inkwell.vue.289 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2007
permalink #26 of 104: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 4 Jan 07 03:43
    
*No, I don't have a public list of bookmarks, if you don't
count my WIRED blog.
http://blog.wired.com/sterling/

*I used to have "sources."  I can't say I do that much any more. 
These days it seems to be mostly about Sphere, Technorati, Feedster,
Digg, Reddit and Google.  I've joined the people and machines who are
boiling it all down to an insidious algorithmic flow of liquid chunks
of deep-linked micromedia.

And even below that, it's tags.  I use search engines to look
methodically for words.  Neologisms, commonly.  I learn a lot from
using machines to track jargon.  

I used to be fanatically devoted to paper books and magazines.  
Nowadays I splash around in formless electronic pools of web semantics.
 I don't even "research" any more -- I can research stuff in seconds
flat.  Instead, I spend a lot of my time doing the work that editors
and publishers used to do: trying to invest the slushpile with some
credibility.  "I found this stuff pronto: but is it all a pack of
lies?"

That's where it helps to have friends: but even if you've got 'em, on
the Net they tend to agglomerate into echo-chambers and whispering
campaigns.  The Internet is really coming into its own now, and it's
scary how intrinsically different it is from previous forms of media. 
The deeper you dig into what it's really good at, the more alien it
becomes.
  
inkwell.vue.289 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2007
permalink #27 of 104: Ludo, Ergo Sum (robertflink) Thu 4 Jan 07 05:22
    
>the Donald is a cornball blingbling TV showman, he's like a
poor guy's comic-book version of a rich guy.<

I think I detect some material in the statement that may capture the
state of the USA if not the world at the present time.
  
inkwell.vue.289 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2007
permalink #28 of 104: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 4 Jan 07 06:45
    
Alex Steffen wants to know how your fiction's coming along, and what
challenges the pace of current events presents to writing SF novels
these days?
  
inkwell.vue.289 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2007
permalink #29 of 104: Michael Heap (bumbaugh) Thu 4 Jan 07 08:23
    
Michael Heap writes, from off-Well:


Hi Bruce
 
>Iraq's a petrocracy.  With the signal exception of Norway, practically
>every nation or smashed-nation that has oil is in turmoil, running
>scared, rattling sabers, or just plain catching it in the neck.
>There's a global war for oil, but we're not getting more oil by using
>bayonets; we're getting less.
I feel there i some truth in this however lacking in other areas, having
recently relocated to the gulf (Qatar) for my job (Al jazeera),
its interesting to see how gulf countries are responding to cultural change
& Eco issues,

there is certain sense of cultural hangover here with many countries (esp in
Qatar: those distinguished by benevolent oligarchical regimes) having
traveled from camels and tents to land cruisers and palaces, (incidentally:
 petrol running at 19cents a litre here) in half a century essentially
having shifted from a Bedouin state to a late 20th-century gas fueled
Oligarchy, some in turn are mutating into middle-eastern (petro-gas
fuled) las Vegas themed holiday destinations (as is evidenced by Dubai and
the UAE), or liberal Wahhabist business & media centers (Doha), as opposed
to the fundamentalist states Iran & Saudi (often unwilling to change) in
this region which are the ones that are suffering from both politial issues,
and a disenfranchised youth that can no longer live the lifestyles of their
parents (ones that petrofunded the arabicbaby boom that has since gone
south) thees youth are the ones looking for a change, sometimes looking to
live the lifestyle that they can no longer afford, some of them looking
toward al qaeda and  radical groups, sometimes looking to lash outÂ
against the 'supposed' bourgeois west and the lifestyle that it promotes
(incidentally an idea promoted by many of the fundamentalist states re-
enforced by the media out here who dualistically promote the fall of the
west and the bourgeois western lifestyle oft presented by US & European TV
Series)
Â
these are the nations that have at least one generation that is petrofunded
and have known no different, the outcome of the youth growing into current
circumstances is not fixed, and is largely driven by government, extremist
rhetoric & media that they are exposed to.
Â
also as you say previously a green teacup at a time isnt going to solve the
situation, as is certainly evidenced here (god only knows what its like in
china and indias growing economys) rampant commercialism run wild leads to
excessive consumerism & consumption with 1in2 vehicles on the road are
4litre 4x4s with noone even thinking of global environmental circumstances,
(as a example im a  lifelong recycler, i was shocked when i arrived here
and asked about recycling - i was met with bemused stares- as if i was some
kind of crank, the idea simply hasnt crossed peoples minds) all food flown
in from abroad, double and triple shrink rapped & bagged, every room air
conditioned (i have 7 huge A/C units in my house) yet the housing isnt
insulated from the 50+degree heat.
 
