inkwell.vue.262 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2006
permalink #51 of 129: Rick Brown (danwest) Sun 8 Jan 06 18:12
    
Well, The WELL has been here for 20 years. And sometimes Peets and
proximity make the rant go down better. As a person who lives in the
middle of the firmly non melting-pot-map, We could even go for some
yuppie scum; if they brought a starbucks.

How far to singularity?
  
inkwell.vue.262 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2006
permalink #52 of 129: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sun 8 Jan 06 18:20
    
Ah, I was wondering how long 'til we get to the s-word.
  
inkwell.vue.262 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2006
permalink #53 of 129: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Sun 8 Jan 06 19:38
    
 I suspect that something very peculiar by our standards may happen in
the mid-century, but if so, I don't think they'll be describing with a
sixty-year-old term like "Singularity."  And even if it renders the
world unrecognizable by our standards, that doesn't mean the people
undergoing it are going to feel all singular.  They'll just change
their standards.

Furthermore, after a "singularity," people will be worrying a lot more
about what happens next than about what just happened.  If you hit a
singularity, that's the beginning of a hairy situation, not the end of
it.
  
inkwell.vue.262 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2006
permalink #54 of 129: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sun 8 Jan 06 21:07
    
Singularity's a fuzzy term, anyway. Even if you narrow it down to 
*technological* singularity, it still means different things to different 
people.

Transhumanists assume that we'll no longer be merely human, but posthuman. 
That's a science fiction trope. of course, but you seem to've got away from 
writing about anything quite so distant. Do you still think of yourself as a 
science-fiction writer? Could you write something like Schismatrix again, or 
more mech/shaper stories? 
  
inkwell.vue.262 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2006
permalink #55 of 129: smorgasbord of pending developments (satyr) Mon 9 Jan 06 07:25
    
There's so much to choose from in thinking about what's on the verge of
happening that could change everything, that identifying even the most
important few would be difficult.

climate change (possibly runaway climate change)
deforestation and desertification
rapid loss of biodiversity
chemical pollution
soil erosion
declining oil production
aging populations
ubiquitous distraction

recycling and renewables
sustainable land management
seamless communications
radical access to and correlation of information
effective learning technologies
improving medical technology
augmentation and robotics
new economic/political opt-ins

All of these and more are headed our way like a giant tsunami.
  
inkwell.vue.262 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2006
permalink #56 of 129: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Mon 9 Jan 06 07:29
    
Well, the fuzzy terms are the best ones, and they don't come a lot
fuzzier than "science fiction."

I do think of myself as a science fiction writer, but I'm a science
fiction critic, too, which leads me think of genres in a historical
context.  BEOWULF is still a compelling work of fantasy, but we no
longer have the context in which Beowulf was composed: some bard with a
harp comes trudging over a hill and is welcomed by the tribal warriors
of the local community in some kind of longhouse.  I get a similar
frisson when I think of fifty-cent paperback Ace Doubles in a rotating
wire rack at the bus station.

One of the reasons I found science fiction attractive was that it was
the weirdest and least conventional material I could find in Gulf Coast
Texas in the middle of the 20th century.   With Google at hand, that's
just no longer the case.  There's some kind of Tom "Flat Earth"
Friedman levelling-effect going on with search engines.   American
science fiction was like a warm subcultural tide-pool, and there are
huge icy information currents running through it now.   I don't think
that my literary approaches are outdated, but the physical and social
texture of research, distribution, publishing and consumption have all
changed radically.
  
inkwell.vue.262 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2006
permalink #57 of 129: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Mon 9 Jan 06 07:41
    
That list satyr just posted explains why I read Worldchanging.

There's a vague rocket-fuel whiff of 20th century science-fiction in
Worldchanging, but really, just watching those cats trend-tracking is a
mind-expanding, sense-of-wonder experience.   I used to go hit the
stacks at the library to write a sci-fi book, but Worldchanging is like
a team of go-getters crammed a library into a giant fusion-powered
nanocarbon blender, hit puree, and spouted the results through a
firehose.  

It's going to lead to a new kind of prose, eventually.  There are
novels waiting to be written that have the ripply, blobjectified, 
computer-designed aspects of a Frank Gehry building.  Literature is
having a hard time responding to the realities of interactive
electronic prose -- "hypertext" didn't go anywhere useful.  I think
it's doable, though.  I might open a book tomorrow written by some kid
I never heard of, and see that it had already been done with great
success.
  
inkwell.vue.262 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2006
permalink #58 of 129: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 9 Jan 06 11:00
    
I think we've talked before about the book, how it'll never go away
because it fits some need to hold an object that feeds code to our
wetware processes. But I think that the book is changing in that it can
always have a web extension where readers can post comments and
updates and authors can post errata and second thoughts... and perhaps
alternative endings or "author's cuts." Have you thought about writing
a novel (or nonfiction work, or nonfiction novel) that has web-based
extensions?
  
inkwell.vue.262 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2006
permalink #59 of 129: nape fest (zorca) Mon 9 Jan 06 11:05
    
do you think kids growing up in front of monitors will have the same need to
physically hold an artifact?
  
