inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #26 of 240: Mark McDonough (mcdee) Thu 5 Jan 12 19:07
    
I can't think of anything more important than scapegoating the 1% at
the moment.  They're driving us off a cliff, and having a great time
doing it.  And there's always the forlorn hope that by properly
scapegoating them, we can avoid a much more unpleasant conclusion to
their ride to hell and glory.
  
inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #27 of 240: Gail Williams (gail) Thu 5 Jan 12 20:42
    
Following on that, and drifting into the format of a Question for
Bruce and Jon:  Besides being writers, you both have taken on notable
roles as change agents, from the Veridian Design Movement to EFF
chapter organizing. Do you have any wishes or predictions in terms of
protestors and other kinds of activists for this year?
  
inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #28 of 240: Alex Steffen (jonl) Thu 5 Jan 12 20:47
    
Via email from Alex Steffen:

My sense is that the crisis in confidence in governing institutions in
the US (and to a more moderate degree elsewhere) is the direct result
of entirely intentional Neo-Conservative efforts ("government's the
problem, not the solution") designed largely to eliminate regulatory,
cultural and political barriers to the ultra-wealthy accumulating more
wealth, but that the process has now galloped away on its own. What's
happening now is in no one's control.

Paradoxically, perhaps, this feels to me like an optimistic
development. Things need to change profoundly, at systemic levels, and
systemic breakdowns are for the first time in decades putting the
design of those systems (from banking to urbanization to energy to
democratic governance) on the table in a very unavoidable way. Not a
guarantee of a positive outcome, by any means, but at least a situation
to which we can imagine a positive outcome of the right scope, scale
and speed.
  
inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #29 of 240: Lena M. Diethelm (lendie) Thu 5 Jan 12 20:47
    

wow.  drivebys by <oink> and <hank>.
  
inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #30 of 240: Paul Belserene (paulbel) Thu 5 Jan 12 20:48
    
We're undoubtedly further away from the extinction of our species than
we are from a really bad case of global "interesting times"
economically with a huge shakeup in resources, production, and economic
(lack of) regulation. But we're doing all the extinction things at the
same time as we're plunging into the more near-term crises (I like the
"fall of the Roman Empire all over again" image).

but I remember the focus on oil during the Carter Administration. It
was true that we were heading for the peak, but, as Paul Saffo says, we
were confusing "a clear view with a short distance."

What should we be focusing on now?
  
inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #31 of 240: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 5 Jan 12 22:01
    
Protesters are often people who feel powerless trying to find a voice,
to be empowered as part of a show of force. If they fail to organize
effectively beyond the demonstrations, they won't be effective. If they
do organize effectively and take power, they've shifted into a
different context - the risk is that they become what they opposed. In
fact I don't see much effective organization. Occupy is an example of a
protest that can't get past a the demonstration phase - in fact they
willfully tried to extend the demonstration, the "occupation," until it
became counterproductive. It's like they didn't know what else to do.
They didn't want to become just another movement, they didn't want to
be co-opted by existing organizations. 

Obviously we have to do something. On one level I was relieved to see
Occupy Wall Street and the other demonstrations that followed - we were
all wondering when the hell somebody was going to speak up, and those
guys had the guts to take the first step, and the persistence to make
it work for a while. But a real transformation at a political level
will be an effect of organization and a product of rethinking. I don't
think they were organized enough, and it's not clear they were thinking
enough. They had a narrow sense of purpose but were trying to go
broad. Ultimately people, even those who were initially supportive,
drifted. I thought it was a mistake to attempt long term occupations,
the grunge factor alone was a bit distressing, and there was a sense
that they were avoiding solutions in favor of rhetoric. Employing the
vocabulary of the old school left didn't feel right, either. 

I think it's good to show numbers in the streets, especially in places
like Egypt and Syria where there's less of a participatory framework -
working the system from within is harder if the system doesn't at
least profess to value participation.

But what we really need is people working on structures for governance
and frameworks for establishing a consensus that isn't directed by a
self-serving elites. I've worked with groups that try to get people
elected at lower levels of governance and move 'em up - that's harder
to do, and not as sexy as a protest march, but it's what we need -
create a base of principled public servants who aren't driven by greed,
ideology, political bias. 

A lot of people share Mark's sentiment about scapegoating the 1%, but
ultimately I think it just creates more contention and polarization.
But I suppose some friction is inevitable.
  
inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #32 of 240: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 5 Jan 12 22:16
    
Alex Steffen has a good point - we're really being pushed to a point
where we have to avoid persistent self-delusion, wake up and take
effective action. 

