inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #0 of 240: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 4 Jan 12 06:18
    
Welcome to our annual State of the World jam on the WELL, or Whole
Earth 'Lectronic Link, which has been hosting high quality "social
media" via sustained conversations since 1985, and has hosted our
annual State of the World conversation for thirteen years, since 2000.
So we've covered the first decade plus of the 21st century, and the
world's been a little crazier and more volatile every year since we
started. The reality we're in today is reflected in responses I got
when I asked my online social network what they thought we would cover.
They suggested a diverse list: climate change, Arab spring and social
media-driven political upheaval, courage, "1984," Fahrenheit 451, the
future of Occupy, global economics, underground economies, cyberwar,
favela chic, dead media, the future of the Internet in light of pending
legislation (SOPA etc.) and emerging alternative networks, space wars,
and private drone fleets (for tactical protest command, celebrity
capture, and industrial intelligence).

Over the last couple of years, I kept hearing this question: "Where
the hell is my flying car?" We should all re-read William Gibson's
short story "The Gernsback Continuum" as preparation for the next two
weeks (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Gernsback_Continuum).

Who we are:

Bruce Sterling is a science fiction author, journalist, design
theorist and critic, public speaker, and world traveler. Currently
based in Italy, Serbia, and Austin, Texas, he spends much of his time
on the road, and has a truly global perspective which you see in his
novels, nonfiction pieces, and his blog, "Beyond the Beyond." In
addition to his novels, Bruce has focused on the cutting edges of
digital/hacker culture, climate change, global politics, and
contemporary design. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bruce_sterling. He
founded the Viridian Design movement, the Dead Media project, and is
currently fired up about augmented reality and design fiction.

Jon Lebkowsky has been an Internet evangelist and expert, web
consultant/developer, social commentator, gonzo futurist, media analyst
and critic, and sometimes activist. He was a cofounder of FringeWare,
Inc., an early digital culture company/community, and has worked with
and written for bOING bOING, Mondo 2000, Whole Earth, Plutopia
Productions, Digital Convergence Initiative, Wireless Future, the
Society for Participatory Medicine, EFF and EFF-Austin, the WELL,
WorldChanging, SXSW, Social Web Strategies, et al.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jon_Lebkowsky

If you're reading this, and you're not a member of the WELL, you can
still ask questions or send comments: just email to inkwell at
well.com.
  
inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #1 of 240: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 4 Jan 12 06:28
    
Throughout the world, especially in the U.S. (with the GOP political
circus du jour), we see persistent focus on the politics of the various
nation-states, yet those entities are increasingly broke and
powerless, their poetical and economic force is waning. What other
forces are driving the thrust of current events? Corporations? Big
media? The "1%"? David Icke's reptilian humanoids? 
  
inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #2 of 240: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Wed 4 Jan 12 17:53
    
Hi!  Good to be back!  I brought my straw hat and cane.

That's always an interesting question, about the forces driving
current events and future ones,  "the significant change drivers." 
What differences are making a difference?

I've tended to emphasize climate change, urbanization and
demographics.  Those are big and significant changes in the world,  but
also pretty easy to measure and quantify.   That's like hunting for
futurity under the street-lights where it's nice and bright.

So I often tell people that the mid-century will be about "old people
in big cities who are afraid of the sky."  I think that's a pretty
useful, common-sense, plausible assessment.   You may not hear it said
much, but it's how things are  turning out.

Futurity means metropolitan people with small families in a weather
crisis.  That's because quite a few of us already are those people. 
Future already here, just not much pontificated about.

But that doesn't mean I can make everybody perceive that reality.  For
instance, right-wing American talk radio guys also have a set of
favorite change-drivers.  They're sure the world is changing, and
anxious that everyone should know the hidden truths about why.
  
inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #3 of 240: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Wed 4 Jan 12 17:55
    

FUTURE CHANGE  AS SEEN BY AMERICAN RIGHT-WING TALK RADIO, 2011/12.

1. Existential threats to the American Constitution.  Mostly from
"Sharia Law," which is sort of like the American Constitution for
Moslem Islamofascists.