inkwell.vue.262 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2006
permalink #60 of 129: Rick Brown (danwest) Mon 9 Jan 06 11:19
    
When we wanna read in the bath-tub...
  
inkwell.vue.262 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2006
permalink #61 of 129: Jamais Cascio, WorldChanger (cascio) Mon 9 Jan 06 12:05
    
*blush*

And, for the record, that's not rocket-fuel, it's tequila.
  
inkwell.vue.262 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2006
permalink #62 of 129: virtual community or butter? (bumbaugh) Mon 9 Jan 06 12:39
    

   "Franciszek Kropula" (not our correspondent's real name) writes:

Dear Bruce,

I've just received your telegram:

HEY, EUROPEAN VIRIDIANS!
I?^?^?M MOVING TO EUROPE THIS MONTH

As an Eastern European living in Smaczpuki (Bytowia), I am very excited.
Can you provide us with some futuristic predictions regarding the effect
that your landing in Belgrade might have upon the region? And what
effect migh the region have on you?

Do you think, from what you've experienced,  that we do see the state of
the world, the global issues around us, differently in this part of the
world?

Do you think your arrival might unleash a green revolution in the
Balkans and Eastern Europe? Worldchanging is wonderful, but few have
heard about it around here. So will there be any new regional, Viridian
efforts on your part?
  
inkwell.vue.262 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2006
permalink #63 of 129: virtual community or butter? (bumbaugh) Mon 9 Jan 06 12:40
    
And Stefan Jones opines and inquires:


Weather troubles offer a place to invest money as well as fear!

I bought shares in a bunch of mobile home companies when the Gulf Coast was
getting pounded last year. (So did a lot of other cynical opportunists, and
they're all down since last fall, but I figure they're a good long-term
investment.)

Any other ideas for what industries might be in a "Climate Change Shit
Hitting
the Fan" portfolio?

Stefan
  
inkwell.vue.262 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2006
permalink #64 of 129: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Mon 9 Jan 06 13:53
    
Odd you should ask that, Stefan.

You know how you replace frail, collapsing levees in the flood
insurance biz?
With hedge funds!

http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/06_03/b3967071.htm
  
inkwell.vue.262 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2006
permalink #65 of 129: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Mon 9 Jan 06 13:55
    
Dear Bruce,

I've just received your telegram:

HEY, EUROPEAN VIRIDIANS!
I?^?^?M MOVING TO EUROPE THIS MONTH


*Dude, with formatting problems like that, no wonder you guys are
still using telegrams.


*I spent a year in California.  Did you see that green revolution I
unleashed there?
All I can say is that the fine folk of Smaczpuki had better brace
themselves.
  
inkwell.vue.262 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2006
permalink #66 of 129: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Mon 9 Jan 06 15:42
    
*Other green investments circa 2006:  General Electric and Wal-Mart.
That's right, I said GENERAL ELECTRIC and WAL-MART.  Greener than
a gourd.

Top Five Green Business "Socially Responsible Investing" stories of
2005:

http://www.greenbiz.com/news/news_third.cfm?NewsID=30045
  
inkwell.vue.262 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2006
permalink #67 of 129: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Mon 9 Jan 06 15:44
    
do you think kids growing up in front of monitors will have the same
need to
physically hold an artifact?

*In a word, no, and in more words, they probably won't be all that
needy
about "monitors," either.
  
inkwell.vue.262 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2006
permalink #68 of 129: Brian Slesinsky (bslesins) Mon 9 Jan 06 16:17
    
Care to make any predictions about information pollution (spam and
advertising)?
  
inkwell.vue.262 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2006
permalink #69 of 129: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 9 Jan 06 16:43
    
Ha! Looks like Bruce abbreviated his inkwell rants in favor of his blog 
today... the "Indian Centipede" crawls on!

http://wiredblogs.tripod.com/sterling/
  
inkwell.vue.262 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2006
permalink #70 of 129: Christian De Leon-Horton (echodog) Tue 10 Jan 06 00:35
    
With respect to bruces, I have to disagree that we're not going to get
a world of international terrorists--we've already got one, and
there's no good reason to think the situation is going to change.

The proliferation of information technologies has made it remarkably
easy for local terrorists to link up with like-minded individuals the
world over. To a large extent they don't have to meet in real
space--they can share vague ideas over the internet and still manage to
move forward to a common goal. For that matter, all the intelligence
and technology they need is at hand. It's no surprise that the learning
curve of Iraqi insurgent IEDs is so steep. Everyone is sharing what
they are learning. There's no way to stop it. Fly over any good-size
town in Iraq and you'll see that a goodly number of those mudbrick
buildings down there are equipped with satellite dishes. In a cultural
sense, these guys are learning faster than we are. 