with this in mind what is your opinion on the current euro green taxes on
emissions, global taxes on carbon emissions, current British subsidies and
promotion of 'green' electricity generation: isn't this all just pissing in
the wind with the rest of the 2nd world currently consuming more and more
gas/petrol/plastics, or is it just a cynical ploy of the political class to
extract more tax revenue from an increasingly more green aware burgeoning
European middle class>?


Michael Heap

--
My Blog : http://mandesert.blogspot.com/
  
inkwell.vue.289 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2007
permalink #30 of 104: Woody Evans (bumbaugh) Thu 4 Jan 07 08:24
    
Woody Evans, also NOTW, asks:




Bruce,

Is Second Life a nation?  If not, what is it?  If so, what system of
government does it have, and in what direction do you think its
governance will develop?

Thanks,
Woody Evans
http://www.woodyevans.com/blog/index.php
  
inkwell.vue.289 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2007
permalink #31 of 104: Mike Godwin (mnemonic) Thu 4 Jan 07 09:51
    

Bruce writes:

"I've got a genuine paperless office now."

What? No books?
  
inkwell.vue.289 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2007
permalink #32 of 104: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 4 Jan 07 09:53
    
*Thanks for writing in, Michael Heap.  That was interesting.  I used
to have Texan relatives out in the Gulf.  Digging up all that oil the
rest of us are burning now.

*When it comes to inherently global problems like global warming, it's
comical to watch regional players fingerpointing at everybody else. 
What, like this tiny chip called Dubai caused the North Pole to melt? 
The amount of stuff we've already spewed scarcely compares to the
amount of stuff we're likely to spew.  Everybody lives in a glass
greenhouse on this issue.  The only ones even close to a right to
fingerpoint are the Danes and maybe the Swedes.

The Arabs would stop burning oil in a hurry if the Iranians were kind
enough to nuke the straits of Hormuz.  "Oh look!  The Arabs got all
green!  They stopped shipping oil completely!"  Would we be thrilled
with the Arabs all of a sudden?  Would we be backpatting them for
sparing the world emissions by refusing to sell us any?  I don't think
so.

Suppose we didn't have a smokestack problem.  Suppose we had a sewage
problem, instead.  Suppose we were wading around knee-deep in raw
sewage.  Would we then argue: "Oh wow, the Second World is making more
sewage than us.  Their sewage rates are growing faster than our sewage
rates"?    What's the upshot of this kind of beggar-your-neighbor
argumentation? 

    If the seas rise, Dubai is sunk.  Dubai is on the coast.  Check
out these dikes they had built. It won't be fun to be a rich Arab in a
climate crisis.  It's no fun to be a rich Arab right now.

http://www.royalhaskoning.com/Royal_Haskoning/Corporate/en-GB/News/artificialr
eefdutchcoast.htm
  
inkwell.vue.289 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2007
permalink #33 of 104: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 4 Jan 07 09:55
    
Bruce writes:

"I've got a genuine paperless office now."

What? No books?

*Not zero, but fewer.  About two orders of magnitude fewer.
It's scary how little paper I read these days.  It really
is all about screens.
  
inkwell.vue.289 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2007
permalink #34 of 104: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 4 Jan 07 10:07
    

"Is Second Life a nation?  If not, what is it?  If so, what system of
government does it have, and in what direction do you think its
governance will develop?"