2. Imminent collapse of  all fiat currencies, somehow leading to
everyday use of fungible gold bars.

3. Sudden, frightening rise of violent, unemployable, disease-carrying
"Occupy Wall Street" anarchists who are bent on intimidation and
repressing free speech.

4. Hordes of immigrants being illegally encouraged to flood the polls.

5.  Lethal and immoral US government health-care.

6.  Radical Gay Agenda / Litigious Feminazis (tie).

7.  God's Will. Surprisingly low-key, considering what an all-purpose
justification this is.
  
inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #4 of 240: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Wed 4 Jan 12 17:57
    

FUTURE CHANGE AS SEEN BY THE PEOPLE'S  REPUBLIC OF CHINA

1. Continue trend of seize the planet's physical means of production
by underpricing everyone else, and enduring the pollution and harsh
labor conditions.  To back off now after such grand, demonstrable
success would be stupid.

2.  Engineer new Chinese material infrastructures of all kinds;
highways, power grids, urban real estate, moon shots, supercomputers,
genetics labs, chip fabs, fab labs, you name it.  Offer to build some
for client states, too.

3. Reverse annoying trends in "international law," because that's
actually Western hegemony.

4. Accelerate collapse of "intellectual property" because it's
actually rentier feudalism.

5. Defeat "international finance" because it's crazy, it doesn't work,
and it deprives state regimes of command over their economies.
  
inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #5 of 240: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Wed 4 Jan 12 18:02
    

FUTURE CHANGE AS SEEN BY CYBERCULTURE

1. Smartphones!  They make the Silicon Valley of the 1980s look like
the railroads of the 1880s!

2. The almighty Moore's Law commands acceleration -- not just in
processors, but also in storage and bandwidth, hurrah!  If anything
alse can possibly be made to act in accordance with Moore's Law, go for
it!  Brains, genes, teledildonics, anthrax, kidporn, we don't care,
double it in 18 months!

3. SOPA / PIPA / War on General Computation!  No compromise with the
enemy even if they're us!

4. Tactical Media / Occupy / Arab Spring /Facebook-Twitter Revolution!
 Any revolution's great as long as our gadgets are construed to cause
it!

 Quietly ditch all former enthusiastic changes once so similar to 1,
2, 3, 4... These former digital megatrends are to be tossed flaming
into the memory hole:  any "personal" computing that isn't "social'; 
anything "Web 2.0;" any low-bandwidth remnants of Web 1.0; information
superhighways, software that came in boxes; Blackberries, Nokias, IE6,
etc etc etc.  

That stuff's all "Obsolete Before Plateau," as the Gartner Hype Cycle
decrees.
  
inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #6 of 240: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Wed 4 Jan 12 18:06
    

SOME FRINGE BELIEFS ABOUT FUTURE CHANGES

It's surprising how little vitality these have nowadays.  Instead of
fanaticallly dedicating themselves to narrow, all-explanatory cults,
people just sort of eyeblink at 'em and move on to the next similiar
topic.  In a true Network Society, all fringe beliefs about the future
seem to be more or less equivalent, like Visa, American Express and
Mastercard.  "Conservatism" conserves nothing; there is no
"progression" in which to progress.

Peak Oil.  Oil probably "peaked" quite some time ago, but the "peak"
itself doesn't seem to bother markets much. The imaginary Armageddon
got old-fashioned fast. Peak Oil has peaked.

Islamic Caliphate...  With the collapse of so many Arab regimes, these
guys are in the condition of dogs that caught a taxi.  "Sharia Law" is
practically useless for any contemporary purpose, and Arabs never
agree about anything except forcing non-Arabs to believe.  

Chemtrails.  These guys are pitiable loons, but they're interesting
harbingers of a future when even scientific illiterates are deathly
afraid of the sky.  It's interesting that we have cults of people who
walk outside and read the sky like a teacup.   I've got a soft spot for
chemtrail people, they're really just sort of cool, and much more
interesting than UFO cultists, who are all basically Christians.  Jesus
is always the number one Saucer Brother in UFO contactee cults.  It's
incredible how little imagination the saucer people have.

BitCoin.  An ultimate Internet hacker fad.  You'd think they were
encrypting food and shelter, what with the awesome enthusiasm they had
for this abstract scheme.