What's especially interesting is the way in which they manage to hold
onto age-old tribal mores while exploiting information age technology.
You'd think with more internet access some of these jihadis would be
succumbing to the free music downloads and abundant porn instead of
learning how to make IEDs out of infrared sensors. But by and large,
that doesn't seem to be the case. The lurid reality of blowing up a few
US troops is much more compelling. How long before this temperment
extends into western nations? We've already got our share of cultural
extremophiles, from Christian fundamentalists to PETA. High-tech,
low-cost terrorism could be the new extreme sport. 
  
inkwell.vue.262 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2006
permalink #71 of 129: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Tue 10 Jan 06 06:56
    
Actually I'm abbreviating my responses because I had to pack.  I'm
leaving the US today and heading for Italy.  I'll be in Europe for
quite some time.  Connectivity may be patchy -- even though I'm hauling
two laptops.

    It seems that every time we have one of these interviews, it
concludes with me packing.  Name of the game, I reckon.  

    What bslesins is saying is becoming a common wisdom; when I need a
dose of that, I read "Global Guerrillas."

http://globalguerrillas.typepad.com/

     There's a lot of meritorious analysis going on there, and it's
very counterintuitive by 20th century standards, and that's a good
thing, because this isn't the 20th century.     It's not about
state-on-state violence any more; it's about  the emergent global order
versus failed states.  The victory condition for global guerrillas is
a failed state.  And there are lots of global guerrillas and huge scary
patches of failed and failing state right nows.  And the Disorder and
the Order physically interpenetrate; globalization melts the map; there
are physical patches of state-failure even inside the most advanced
states.

     However, there is a nascent order inside the failure, too. 
People who live in conditions of failure can see what justice, law, and
order look like.  They see that on those satellite dishes, they get
news about that every day from the many, many people who flee the
Disorder and become new global diasporas.  

    Yugoslavia went to pieces; it's not going to reunite, but the
pieces are being subsumed into something better-organized, the EU.   
Lebanon was a hell-all Iraqi-style mess for 13  solid years; suicide
bombers even drove the US troops offshore in a scarified, humiliating
retreat.  But 'the terrorism as extreme sport thing' died away in
Lebanon, not because it was put down with American bayonets, but
because, in lurid reality, it was inherently unstable.  The terror's
not gone completely from Lebanon; there are still carbombs killing
leaders there; but, with time and personal experience, the population
lost their taste for general mayhem.   When your society is run by
profiteering warlords, it's a major drag.  Even the warlords themselves
get tired of the Sword of Damocles.  It's just no way to live.  It
stinks every single day.  

     The Disorder is not self-sufficient; it is  the dark shadow of
the Order.  It can't exist without the Order, it is parasitic.  It
lacks productive capacity; it can't feed itself and clothe and shelter
the populace.   If a state truly and utterly fails and it isn't propped
up by the ordered states outside, local people become refugees and
starve to death, they die of epidemics.  

     A nonstate like Somalia, which also defeated the US, survives
only because Somalis, many of them in the US, send money home.

    So, you can lose an asymmetric engagement with an enraged
population if you invade their territory.  But they're not going to get
it together to re-invade your state in return.  Terrorists are not a
state, they're not tyrants.  They don't have any of the organizational
mechanisms needed to run states.  They can't accumulate and manage
enough resources to put together a functional military.  And wherever
global guerrillas do try to settle, they soon find they have to pull up
stakes and move somewhere else.  

     And, though they're doing really well in Iraq and the borders of
Pakistan, electronically linked networks of guerrillas have a hard time
surviving in organized states with a functional police force.  Having
email and a website doesn't make you Zorro.  Laptops get captured. 
Cellphones get tapped.  Conspirators get rounded-up.  I never heard of
an Al Qaeda guy ratting out his pals for reward money, but their gizmos
betray them all the time.   

     Not only do they blow themselves up, but they've got a high
burn-rate in arrests whenever they settle in any area with an honest
cop on the beat.

     In this conversation, we've been describing a world where (a)
warm and fuzzy bohemian networks vanish instantly and (b) evil, demonic
terrorist networks thrive hugely and indefinitely, but, dark
sentiments aside, there's a logical disconnect there.  Those two things
can't happen both at once, that's just not possible. Bohemians aren't
terrorists, but networks are networks, globalization is globalization. 
The technosocial forces that shape these historical developments,
they're not trying to make things as bad for us as they can: they're
impersonal forces.   

   This era too will pass.  And when it does, who will sum it up?  
Try to name a single positive legacy of any kind that Al Qaeda has left
to anybody.  A building,  a bridge, a novel, a piece of music, a
movie, a style of clothing, even.  If they all blew up tomorrow, who
would miss them in the future?

    Time is not on their side.
  
inkwell.vue.262 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2006
permalink #72 of 129: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 10 Jan 06 07:42
    
Al Qaeda may pass, but haven't "terrorists" of one stripe or another always 
been with us? 
  
inkwell.vue.262 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2006
permalink #73 of 129: Brian Slesinsky (bslesins) Tue 10 Jan 06 08:54
    
(Oops, I think Bruce was replying to echodog, not me.)
  
inkwell.vue.262 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2006
permalink #74 of 129: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 10 Jan 06 08:59
    
(I think you're right!)
  
inkwell.vue.262 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2006
permalink #75 of 129: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Tue 10 Jan 06 10:31
    
*Oh I did, did I?  <grumble>  Well, you're all obviously
electronically connected, so it's time to round up the lot of you.

Kind of like the Spanish police did this morning.
  

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