inkwell.vue.262 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2006
permalink #101 of 129: William F. Stockton (yesway) Wed 11 Jan 06 14:57
    
What connected people think about the lives of rural/agricultural
folks doesn't change their psychological relationship to fastworld.
The elections of Bush and Morales are both attempts to slow the pace
of change, as is Al Qaeda. Reluctance to change may be more powerful
than curiosity.  

Another take.

<http://www.pbs.org/now/transcript/transcriptNOW140_full.html>

KURT VONNEGUT: Look, we after two World Wars and the holocaust and the
nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and after the Roman games
and after the Spanish Inquisition and after burning witches, the
public-- shouldn't we call it off? I mean, we are a disease and should
be ashamed of ourselves. 

And so, yeah, I think we ought to stop reproducing. But since we're
not going to do that, I think the planet's immune system is trying to
get rid of us. 

DAVID BRANCACCIO: The planet is sort of trying to shed us as if we are
some sort of toxin. 

KURT VONNEGUT: Look, I'll tell you. It's one thing that no cabinet had
ever had, is a Secretary Of The Future. And there are no plans at all
for my grandchildren and my great grandchildren. 

DAVID BRANCACCIO: That's a great idea. In other words a Cabinet post--


KURT VONNEGUT: Well, it's too late! Look, the game is over! The game
is over. We've killed the planet, the life support system. And, and
it's so damaged that there's no recovery from that. And we're very soon
going to run out of petroleum which powered everything that's modern.
Razzmatazz about America. And, and it was very shallow people who
imagined that we could keep this up indefinitely. But when I tell
others, they say; Well, look there's-- you said hydrogen fuel. Nobody's
working on it. 

DAVID BRANCACCIO: No one is working seriously on it is what you're
saying. 

KURT VONNEGUT: That's right. And, and what, our energy people,
presidents of our companies, energy companies never think. All they
wanna do is make a lot of money right now.

-------------------------

DAVID BRANCACCIO: Well, I want to ask you about this. You ask in the
book a question that actually you don't answer so I want to 

KURT VONNEGUT: I'm old. 

DAVID BRANCACCIO: But I want to-- think about answering this one. You
write "what can be said to our young people now that psychopathic
personalities — which is to say persons without consciences, without
senses of pity or shame — have taken all the money in the treasuries of
our government and corporations and made it their own?" What can we
say to younger people who have their whole lives ahead of them? 

KURT VONNEGUT: Well, you are human beings. Resourceful. Form a little
society of your own. And, hang out with them. Get a gang. 


 
  
inkwell.vue.262 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2006
permalink #102 of 129: Carl LaFong (mcdee) Wed 11 Jan 06 15:07
    
I almost always agree with Vonnegut 100%.
  
inkwell.vue.262 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2006
permalink #103 of 129: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 11 Jan 06 20:11
    
So it goes.
  
inkwell.vue.262 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2006
permalink #104 of 129: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 12 Jan 06 03:13
    
I'm in Milan.  About to go out to the Duomo and that huge shopping
arcade,
where I always spend hours and never buy anything.

No, Mr. Checho, there has never been a Bosnian, Serbian, Croatian,
Slovenian, Montenegrin, Macedonian, Kosovar, or splinter-republic
UN protectorate edition of MIRRORSHADES; at least, not one that
I ever heard of or got paid for.

You know a good anthology?  You ought to read Pat Cadigan's
UItimate Cyberpunk anthology.  It's, like, more ultimate
than the first cyberpunk anthology.

Vonnegut, Vonnegut....

KURT VONNEGUT: Well, it's too late! Look, the game is over! The game
is over. We've killed the planet, the life support system. And, and
it's so damaged that there's no recovery from that. And we're very
soon
going to run out of petroleum which powered everything that's modern.
Razzmatazz about America. And, and it was very shallow people who
imagined that we could keep this up indefinitely.

*Why is it, I wonder, that elderly science fiction writers with
failing
health get into this "Mind at the end of its tether" syndrome?
It's just like HG Wells in 1945:  "well, the A-Bomb's been invented.
And, uhm, I've got cancer.  Therefore, annihilation is at hand."

If you die, that's bad, and if a lot of people die, that's worse,
but it's not some kind of clean syllogism that wipes the
planet free of the human species.  There's exactly ONE
phenomenon that is swiftly and conclusively vanishing
like a dissolved toxin, and that's the author himself.  