*Me and practically every tech commentator who ever heard of 2L thinks
that Second Life is awesome copy.  It's today's Web 2.0 and tomorrow's
3-D Web in one wacky technolibertarian community.  Except for Clay
Shirky, that is.  Clay thinks that Second Life is some kinda massively
overhyped real-estate bubble that will go the way of  virtual reality
helmets.

http://many.corante.com/archives/2006/12/12/second_life_what_are_the_real_numb
ers.php

Hey, what's Clay Shirky's opinion against that of a thousand other
guys?  Well, unfortunately, Clay Shirky is about five hundred times
smarter than most other guys, so the odds against his being right are
only two to one.
  
inkwell.vue.289 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2007
permalink #35 of 104: Jamais Cascio (cascio) Thu 4 Jan 07 10:30
    
So what's on your radar these days that most of us probably haven't caught
onto yet?
  
inkwell.vue.289 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2007
permalink #36 of 104: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 4 Jan 07 10:51
    
Hmm... I could imagine a reality where Clay's right, and so's
everybody else.

Second Life, World of Warcraft, and various other visual environments
and MMORPGs have relatively high barriers to entry while the rest of
the web is mainstreaming. Your average MySpace denizen won't
necessarily have the chops, the technology, or the *patience* to make
much of an entry into Second Life, so those who go there get that
exclusive temporary autonomous zone vibe that was part of the mojo of
the early Internet, before everybody and his grandmother could connect
with what we like to call "broadband" and wander into pretty much any
web-based community, looking for a virtual bridge game.  Linden Labs
will eventually find a way to make Second Life fast and easy, and fill
the place with everyone from libidinous teens to slightly hip
grandmothers. Either that, or it'll be unsupportable and unravel,
leaving virtual land speculators byteless and broke.
  
inkwell.vue.289 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2007
permalink #37 of 104: Christian Crumlish (xian) Thu 4 Jan 07 11:58
    
Clay is great at cutting against the grain. He has excellent instincts
for deflating pomposity and popping hype bubbles. I'm definitely
skeptical about Second Life but one thing I've noticed is that people
really want to talk about. 

If I mention that I've dabbled there or that the Information
Architecture Institute is exploring setting up a presence there, people
from all walks of life at holiday parties these last few weeks had
thousands of questions about it (not all about virtual sex) and really
found the topic intriguing.

This may simply be a mirror of the journalists' realization that it
makes good copy or the self-similarity involved in hypey companies
setting up hypey initiates in SL with hypey PR announcements done
there, but I still find it interesting how much people find it
interesting.

Also, I suspect that long after the SL bubble has popped (some) people
will still be engaged in immersive virtual environments, whether with
helmets or mouse pointers or Wii-like gestures or whatever.
  
inkwell.vue.289 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2007
permalink #38 of 104: Jamais Cascio (cascio) Thu 4 Jan 07 12:38
    
I think one issue with SL is that it's really two very different
experiences, depending upon your interests. For some people -- in
particular, the people who get the most media attention and generate the
greatest pundit interest -- SL is Lego on digital steroids, a way to quite
literally build yourself a new world. That's very cool, very interesting,
and very much not the majority activity on SL. 

The majority activity (from everything I've experienced and read about it)
is chat, often sex chat, sometimes with some dress-up thrown into the mix.
That's what most of the people who read an article about SL and check it
out run into (again, IME). Clearly the combo of chat & Lego is interesting 
enough for a few thousand regulars (up to over 5K concurrently, from a 
recent report), but it's not yet enough to topple WoW, let alone TV.
  
inkwell.vue.289 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2007
permalink #39 of 104: Damon Lippert posted by (bumbaugh) Thu 4 Jan 07 13:07
    
Damon writes us:

Bruce and Jon,

      More and more climate change realists are steering the
conversation away from "preventing" climate change  into ideas on how
to live with the changes.

How does this change bode for the future dialogue on climate change?

Does this change focus the argument more on "We have to take care of
this now! Bust out the $$$!" or " Oh, Well. This confirms we should
just continue the practices that makes us short term money now."

Does the fatalism inherent in mitigation technologies lead to the
self-fulfilling prophecy of climate change?