Space Travel people.  Visible mostly by their absence nowadays.  About
the only ones left are nutcase one-percenters of a certain generation,
with money to burn on their private space yachts.  This was such a
huge narrative of the consensus future, for such a long time, that it's
really interesting to see it die in public.   There's no popular
understanding of why space cities don't work, though if you told them
they'd have to spend the rest of their lives in the fuselage of a 747
at 30,000 feet, they'd be like "Gosh that's terrible."

Transcendant spiritual drug enthusiasts.  People consume unbelievable
amounts of narcotics nowadays, but there used to be gentle, unworldly
characters who genuinely thought this practice was good for you, and
would give you marijuana and psychedelics because they were convinced
they were doing you a big, life-changing favor.   

You go into one of those medical marijuana dispensaries nowadays,
they're like huckster chiropractors, basically.  The whole
ethical-free-spirit surround of the psychedelic dreamtime is gone. 
It's like the tie-dyed guys toking up in the ashram have been replaced
by the carcasses of 12,000 slaughtered Mexicans.

Nuclear Armageddon enthusiasts.  Kind of a flicker-of-interest for
this around Iran right now.  Nothing compared to the colossal cultural
influence that this paradigm once commanded.  The WMD invasion of Iraq,
kind of the last hurrah for this, it's tragedy redone as farce.  

You show somebody a Dr Strangelove mushroom cloud these days, they're
like, "What is that, Fukushima?  I don't get it."

I could go on about other people's futurisms.  Doing Italy and Serbia
is tempting. But despite the variegated change-drivers that these
interest-groups imagine, I remain pretty sure that all these groups are
heading for a future world where they're elderly, urbanized and afraid
of the sky.   

Even if you believe in reptiloids, you're gonna be a
reptiloid-believing guy in a pretty big town with a lot of your
neighbors pushing walkers in a heat wave.  
  
inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #7 of 240: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 4 Jan 12 22:09
    
I'm thinking H.G. Wells would never have written the hyperpessimistic
"Mind at the End of Its Tether" if he'd had a televison set, 24-hour
cable, high-speed Internet access and accounts on Facebook and Twitter.
Our heads are buzzing with possibility, spinning ever faster into the
alternate realities that your various futurisms suggest. I say
"realities," but I'm not sure the word "reality" has much weight these
days - more like competing fantasies, in the sense that Kesey et al
talked about "the current fantasy" and others of us talked about
"believing your own bullshit." Conflicting, competing narratives are
the real games we play. Wells thought he was seeing human extinction,
though it might have been his own personal extinction getting under his
skin. We all have an expiration date, and that can be liberating or
maddening, depending how you take it.

The Pentagon is bending light to hide events:
http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2012/01/time-hole/ "This is the first
time that scientists have succeeded in masking an event, though
research teams have in recent years made remarkable strides in cloaking
objects." They've teleported Obama to Mars:
http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2012/01/obama-mars/all/. 

One more from Wired... the more we know, the less we understand:
http://www.wired.com/magazine/2011/12/ff_causation/all/1 "... a cause
is not a fact, and it never will be; the things we can see will always
be bracketed by what we cannot. And this is why, even when we know
everything about everything, we’ll still be telling stories about why
it happened. It’s mystery all the way down."
  
inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #8 of 240: Polishing my titanium walker (tcn) Thu 5 Jan 12 03:08
    
Two more to bat around...the singularity folks would have us believe
everything should be rosy by 2050 (I take it that's a bust in your
view)and Corey Doctorow sees a looming battle for control of
computation in general: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HUEvRyemKSg.

 
  
inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #9 of 240: Rob Myers (robmyers) Thu 5 Jan 12 04:39
    
I'd be interested in the Italian and Serbian views as I have friends
from both of those countries. :-)

And in what way is Cory not just echoing rms?
  
inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #10 of 240: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 5 Jan 12 05:57
    
Ted, I suppose we need another category of, FUTURE CHANGE AS SEEN BY 
SINGULARITY WRANGLERS:

* Intelligence explodes as humans augment and amplify their
capabilities.

* Some variation of Skynet becomes self-aware and resets all our
clocks.

* Hyperinteliigent cyborganic lifeforms emerge from the stew of smart
genetics and smarter biochips. 