If civilization collapses, then it collapses, but the human
race is scattered in tens of thousands of little enclaves
from pole to pole.  Even if all four Horsemen of the
Apocalypse are whipping their skeletal horses into a
lather, it's not gonna be easy to get ALL of them.
ALL of them?  Do the math!
  
inkwell.vue.262 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2006
permalink #105 of 129: Carl LaFong (mcdee) Thu 12 Jan 06 04:22
    
Still, one can hope.
  
inkwell.vue.262 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2006
permalink #106 of 129: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 12 Jan 06 05:48
    
I think we're tempted to go apocalyptic in our thinking when we have the
right combination of quakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, plague, polar and climate
disruption, war, political corruption, and celebrity divorce. 2005 was just 
one of those years. Surely 2006 will be better?
  
inkwell.vue.262 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2006
permalink #107 of 129: Rick Brown (danwest) Thu 12 Jan 06 07:02
    
Naw. Bush is still in power.
  
inkwell.vue.262 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2006
permalink #108 of 129: Carl LaFong (mcdee) Thu 12 Jan 06 07:11
    
I think reading Vonnegut's opinions strictly in terms of his being old
and ailing is unfair -- he's sounded similar notes for a very long
time.
  
inkwell.vue.262 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2006
permalink #109 of 129: William F. Stockton (yesway) Thu 12 Jan 06 07:31
    
He was obviously being hyperbolic. The point I was trying to
illustrate was that social recalcitrance leads to powerful political
backlash that is, and will be, exploited by savvy manipulators of all
stripes and it does, and will continue to, limit our ability to expand
the benefits of globalization in any kind of even handed or fair
manner.

I referred to Vonnegut because - "I'm just this guy" - and he's, well,
Kurt Vonnegut. Plus age lends perspective. My 95 year old Aunt, who
has been all over the world (and has learned to use the internet in the
last 5 years), says that she's never seen such turmoil and general
insensibility. She has no fear of her own death, but she is quite
worried about the life my children, and theirs, will have to live. 
  
inkwell.vue.262 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2006
permalink #110 of 129: Christian De Leon-Horton (echodog) Thu 12 Jan 06 08:14
    
I'm not sure it's entirely correct to suggest that terrorists
contribute nothing to the world (to respond to a post quite a ways
back...) First of all, while it's true that terrorists tend to be more
destructive than constructive, it's also true that insurgent networks
in the past have managed to build entire alternate social support
structures. One reason Israel has found it almost impossible to uproot
HAMAS is that HAMAS led by establishing clinics and schools, not by
blowing things up. That came later. 

Second, we can't underestimate the folkloric power of the terrorist,
for lack of a better description. Societies have always had their
heroic rebels and outlaws. I would say that the folkloric power of an
outlaw group or terrorist goes up in fairly direct proportion to the
power of the government they are opposing. Of course, with information
technology, that effect could be greatly magnified.

While terrorist organizations do not contribute much, in the end, that
doesn't mean they are in danger of dying out. And frankly, in this day
and age it doesn't take many of them to have a disproportionate and
very ugly effect. 
  
inkwell.vue.262 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2006
permalink #111 of 129: Frank Shannon (bumbaugh) Thu 12 Jan 06 08:53
    
Frank writes:

Bruce- I was hoping for some crazy rants, but I guess we had to settle for
reasonable discourse.

Still if civilization collapses, the difference between 6 billion deaths and
6 billion and change deaths isn't going to matter to most of us.  We should
probably do what we can to avoid the collapse of civilization if possible.

Right now I'm feeling like there is a balancing act going on which gets more
and more difficult all the time.
  
inkwell.vue.262 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2006
permalink #112 of 129: clloyda (bumbaugh) Thu 12 Jan 06 08:55
    
"clloyda" writes:


Terrorism has been added to the vocabulary of rebellious youth. There is a
lot of it because there are many young people. Old people get them to strap
on the bombs.

The long range solution might be birth control, like in Freakonomics. When
the population ages, who will do the work? Who will do the terror?
  
inkwell.vue.262 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2006
permalink #113 of 129: William F. Stockton (yesway) Thu 12 Jan 06 09:25
    
>The long range solution might be birth control, like in Freakonomics.
When the population ages, who will do the work? Who will do the
terror?

I just heard about the extremity of the developing age demographic
tilt occuring in China and India. How will the few young support the
many old? What mechanism exists, or will arise, to provide for a
Sino-Indian populace w/ an average age of 60 (projected for +-
2040)that expects to enjoy a new and improved living standard? Can we
engineer our way out of a food/resources crunch of those proportions ? 
  
inkwell.vue.262 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2006
permalink #114 of 129: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 12 Jan 06 10:16
    
I don't think we're likely to confront the difference between six
billion and six billion and change.  Of course that isn't going to
matter to most of us, because most of us would be dead.  In another 200
years though, excepting of course for Ray Kurzweil, ALL of us are
going to be dead, and if there were some human loose-change around,
they would be human loose-change who had been around for two centuries.
 They, the people from two centuries from now, wouldn't care about us
or Kurt Vonnegut; they would have some kind of business as usual under
way.

Apocalypse is an intellectual vice.  If civilization collapses or
takes a major hit,  it's  gonna be like living in New Orleans now, only
on a planetary scale.  New Orleans took its nightmare scenario and now
they're arguing about real-estate.   We don't have no New Orleans. 
We've got a wrecked New Orleans.  Furthermore, next year we may well
have a re-wrecked New Orleans.  It may be that watching New Orleans get
wrecked is the new normal.  