<paulbel> asks what we should be focusing on now. Climate change and
environmental sustainability, building a viable energy future that
doesn't depend on "the burn." Also building and sustaining a just and
practical economic system that won't collapse under its own weight.
Those are obvious starters.

Maybe we should be thinking about leaving the planet - we're overdue
for some real-world star trek mojo.
  
inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #33 of 240: Kieran O'Neill (jonl) Thu 5 Jan 12 22:26
    
Email from Kieran O'Neill:

I don't think peak oil has gone away, just the predictions of
armageddon (though some of that persists). It's actually getting
fairly mainstream attention these days. And the fact remains that
production is falling and demand is rising, with no viable alternative
sources of energy in sight. That's likely to at least tend to
rebalance the proportion of the human race with access to fossil-fuel
dependent activities and commodities such as air travel, private motor
vehicles, and food.

Add climate change, gerontocracy, and a bit of backlash from the
younger generations, and you get "old people
in big cities who are afraid of the sky", living with resource
scarcity and relying on young people who despise them for ruining
their world.

Not a pretty picture, but a motivation to at least try to ingratiate
yourself with the newer generations.
  
inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #34 of 240: Mark McDonough (mcdee) Fri 6 Jan 12 04:13
    
Re: the 1%, let me be clear.  I think it's important to scapegoat
them, protest their actions, and if possible bring their excesses under
control because the obvious alternatives are much worse.  

Those alternatives include: 

1) Letting them continue to take American society back to the good old
days of the Gilded Age - and we're more than halfway there now (a
major candidate for a major party has actually criticized child labor
laws - something one would have brought up only as a joke a few years
ago).

2) The 1%-manipulated/sponsored Tea Party movement or some future
offshoot brings fascism to America for real (cue Frank Zappa's ghost
for a chorus of "It Can't Happen Here...").

3) A significant number of people decide that since the 1% completely
control the political apparatus, the only viable means of protest are
violent.  Once you un-cork that bottle, the results are quite
unpredictable - but almost always unpleasant at least in the near term.

With those alternatives, I would say that a massive non-violent
movement "scapegoating" (ha ha) the 1% is certainly the most preferable
option.

Or one could always bury one's head in the sand and pretend that push
has not come to shove on the class warfare front.

And right - peak oil has not gone away at all, it's just become less
trendy to chatter about it.  In the curious way of unspeakable ideas,
it has gone from being beyond the pale to being tacitly accepted
without ever having been acknowledged.  Purges of premature peak oil
enthusiasts will no doubt follow.
  
inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #35 of 240: Rob Myers (robmyers) Fri 6 Jan 12 04:37
    
If the 1% were united with the rest of society, there wouldn't be a
problem. This isn't about scapegoating but about recognising that there
has been a delamination....
  
inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #36 of 240: Rob Myers (robmyers) Fri 6 Jan 12 04:40
    
Bruce - Yes my friends in Belgrade talk about NATO like that. Whilst
being perfectly happy to talk to someone from Blair's own country...
  
inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #37 of 240: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Fri 6 Jan 12 04:42
    
So, in the U.S., we'll have about 20-30 of these metroplexes and the
rest of the country will be pretty much unsustainable (except for
whatever Monsanto and friends can cultivate). Mother Earth is already
responding. Bruce had a great rant at the close of the 2011 Art &
Environment Convention:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rC6yylIwyKg

Would you talk a bit about the Anthropogenic reverting to 'next
nature' in the unsustainable areas; weeds as victory conditions, making
friends with fire ants (my fave)?
  
inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #38 of 240: Mark McDonough (mcdee) Fri 6 Jan 12 04:43
    
Right.  Pretending something is not taking place does not make it go
away.  

I agree that it would be great if we could all just get along, as
Rodney King said.  And once upon a time, we did - when the rich folks
lived up on the hill.  But now that they have so many houses they lose
count - even as many of us are losing our homes - it's a different
story.

Slips.

BTW, loved the description above of the Berlusconi "mud machine."  And
no, I am not going to yield to my spell checker and change that to
"Coniferous," though one is tempted.
  
inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #39 of 240: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Fri 6 Jan 12 05:05
    
Just read David Weinberger's Too Big to Know

http://www.toobigtoknow.com/

Interesting book. His memorable take away is that "the smartest person
in the room is now the room itself". His point is that knowledge is
networked,and that implication changes everything.