* Intelligent machines recognize that human entities are feral,
carnal, planet-busting organisms, even in their enhanced state. They
plug humans in to pods and produce a consensus hallucination called The
Matrix… 

"The Matrix is a system, Neo. That system is our enemy. But when
you're inside, you look around, what do you see? Businessmen, teachers,
lawyers, carpenters. The very minds of the people we are trying to
save. But until we do, these people are still a part of that system and
that makes them our enemy. You have to understand, most of these
people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inured,
so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect
it."

Someone like Gurdjieff - someone who has explored in depth the reality
and inherent limitations of the human organism - would chuckle at the
"intelligence" premise behind all this. Entities that are meta-unaware
will more likely replicate their un-awareness, than create machines or
cyborganisms with hyper-awareness or ultra-intelligence.  We should
probably focus less on "singularity" and more on the waning potential
for survival as a species. 
  
inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #11 of 240: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 5 Jan 12 08:11
    
Future Change as Seen by Italy

The "Crisis."  The planet's finance crisis, as seen by Italians, has
been conflated with all other forms of local discontent and is just
"The Crisis."  The Crisis is like the "Years of Lead" of the 1970s, and
is a general social bad mood that explains and excuses pretty much any
misfortune:  train running late, "the Crisis," cat threw up a
hairball, "the Crisis," etc.  Sometimes it gets more acute and
sometimes less, but it's always there and it dominates discourse.

The "Mud Machine."  This is the Berlusconi media empire, which engages
in the unique practice of suppressing dissent by suggesting that
everybody in Italy equally useless and crooked, so why  even bother. 
After all, everybody in Italy would have orgies involving underage
illegal-alien Moslem prostitutes if they had the chance, so why get all
worked up; mind your own business.  The Mud Machine works because
Italians enjoy being cynical about themselves.  Nobody wants to be seen
as the chump, so everybody ends up being victimized.

The Mud Machine is in fine form and works whether Berlusconi is in
power or not; and as long as leggy showgirls can strut their stuff on
TV, it even makes money.

The "Caste."  Since Italy has had a very low birthrate for a very long
time, it's dawning on people that everybody in power is amazingly old
and that young people can't get a job or a house.   Since the guys at
the top of the heap never really leave power or change their policies,
they are increasingly decried as the "Caste."  Unfortunately for the
young, old people vote very regularly and aren't gonna vote against
themselves.  Japan suffers a similar political helplessness; there's
just not enough fresh blood to renew the state.  It's gerontocracy in
action and it's getting worse.  Italy now has a "technocratic"
emergency government, but they're all old guys.

"Europe."  The Italian version of "Europe" is different from other
people's versions of "Europe," mostly because "Europe" is so much
better-governed than Italy.  If Italy hadn't founded the European
Union, Italy wouldn't be allowed into it now, because Italy's too
decadent and ramshackle to live up to the standards.  So, every once in
a while some kind of cold European economic/political breeze will ooze
over the Alps; and Italians rarely complain; on the contrary, they're
grateful for it and hope for better.  Like, maybe "Europe" will somehow
dispell the "Crisis" without Italians having to do much of anything,
and wow, that would be great.

Illegal immigrants.  There are lots in Italy, and they come from
various terrible places where the Italian military used to hang out,
such as Libya and Somalia.  Internal immigrants from southern Italy
seem practically as bad.  Every once in a while waves of immigrants
show up because NATO drones are blowing up some place and the situation
becomes acute.    There's a vague sense that they all ought to be
swept up and cast offshore before something dreadful happens, but
society's too old to wield a broom, as that's a chore mostly reserved
for the "clandestines."  But any glance at a modern Italian
elementary-school class shows that the next generation's multi-racial
and multi-ethnic.  Just a matter of time.
  
inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #12 of 240: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 5 Jan 12 08:18
    
I'm thinking H.G. Wells would never have written the hyperpessimistic
"Mind at the End of Its Tether" if he'd had a televison set, 24-hour
cable, high-speed Internet access and accounts on Facebook and
Twitter.