Damon Lippert
  
inkwell.vue.289 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2007
permalink #40 of 104: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 4 Jan 07 13:37
    <scribbled by jonl Thu 4 Jan 07 21:09>
  
inkwell.vue.289 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2007
permalink #41 of 104: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 4 Jan 07 21:11
    
Second Life is a novel environment, creative and whacky - you can
*fly* while you're there. The fascination is understandable, no? To
some it smells like money, to others it smells like revolution.

Bruce, Damon's question is a good one: is mitigation a solution or a
retreat?
  
inkwell.vue.289 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2007
permalink #42 of 104: Sofia's Choice (amicus) Thu 4 Jan 07 22:00
    

Only a couple of tangential references to Iran... what do you think will
happen there, and what could have happened, had our Cowboy in Chief hadn't
jabbed that hot Evil Axis brand into their backsides?
  
inkwell.vue.289 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2007
permalink #43 of 104: Jamais Cascio (cascio) Thu 4 Jan 07 22:04
    
(Rumor that Khameini has died hitting the net, btw.)
  
inkwell.vue.289 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2007
permalink #44 of 104: Howard Berkey (howard) Thu 4 Jan 07 22:07
    
Whoa.
  
inkwell.vue.289 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2007
permalink #45 of 104: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Fri 5 Jan 07 03:11
    
#35 of 44: Jamais Cascio (cascio) Thu 04 Jan 2007 (10:30 AM)

So what's on your radar these days that most of us probably haven't
caught onto yet?

*You mean, what do I know that JAMAIS CASCIO doesn't already know? 
Man, that's a good question.  I reckon I know a lot of exotic stuff
about Serbian restaurant menus.

*I guess the number-one premonition on my radar these days is serious
trouble in the RFID biz.  These RFID guys were kind of the polar
opposite of Second Life; there was scarcely any gleeful popular hype
about their technology, and they were expecting to make a ton of money 
from the business world right off the bat.  They got the imperial
heavy-hitters at the top of the supply-chain, Wal-Mart, Defense
Department, et al, to gather in a smoke-filled room and issue mandates
to tag most everything with radio-frequency identity chips.  That was
three years ago.

There was a lot of fear uncertainty and doubt in the civil lib crowd
about this project, because it's such an obvious and blatant invasion
of privacy.  Nobody seemed to forecast that the market itself would
turn so mulish.  Sticking tiny computer chips onto everything costs a
lot of money.  And though that grand scheme would definitely pay for
Wal-Mart, it isn't paying for the people who are actually doing the
sticking.  They're not in open rebellion, but they're passively
non-cooperating.  It's sorta like: suppose we installed Total
Information Awareness and nobody plugged in the cameras.  

Nobody wants to pay out of their own pockets to make Wal-Mart into the
Microsoft of the planet's supply chain.

Two years of loss-leading in business and you can kind of skate over
the problem, but three years and no money to speak of, and you're
starting to look kinda weird.  This year the industry's boosters are
doing a lot of smoke-and-mirrors hyping of lab-stuff that barely
exists: RFID in Australian cattle, RFID in American passports, RFID in
toll-booths, RFID in cellphones.  That's a pretty far cry from a
ubiquitous computing app that would enable tomorrow's Internet of
Things.  

Kind of a pity, because I wrote a really nifty book about that
prospect.  It wouldn't be the first beautiful design-theory slain by an
ugly fact-on-the-ground.

There is the possibility now that Wal-Mart's CompuServe model is
buckling, the RFID biz may be replaced by something more like an
emergent, bottom-up Internet model.  But I don't see how the people who
started that first scheme can possibly by the ones to start the other.
 It's just not in their nature: it's like expecting the phone company
to sponsor spam, porn and Wikipedia.
  
inkwell.vue.289 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2007
permalink #46 of 104: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Fri 5 Jan 07 03:33
    
Alex Steffen wants to know how your fiction's coming along, and what
challenges the pace of current events presents to writing SF novels
these days?

*Well, I'm writing some.  I got a piece out in the January 2007
MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION that's one of the best science
fiction stories I ever wrote.

