinely profit-making capitalist enterprise. Then there's that Second Superpower pitch, which, frankly, reeks of bohemian arrogance to me. What, like the Seattle 99 crowd are the only people in the world who can use email? "A loose network of global citizens connected online and united in their alienation from their various governments" -- you just described Al Qaeda. Obviously there's profound destructive potential there, but when did Al Qaeda ever provide anybody with a "semblance of order, justice and safety"? Taliban Afghanistan? Chechnya? Fallujah? Kashmir? Is this what the world's being offered as liberated zones and models of Islamic moral integrity? They can burn. but they can't build; they're a global suicide cult. Did you ever see that last-reel scene in "Lawrence of Arabia" where the heroic Arabs finally seize Damascus and the place burns down in their care? Man, that's Al Qaeda all over. When I see various NGOs storming the WTO, I really wonder what happens when you give these cats the car-keys. Where's the agenda? And if they got one, why can't it get votes? I especially like it when the left starts talking about the *right wing* Second Superpower, the "vast right-wing conspiracy" that tried to lynch Clinton, the "Straussian Republikudnik NeoCons" plotting in their Iran-Neocontra White House basements... Because that's what a Second Superpower looks like to you when you don't agree with its politics. It's a horrifying, irresponsible, illegitimate conspiracy. Unless your friends are doing it. Then it's a movement! Paul Wolfowitz would also nod and agree with the pitch there, "A loose network of global citizens connected online and united in their alienation from their various governments - governments that don't seem to be effective in doing what governments are theoretically supposed to do, maintain some semblance of order, justice, safety?" -- except he's got that figured for a critique of NATO and the UN. He considers all that a glowing justification for American military unilateralism. I don't think we're gonna find the exit till the smoke fills the room, but I'm busy looking. There's gotta be one around here somewhere. I don't mind voting, I pay taxes. All we've gotta do is maintain a civilization here; how hard can that be?
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sat 8 Jan 05 09:50
<scribbled by jonl Sat 8 Jan 05 12:37>
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sat 8 Jan 05 12:42
Having worked a while with the krewe at WorldChanging.com, I think we're onto something there. Alex Steffen and Jamais Cascio made it clear up front that they wanted to be about solutions, not problems, and I think the idea is that, if we toss out enough constructive memes and point to projects and paradigms that make the world work better for everybody, that exit you're looking for will begin to emerge. And it's an exit that actually goes somewhere. Others are are making bleaker pronouncements, like Jane Jacobs who, in her new book _Dark Age Ahead_, "sees 'ominous signs of decay' in five 'pillars' of our culture: family, community, higher education, science and 'self policing by the learned professions.'" (Quoting from the Publisher's Weekly review.) Also Jared Diamond, whose _Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed_ looks at examples where civilzations that have collapsed throughout history, often because they didn't respond well to some environmental disaster. Assuming that we have societal decay (as Jacobs says) and the increasing potential for environmental disaster, and assuming real leaders emerged who were willing to take proactive and constructive steps toward mitigation, have you any thoughts about what those steps would be?
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Sat 8 Jan 05 15:37
Well, man, I'm a science fiction writer. So my personal idea of "proactive and constructive steps" would be, I dunno, ultra-intelligent posthuman vanilla ice cream for everybody with a side order of solar-powered sustainable roller skates. Wahoo! If you need some "constructive steps" that are a little more practical and attainable, there isn't much wrong with the UN Millennial Development Goals. This is what officially passes for an official consensus future for the global community at this point in time. I'm not personally and blazingly ambitious about this lip-pursing UN agenda, but if we somehow got these rather unromantic and plonking goals accomplished, there's no question that we'd all be a lot better off. So here you go, then: 1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger Reduce by half the proportion of people living on less than a dollar a day. Reduce by half the proportion of people who suffer from hunger. 2. Achieve universal primary education Ensure that all boys and girls complete a full course of primary schooling 3. Promote gender equality and empower women Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education preferably by 2005, and at all levels by 2015 4. Reduce child mortality Reduce by two thirds the mortality rate among children under five 5. Improve maternal health Reduce by three quarters the maternal mortality ratio 6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases Halt and begin to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS Halt and begin to reverse the incidence of malaria and other major diseases 7. Ensure environmental sustainability Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programmes; reverse loss of environmental resources. Reduce by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water. Achieve significant improvement in lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers, by 2020. 8. Develop a global partnership for development Develop further an open trading and financial system that is rule-based, predictable and non-discriminatory. Includes a commitment to good governance, development and poverty reductionnationally and internationally. Address the least developed countries' special needs. This includes tariff- and quota-free access for their exports; enhanced debt relief for heavily indebted poor countries; cancellation of official bilateral debt; and more generous official development assistance for countries committed to poverty reduction. Address the special needs of landlocked and small island developing States. Deal comprehensively with developing countries' debt problems through national and international measures to make debt sustainable in the long term In cooperation with the developing countries, develop decent and productive work for youth. In cooperation with pharmaceutical companies, provide access to affordable essential drugs in developing countries. In cooperation with the private sector, make available the benefits of new technologies == especially information and communications technologies.
RUSirius (rusirius) Sat 8 Jan 05 17:09
WorldChanging looks like the Whole Earth Catalogue as a network. Seems like a great idea to me....
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sat 8 Jan 05 18:14
Yeah, I agree. Considering the attention WorldChanging is getting, I'm not really sure why Whole Earth didn't survive. Th UN set of goals looks great, though the UN itself is constrained by a US lack of commitment while the country's leaning so far to the right. See http://www.thenewamerican.com/tna/2000/10-09-2000/vo16no21_mandate.htm for an idea of the right-wing perception. Speaking of science fiction and seeing that rusirius is with us, I'll ask you the same question I asked him a few days ago: "Remember the people we knew who were seeing cyberpunk as a political movement rather than a literary subgenre? I wonder what they're doing now? That energy was too weird to simply evaporate, no?"
from ROHIT GUPTA (tnf) Sat 8 Jan 05 19:40
Rohit Gupta writes: "What trends have you extracted from watching the recent Bollywood product? The industry here is now making films with audience's abroad as target, almost always, since the local market has been unpredictable and unresponsive. Also, if you need recommendations from the classics, give me a holler." -Rohit Gupta
Ted (nukem777) Sun 9 Jan 05 02:30
Along the same lines as Jon, what do you see as the bridge to any effective world governing body? The UN, as it is now, seems pretty much ineffective. And we definitely aren't helping the program. Or do you see a world government at all? In some senses it seems like we all better learn Mandarin and hope the Chinese look favorably on our children.
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