*Yeah, he would have written it anyway, because he was dying, and all
the mediation in the world can't help that.  It's an interesting book,
even though he shouldn't have written it.  Wells wasn't himself in
those last pain-wracked days, and his judgment was disturbed, but Wells
had such awesomely disciplined work habits that if he'd perished in a
flaming train wreck he would have scribbled out "mind at the caboose of
a wrecked train."
  
inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #13 of 240: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Thu 5 Jan 12 08:26
    
>We should probably focus less on "singularity" and more on the waning
potential for survival as a species.<

That really seems to be the theme. What do you both see as potentially
positive responses to that dilemma?
  
inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #14 of 240: David Wilson (dlwilson) Thu 5 Jan 12 09:03
    
short of watching that video could you give us the Cliff's Notes
version of "singularity?"
  
inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #15 of 240: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 5 Jan 12 09:20
    
Ted asks, re the potential end-of-species: "What do you both see as
potentially positive responses to that dilemma?"

I'm not feeling especially apocalyptic. In a chemically altered moment
some years ago, I had a minor sense of the infinite: I was riding off
into the sunrise, and realized the credits weren't rolling, the lights
weren't coming up, the screen wasn't blanking. Species extinction might
be less a reality than species morphing. We still have dinosaurs, only
much smaller, and with wings.

Then again, we all die at some point, and species extinction does
happen. It could be that we're on that caboose Bruce just mentioned,
and the force of the train's shattering collapse is incontrovertible.

The best we can do is focus on solutions, and find ways to work
together to sustain, not just the life of our species, but the quality
of that life.

We're having a breakdown right now, and you can see signs of it
everywhere. Our best hope is that it's just a cycle. When you're in a
down cycle, everything seems to be collapsing, but at some point, that
can hopefully reverse.

Our depression du jour is from a loss of confidence. You can see it in
the Tea Party and the Occupy Movement - what they have in common is a
lack of confidence in the status quo of governance. But they haven't
offered solutions, really. A society requires governance, it can't be
every man for himself (the libertarian ideal) or mob rule (a potential
consequence of "pure democracy"). Government should be a mediation of a
society's desires and its necessities through some reasonable,
principled body. The participatory governance we have in the U.S.
generally works pretty well, though we're on a down side because
legislators and judges are especially corrupt and unprincipled at the
moment. We depend on a commitment to justice that we're not seeing at
the moment. But that can change.

I was initially positive about the Occupy movement and the sense that
it's "for the 99%." However it won't work if we say the 99% are the
good guys, and the 1% are evil. We should rethink that point. 
  
inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #16 of 240: Peter Feltham (oink) Thu 5 Jan 12 10:04
    
I'd have to agree with you on that last point, Jon.

There's a very good TedTalk from a feisty and on-form Paddy Ashdown
just out. As someone who was on the frontlines, both militarily and
geopolitically over the years, he speaks from experience.

See http://www.ted.com/talks/paddy_ashdown_the_global_power_shift.html
  
inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #17 of 240: Hank Roberts (hank) Thu 5 Jan 12 10:07
    
I'm voting for Jeremy Jackson's "Rise of Slime" as the biggest baddest
ongoing news that's already happening but barely noticed.

You know what I'm referring to.
Or if not, you know how to find it.
  
inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #18 of 240: Jasmina Tesanovic (jonl) Thu 5 Jan 12 10:17
    
Email from Jasmina Tesanovic:

We are witnessing in Italy the fall of the Roman Empire once again:
it's kind of normal there, it's happens all the time over the years,
from  2 thousand years ago to the last twenty years of Berlusconi
reign. What's different this time, is the fall of capitalism and the
Roman Empire is widespread, from US to the Balkans: the transition to
nowhere, the road which we historical refugees started treading some
years ago, is widening and eye opening.  Everything is collapsing in
our part of the world:  public institutions and  private enterprises.
In Italy one person per day commits suicide, be it a person who lost
his job or an indebted private who is sacking his workers. In a
Catholic country where suicide is a capital sin, that makes your soul
wander forever because you will not be allowed to get a proper burial!