*The pace of current events doesn't scare me much, at least, not from
a sci-fi perspective.  The *direction* of current events is horrifying,
but it's not like it's hard to outguess.  People have been forecasting
climate change for 50 years.  That's not going away.  Fundamentalists
have been invading secular politics for 50 years.  That's not going
away.  The Internet is 45, maybe 50 years old, depending on how you
count it.  It's not going away.  Unless you count some kind of ghastly
climate tipping-point, we don't have any Singularities at hand.  Not
even close.

The worst part about writing science fiction is the publishing and
distribution system.  Practically everything we know about literature
and popular literate culture is predicated on the use of ink on paper. 
I was a big fan of that stuff, but if you find a kid under 20 today
who's exclusively into ink on paper, he's some kind of weird
antiquarian.  

Every Warcraft addict and Second Life lego-fanatic is somebody who
gafiated from science fiction fandom and into social practices a lot
more 21C.  There is a major fire in the basement there; it's like the
death of the pulp magazines, only much, much more so.

So I can write science fiction, and even get it in print, but I no
longer quite know who the readers are,  why they're reading that, and
why they're not doing something else.  Lord knows *I'm* doing something
else.  If they're my readers, why aren't they doing what I'm doing:
websurfing their heads off?  What can I tell them with novels that they
don't already know?  

I got a novel underway right now that's got some serious novelty in
it, but man this book has been hard to write.  It's a novel about life
in the future, and nobody would dream of reading a novel in this
extrapolated culture.  Sixty thousand linear words in a row?  No
graphics?  No hotlinks?  And I turn the pages?  You're joking.
  
inkwell.vue.289 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2007
permalink #47 of 104: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Fri 5 Jan 07 03:53
    
Damon writes us:

Bruce and Jon,

      More and more climate change realists are steering the
conversation away from "preventing" climate change  into ideas on how
to live with the changes.

How does this change bode for the future dialogue on climate change?

Does the fatalism inherent in mitigation technologies lead to the
self-fulfilling prophecy of climate change?


*This one's dead obvious.  There isn't any "prophecy" or "prevention"
involved any more.  A climate crisis is here now.  Realism says that
it's here now and it's getting worse fast.  There isn't any way to get
along with that prospect and think it's groovy.  It's a 50 year old
issue; today it's a big issue; 20 years from now, it's THE issue.  

*It's not about prevention, mitigation or adjustment.   The first
already failed and the second two are not possible.  So it's about
remediation.  Repairing the damage.   An atmosphere upgrade.  Obviously
we have to stop intensifying the damage, but if we further expect to
avoid collapse, we have to undo the damage already done.  

This isn't a modish thing to think and say in 2007, it sounds kinda
grim, farfetched and scary.  The modish things to think and say in 2007
are the kinda grim, farfetched and scary things that I was saying in
1998.

  If you go sample popular opinion in 2016, of course it's going to be
about cleaning up the sky.  The only variable there is whether people
will be also be cleaning up heaps of bodies in the wrecks of major
cities as they're doing that.  The variable depends entirely on how
quickly we knock it off with the delusionary crap and just get after
the job at hand.  
  
inkwell.vue.289 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2007
permalink #48 of 104: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 5 Jan 07 04:50
    
That raises the question Jamais talked about at Worldchanging some
time ago: in reparing the damage via geoengineering, what geoethical
principles will we adopt and follow? 
(http://www.worldchanging.com/archives/003189.html)
  
inkwell.vue.289 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2007
permalink #49 of 104: Christian Crumlish (xian) Fri 5 Jan 07 09:53
    
Got a bit of a curveball for you, Bruce. Have you read "Mycelium
Running" or anything else by Paul Stamets? If so, any thoughts on his
idea that mycelia constitute "nature's internet" and a possibly
sentient neural net for Gaia? (I've just started reading the book and
was quite willing to write it off as hippie/psilocybist hooey but I
have to admit there are some pretty compelling ideas in thar.)
  
inkwell.vue.289 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2007
permalink #50 of 104: Andrew Alden (alden) Fri 5 Jan 07 10:25
    
Soil bacteria were shown last year to connect themselves in networks of
electrically conductive filaments--nanowires. Google "pnas gorby" for
details: author Gorby published in PNAS on 10 July 2006.
  

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