Paddy Ashdown also refers to this same point from a different
perspective. The U.S. no longer calls the shots for the rest of the
world. We've moved to a complex global network, forcing new alliances.

If you look at how the 1% is networked, a bow-tie, it's hard to see
how that all doesn't collapse of its own design.
(http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21228354.500-revealed--the-capitalist-ne
twork-that-runs-the-world.html)

So, on the one hand we have the rise of city-states or metroplexes,
new treaty-based shifting global alliances, and huge unsustainable
areas of 'next nature' ignoring both. (Guess we need three hands for
that). All necessitating new models.

Is that about right?
  
inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #40 of 240: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 6 Jan 12 06:17
    
It really is a crazy world, where a science fiction writer who makes
his living as a public speaker and design theorist and a blogger who
makes his living as a web strategist and developer can hold forth about
the state of the world and have any kind of audience. The knowledge
flows are stunningly complex and have, for many of the Internet years,
been democratized and distributed broadly. Knowledge is networked, as
David says, and you might assume we're smarter as a result.

I don't think we're smarter, though. Access to information doesn't
make you more intelligent; if anything, it makes you more distracted. I
would argue that information (or at another level, data) is neither
knowledge nor a sign of intelligence: those are processes that act on
information to make sense of it, to make it useful. We're not learning
to think any better - we're more distracted, overloaded, confused. I
see it every day, the struggle with information overload and the lack
of authoritative sources that you can depend on to make sense of
things. And there's significant noise in the knowledge ecosystem, e.g.
the powerful right wing astroturf machine that feeds millions of
inboxes in a private, somewhat out-of-sight network of propaganda
distribution. (The left tries to do this, too, but its networks seem
less effective at the moment). 

Meanwhile the system of education, where we might teach people to
think from early on, is underfunded, losing more funds, breaking down,
and was never especially great at teaching critical thinking. Those of
us who've been online for many years realize the profound need for
digital litereacy, an understanding how to take and sort the glut of
information that flows through the network, but that's part of the
mandatory education of children and adolescents as it should be. We're
still restating the Snopes monkey trial, with forces arguing whether we
should be teaching science or superstition in schools. The answer to
that question used to be a no-brainer.

And here's another point: I've worked a lot around people who do
advocacy, and most if not all advocacy is built on an assumption that
governments can offer solutions - they're advocating for laws and
regulations, for strong government implementations.  However
governments aren't strong, and it's not just because libertarian
thinkers have seized the political narrative. Corporations have become
more powerful, and government entities less so, and that's not
something new or attributable to the Tea Party or Ron Paul. It was
nudged along in the U.S. by the Bush 43 Administration's success in
bankrupting the government, weakening it by extracting its funds and
disrupting its funding mechanisms, but that was probably just a case of
making already weak government entities even weaker.

So you talk about the rise of geographical or political entities of
some kind, but you have to factor in the power of corporations and
understand how that manifests in the 21st Century. I also think it's
important to stop thinking about conspiracies and start thinking about
historical forces. I don't think people, as individuals or groups, are
the real drivers. I think there are forces that are inherently beyond
our control. A surfer doesn't try to make waves, he rides 'em. That's
what we should be doing. Think how advocacy would change if we thought
less about changing policy and more about working the real forces in
the world, and transforming the way we think rather than controlling
and policing the things we do?
  
inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #41 of 240: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Fri 6 Jan 12 06:47
    
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/buzz-aldrin/american-space-exploration_b_1184554
.html

I'm glad to see this elderly astronaut with this much mastery of the
tech details, but this article of his is all means and no ends.  There
is no political or economic purpose to creating a manned colony on
Mars.  How would it survive in the long term, how would it pay its way?
 What exactly would it do?

Aldrin also doesn't mention why NASA can't innovate.  It's because
NASA became a pork machine; it methodically spreads out major projects
among so many Congressional districts that they're unkillable, but also
unworkable. Nobody was ever held to account for the failure of the
Shuttle. even though the thing was a chimeric gobboon from the get-go. 
At least Aldrin manfully admits this failure, but he doesn't address
the underlying systemic problem involved in having Congress run a space
technocracy.  The contemporary Congress isn't about Mars, it's all
about culture war over evolution and climate change.  It's a radically
anti-science Congress where denial of facts is a litmus test.  These
guys can't repair bridges, much less build shuttlecraft.