The wife of a suicide capitalist obtained for her husband, an elderly
honest businessman, a permit to bury her man, because of his high sense
of responsibility. But  what about  the guy who just yesterday
committed suicide on the road because he provoked a car accident in
which nobody was hurt, but who at the mention of the word police, took
out his knife and stabbed himself to death? His relatives said that his
major fear was that he would lose his job and not be able to support
his family. Going to prison would be the same. Last Christmas, a couple
of people were arrested for stealing food and small gifts: middle
class decent catholics who didn't want to disappoint their families for
Christmas. The charges were not dropped even though they were granted
their loot for free. That's the state of the world in Italy. Some new
moral codes in the nowhere land!
In San Salvario Torino instead, the new year's eve was celebrated by a
very successful public theatre show based on the power of the
transformation in a crisis: after the workshops of crisis where experts
from war zones, refugees and illegals helped italian people with their
survival tips.

In Serbia the crisis is permanent and still the democratic forces
opposing the nationalists are fighting to join the EU crisis: to fall
down integrated, not as a wild  tribe singing in cyrillic nationalist
battle songs…I miss a comment of my late father, a world economist and
a communist who died in 2008, only a couple of months before the dollar
collapsed and the Swiss banks started losing their absolute power. He
always counted on capitalism in order to be a communist. What do Robin
Hoods do these days; Occupy? Occupy themselves? Actually an excellent
idea.

In Serbia we lived through the end of Yugoslavia,  the collapse of a
functional state, even of a healthy state: it's like a premature death
caused by an accident. What about this death of old putrid capitalism
that like a drug or cancer spread to anti capitalists too? I am an
optimist really. It's all about people now: how to avoid suicides and
instead produce goods  and talk sense in  local communities. My rich
"kulak" granddad from Serbia went broke dramatically at the beginning
of 20th century. My grandma, a lady but also a mother of six told him:
now don't you dare commit suicide as it is socially expected from you (
a man of honor had to do it!) but consider yourself a lucky man who
had something to lose. And now  that you have spare time, help me out
with kids and in the kitchen!
  
inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #19 of 240: From Art Dangerfield (captward) Thu 5 Jan 12 11:33
    
jonl: "Our depression du jour is from a loss of confidence[....] The
participatory governance we have in the U.S. generally works pretty
well, though we're on a down side because legislators and judges are
especially corrupt and unprincipled at the moment."

I'd agree that it is a loss of confidence that has caused The Crisis,
as the Italians would have it, but not the confidence of "the 99%" as
Jon implies, but instead the confidence of the capitalist class in the
longevity of capitalism itself. Systemic downturn is only possible
when the investment class begins to doubt its own ability control
future production and sees vast, unknowable risk swallow potential
returns.

The Crisis is also not a weather front that arrives and passes with
the cycles of the Earth but the direct result of institutional policy,
and one that can only be recuperated into the illusion of cyclical
economics well after confidence has been restored.
  
inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #20 of 240: Gail Williams (gail) Thu 5 Jan 12 12:03
    
I think so, too. My impression is that we now have little parasitic
mathematically complex betting practices that suck value out of the
markets, and actually thrive on downturns. 

I think that is a substantive innovation and regulations change on top
of market cycles, overlaid the way that warming the average global
temperatures is a change on top of ongoing climate cycles.

That means that there is more than confidence that must shift to make
things work better, it seems.
  
inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #21 of 240: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Thu 5 Jan 12 14:16
    
"Significant change drivers" and "futures scenarios" seem to be two of
the big lenses used today.
'Technodeterminism'(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technological_determinism)
is rapidly gaining purchase as well. 

As for cycles, 'chaotic disruption', paradigm shifts, 3rd Industrial
Revolution, etc. all seem to fill the bill. Historically, this has all
happened before. Anything different about all of this? Is there a new
gorilla in the room? (Aside from an evaporating planet).

I like to think,hope,that the Net,collaborative efforts,open-source,
from the groundup, local solutions all have potential to at least carve
out some kind of livable, even sustainable, solutions to the bleak
short-range future ahead. 

It's almost as if the accepted scenario is something like, "if we can
make it to 2050 we might have a chance as a species."
  
inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #22 of 240: Tupac Chopra (mnemonic) Thu 5 Jan 12 14:31
    
Bruce, what do you make of Buzz Aldrin's drum-beating claims that the
USA needs to recommit to space exploration? His latest addition to his
campaign was published today at Huffington Post:

<http://www.huffingtonpost.com/buzz-aldrin/american-space-exploration_b_1184554
.html>
  
inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #23 of 240: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 5 Jan 12 15:19
    

*Well, since the missus has seen fit to meander by and deliver a
political peroration (see #18), I'll throw in another one.