 If half of New Orleans had drowned and we'd had to bury them all,
that would have been very scarifying and traumatizing, but by now, they
would STILL be talking about real-estate.  In Hiroshima they talk
about real estate. Outside Dachau they talk about real-estate.   If the
ecosystem collapses and half of us die along with Kurt Vonnegut,  the
survivors, which means half of us, will have to deal with the
consequences for the rest of our lives.  Talking about "Apocalypse"
gets us absolutely nowhere.  It just means we're talking about
something unthinkable with theological terms, as if God would end the
world for us because our imagination lacks capacity.   Even if you're a
Christian you ought to recognize that demanding an Apocalypse doesn't
make it so; you're not the Boss, you don't get to end history on your
own say-so.

We need to get over talking about Utopia and Oblivion.  Those are the
kinds of mental blinkers that got us into this mess in the first place.
  
inkwell.vue.262 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2006
permalink #115 of 129: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 12 Jan 06 10:25
    
I think echodog is right about Hamas.  There are a lot of political
parties with terrorist wings who ended up in government.    Hamas might
become a real government if they weren't clinging to a no-mans-land
that gets rolled over, bombed and shelled by Israelis, Syrians, and
Palestinians.  A lot of terrorists have a Robin-Hood giveaway wing; 
Osama bin Laden was famous for charities and hospitals.

They still have severe organizational problems if they can't get
votes, though.  Global guerrilla groups lack checks and balances, they
can't redress internal grievances, they can't sign treaties, and they
lack good mechanisms for transfer of power.  Hamas gets votes.  They
might be able to achieve all those other things, too, in which case
they might turn into the Irish or the East Timorese, some day.
  
inkwell.vue.262 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2006
permalink #116 of 129: Gail Williams (gail) Thu 12 Jan 06 10:43
    

> Apocalypse is an intellectual vice.

Deeply egotistical, too.   Why, the idea that the world might outlive me!
Apocalypse is vanity on a grandiose scale.
  
inkwell.vue.262 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2006
permalink #117 of 129: William F. Stockton (yesway) Thu 12 Jan 06 12:14
    
I don't think there's going to be an apocalypse. I'm more worried that
Snowcrash World (a world devoid of a commons)will actually manifest. I
don't want my kids to have to live in that world when they are old.
  
inkwell.vue.262 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2006
permalink #118 of 129: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 12 Jan 06 14:28
    
You're assuming the Metaverse would have no commons? 
  
inkwell.vue.262 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2006
permalink #119 of 129: William F. Stockton (yesway) Thu 12 Jan 06 15:36
    
I'm concerned that there will be nothing remotely resembling
wilderness. That's why I bought some and set it aside. But I'm no Ted
Turner and, even if there were lots of private landowners like that, it
wouldn't be enough. The capital gang has a big headstart in every
respect.
  
inkwell.vue.262 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2006
permalink #120 of 129: Gail Williams (gail) Thu 12 Jan 06 15:54
    

Yeah.  And with the new eminment domain law one can imagine a court 
deciding that private wilderness was economic blight, for that matter, 
and handing it over to a corporation.   

In some ways, with communication and garbage reaching the whole planet, 
wilderness as John Muir or even Ansel Adams knew it -- in a "modern" 
non-adversarial but "pristine" sense -- is already gone.  Not that 
fighting for some land to be other than real estate is not worthwhile.
Good for you for setting some aside.
  
inkwell.vue.262 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2006
permalink #121 of 129: Carl LaFong (mcdee) Thu 12 Jan 06 16:09
    
There's a big difference between having one New Orleans and having an
entire world like New Orleans.
  
inkwell.vue.262 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2006
permalink #122 of 129: William F. Stockton (yesway) Thu 12 Jan 06 16:12
    
Make sure to include a well funded Land Trust in your Gang.
  
inkwell.vue.262 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2006
permalink #123 of 129: William F. Stockton (yesway) Thu 12 Jan 06 16:19
    
We have about a quarter of a world "like New Orleans". Check out
Mogadishu, Madagascar, Manila, Mexico City, Mosul and that's just a few
of the M's. 
  
inkwell.vue.262 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2006
permalink #124 of 129: Carl LaFong (mcdee) Thu 12 Jan 06 16:26
    
Good point.
  
inkwell.vue.262 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2006
permalink #125 of 129: Gail Williams (gail) Thu 12 Jan 06 16:30
    

I dunno... there are aspects of NOLA right now that are like no other place!
The vast ghost-town of grey, drowned, rotting neighborhoods with a tiny 
rim of functioning city  --  and the current fight about whether the city 
should return in a smaller footprint and who is not allowed to rebuild -- 
is pretty unusual.  (I was just there, and posted pictures and comments 
here:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/gail/sets/1747668/ )  
  

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