That doesn't mean the US doesn't innovate in aerospace, though.  A
giant, high-tech, robot blimp with a laser communication system and a
starling horde of Predators.  "Blue Devil" is not fast, it doesn't zoom
into outer space, it just sees global guerrillas and it illegally
kills them.    If anything's gonna intimidate and cow the Chinese,
it'll be weird, scary, Gothic High-Tech devices like this, not some
General Motors Martian bailout for NASA.

*The Chinese are building drones as fast as they can weld 'em. 
Everybody likes drones.  Even terrorists like drones.  In 2012, drones
are where it's at, and they don't even have pilots, much less glorious
astronauts.

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/11/22/blue_devil_big_safari_adaptive_optics_
tech/
  
inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #42 of 240: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Fri 6 Jan 12 07:57
    
Impressive tech on that blimp, but it doesn't look too difficult to
shoot down. Are they hoping to "cloak" it?
  
inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #43 of 240: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Fri 6 Jan 12 08:02
    
The blimp's for the canaille.  They don't have any balloon-busters,
they just have IEDs and a narcoterror budget.  The Blue Devil is what
military aeronautics looks like when you've got absolute command of the
sky.

Now,if you could build a really big Blue Devil, like a Fuller-Sphere
geodesic version, and anchor it to the earth with carbon-fiber cables,
and then install facial-recognition on the bottom and ultra-luxury
malls inside?  You'd have the kind of city implied by our financial
situation.  Rich guys in hemi-demi orbit, narco favelas on the ground.
  
inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #44 of 240: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Fri 6 Jan 12 08:11
    
Speaking of narco favelas, the second largest economy in the world is
now purported to be the black market, being referred to as System D, by
Robert Neuwirth, in his book Stealth of Nations:

http://www.amazon.com/Stealth-Nations-Global-Informal-Economy/dp/037542489X

The next big growth economy. And labor intensive too.
  
inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #45 of 240: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 6 Jan 12 08:18
    
Proponents of a Martian expedition, like Elon Musk, say it's important
because it's important... as thought it's species destiny to move into
space: http://spectrum.ieee.org/aerospace/space-flight/risky-business
  
inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #46 of 240: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Fri 6 Jan 12 08:25
    
Re the new Knowledge Network, Howard Rheingold has been curating on
Augmented Collective Intelligence via Scoop.it

http://www.scoop.it/t/augmented-collective-intelligence/p/938116370/co-creatio
n-collective-intelligence-why-combining-co-creation-and-collective-intelligenc
e?_tmc=hiJaO5OXZBRwNezNoglPRlHt0HFry3C61nNAYtbNnig

Great collection of links.
  
inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #47 of 240: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 6 Jan 12 09:14
    
Howard will publish a significant book on digital literacy and mind
amplification in March, called _NetSmart: How to Thrive Online_.
http://www.amazon.com/Net-Smart-How-Thrive-Online/dp/0262017458/ This
is the sort of textbook that should be distributed widely: a guide to
best use of the Internet, how to use online tools for amplifying
intelligence.

The future of the Internet could be less about cloning media models
and more about creating new ways to make and distribute media, unless
we insiste on making it Television 2.0. It's hopeful to see people
using the 'net for collaboration and coordination of offline meetings
and events, to the extent that's happening in the more wired and
wireless urban environs. But that Internet is somewhat out of control,
which is to say it's not ideal for 20C mass marketing and advertising.

We could all be living in configurable homes (or home-ish modules)
tailored to our specific quirks, sensors feeding us data about our
consumption and production of energy, computing devices in every nook
and cranny, smart houses with attitude.
  
inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #48 of 240: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 6 Jan 12 09:15
    
Somewhere along the way we should talk about art, culture, and
intellectual property. Just ran across this:
http://www.cvent.com/events/the-future-of-art-commerce-what-creators-and-users
-of-visual-content-need-to-know-in-these-rapidly-c/custom-17-c6e750d2365d4914b
b97290e9e24ee72.aspx
  
inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #49 of 240: Rob Myers (robmyers) Fri 6 Jan 12 10:49
    
The Richard Prince lawsuit appeal is being heard at the moment, on the
art & IP front.
  
inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #50 of 240: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 6 Jan 12 10:58
    
Here's a good piece about that lawsuit:
http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2011-12-30/news/30572842_1_richar
d-prince-copyright-cases-art-market

"...if the case has had any effect so far, it has been to drag into
the public arena, a fundamental truth hovering somewhere just outside
the legal debate: that today's flow of creative expression, riding a
tide of billions of instantly accessible digital images and clips, is
rapidly becoming so free and recycling so reflexive, that it is hard to
imagine it being slowed, much less stanched, whatever happens in
court."
  

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