Future Change as Seen by Serbia

1. Albanian ethnics occupying the ancestral land of Kosovo, an obscure
patch of mountains that nobody else in the world has ever heard of.
However, Kosovo's nevertheless incredibly and totally crucial and
important to the general fate of mankind; like, seven-hundred
tooth-grinding grudge-grumbling years' worth of importance.  Tennis
stars, busty turbofolk singers, everything else pales by comparison.

2. "NATO."  NATO were the guys who blew up Serbia in 1999 and
therefore ended the most recent Balkan wars, and this affront hasn't
been forgotten.  It has to be "NATO" that committed this misdeed, as
Serbia is currently on rather cordial terms with all the countries
actually in NATO.  So tf you're Serbian and you go tell some NATO
member like Denmark, "hey, you blew us up," they're like, "What?"  So
in Serbian parlance, "NATO" is always up to all kinds of elaborate
skullduggery that nobody else understands.  More fools they.

3.  "Turks."  Serbia is, again, on rather good terms with the actual
Turks inside Turkey, who are nearby and energetic and have some capital
and some skilled manpower.  However, the Balkans are infested with all
kinds of non-Serbian former-Ottoman rabble who are framed as "Turks." 
There are ethnic tidal-waves of these "Turk" guys apparently poised to
storm and slay everyone with scimitars, but if you actually talk to
any of these "Turks,"  they usually say something like, "hey, I'm
Herzegovian by way of Chicago."

4.  The "shadow state" "mafia" "secret police" "mogul" nexus.  These
guys are amazingly secret and totally unreformed basement conspirators,
and everybody knows who they are, because Serbia is a small society
and therefore people are related to them.  Foreigners sometimes surmise
that the "shadow state" is the "real" state, while the elected
government of Serbia is an ersatz state, but the truth is the the
Balkans doesn't really breed any successful nation-states.  There's
never been a "real" state in the region.  It's always been about
shadowy gangs of godfather types making executive decisions when
everybody's really drunk.  The fact that some of them are sworn to
secrecy and heavily armed just makes it easier to get really paranoid,
so that heavy drinking is required.

5. Foreign investment / Serbian passport regimes.  It's all about
foreign money coming in, and whether Serbs get to fly out and spend
some of it.  Since they Serbs get tormented a lot with other people's
sanctions and border controls, these issues loom large in the popular
imagination.  Everybody's always handicapping future developments in
the porosity of Europe, the US, Canada, Australia and so forth.  Real
estate prices also hinge on this situation, so it's a locus of constant
futuristic speculation.

6.  "Russia."  Serbia's fantasy version of Russia is like nobody
else's conception of Russia; most everybody else thinks of Russia as
some half-blind, yellow-fanged ursine creature bristling with rusty
nuclear weapons, while for Serbia, Russia is a fluffy angelic-winged
flying bear to be depicted in stained-glass windows in a cloud of
Orthodox incense.  Tremendous emotional energy is invested in imagining
that Russia will somehow show up and set everything to rights someday,
even though Russia has never really done that anywhere for anybody.
  
inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #24 of 240: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Thu 5 Jan 12 15:20
    
Jon, I have the same reservations you do about OWS. I don't think
scapegoating the 1% serves a useful purpose. If we took all of the 1%'s
money and mailed everyone a check, it wouldn't make a dent in anyone's
pocketbook. Solutions are not going to be about dividing us, but,
rather, what unites us. We're all riding on the same blue marble.
  
inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #25 of 240: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 5 Jan 12 18:44
    
I love this comment somebody posted at bOING bOING
(http://boingboing.net/2012/01/05/bruce-sterling-and-jon-lebkows.html)
about this State of the World conversation:

"That was a huge mess. No format, no questions, no conversation, who's
talking, I don't know, what all this about Italy, a list of loony
issues no one talks about any more, and then it ends on page 1. Huh?"

Heh... I agree. *Huh?* 
  

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