Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 6 Jan 12 11:01
We could also discuss Vint Cerf's contention that "technology is an enabler of rights, not a right itself."
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 6 Jan 12 11:17
Sorry, there's a link for that: https://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/05/opinion/internet-access-is-not-a-human-righ t.html?_r=1&hpw
la brujaja (zorca) Fri 6 Jan 12 12:08
thanks jon and bruce. these discussions are always a welcome and thought- provoking way to start the year. on my front, this year's boggle is the same as last year's - the explosive growth of social media. we're told that every minute, there are 700k google search queries, 100k tweets, 80k facebook wall posts, 13k iphone apps downloaded, 2m viewers of online porn. clearly, these new forms of engagement tap innate human urges, but i wonder, as our frog in hot water madly types away, what soup do you anticipate as the frenzied online activity continues to heat the pot? in our current political climate here in the US, we watch incredulously as the 'liberal' party blithely gives away human rights won by previous generations and the 'conservative' party plays a round-robin game of russian roulette in which every chamber holds a bullet. collectively, we make a lot of noise and chatter on the various social media services. it's encouraging that the occupy movement is global and it's particularly interesting that it's a 'live' phenomenon, with actual bodies in place, but most of us settle for adding to the online noise. certain questions haunt. will the tradeoff of individual privacy for more public transparencies turn out to be for the best? will all this access to seemingly infinite seas of information ultimately sharpen or dull our ability to parse and discern? overall, does the amplification of citizen voices clarify issues of rights and social balance or does it merely add to the increasingly deafening cacophony? oops. gotta run. my frog soup is calling.
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Fri 6 Jan 12 12:48
*Alex Steffen weighing in here (#28): "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." *Well, there's something to this assertion, because it's what Camillo Cavour wanted when he reunified Italy -- a "vast convulsion" that would break up the stultified peace of Europe. Cavour got excellent results by cajoling the French into attacking the Austrians on Italian soil. It was mayhem, but he wangled his way through it by some deft leverage. But this wasn't just a "systemic breakdown," because Cavour's government had an alternative system entirely ready to roll. They had money, guns, the best-trained and best-equipped Italian army, a constitution and an industrial revolution, plus more railroads than everybody else in Italy. So it wasn't THEIR OWN system that was breaking down but EVERYBODY ELSE's system that was breaking down, and that was why they got away with it. Cavour successfully presented his government as the only ALTERNATIVE to red revolutionary anarchy -- even though he'd provoked that chaos himself. So it's possible to be paradoxically optimistic about systemic breakdowns, because there are existence proofs of everything working out for the best, or at least for the rather better. However, I've got objections. First and foremost, as a futurist I'm always suspicious of "optimism" and "pessimism." I think they're both objectionable attitudes that cloud one's understandings of events. They also cloud the understanding that getting what you want, or being deprived of what you want, are temporary conditions and preludes to further complications somewhere down the line. No victory condition lasts forever. And things that are great in one period, like internal combustion, can be fatal when they're considered always "good." Also, in our own period we've seen and experienced quite a lot of "systemic breakdowns." Sometimes they're "velvet revolutions" and they work out okay -- states can rather implausibly "fail upward," especially if they get a lot of sympathetic foreign help. However, we also see quite a lot of failed states, global guerrilla areas, hollow states, "managed democracies," mogul captures of the economy, organized crime zones, failed American military occupations, and other unfortunate contemporary conditions. It's real, real easy to fail downward. That's a major historical trend, obviously, but if you follow that kind of transition-to-nowhere because you think, "well, this is a wave of change, so I should surf it," that means abandoning civil rights and the rule of law. And for what? You get a new order maybe, but quite likely you get a precarious life as former citizens reduced to wretchedness. The logical extension of domination by the global ultra-wealthy, and/or the local warlords, is for everyday people to become their gangster molls and hired henchmen. This prospect may seem like a stretch for Americans who've never witnessed or experienced that life, but globally, quite a lot of people do live like this. Americans solve these problems with cash and lawsuits. Other people can't buy their way out of that life, and they can't sue their way out of that life. So, basically, they live like the Corleone family in the Godfather movies; that's what a failed-state life looks like when Americans do it. Of course the body count's particularly high in that movie, because it's a drama. But life looks like that when the state can't provide any equity or justice. That role gets filled by some canny tough-guy with his sons and his consigliere. The don may have a lot of street-smarts, but his economy isn't gonna work very well, because there's way too much personal begging, threatening and knee-bending involved. It's a sclerotic and parasitic means of production and distribution. I don't think the Tea Party or the OWS are any major shivery threats to civilization; they're not like the Fascist Black Shirts or the Chinese Red Guard. However, they both seem to me like parodic and even goofier versions of their parent organizations, the Republicans and the Democrats. They're not confronting or resolving the genuine problems that the Republicans and Democrats so obviously have in running a competent government. On the contrary, the Tea Party is a kind of slow-motion insurrection by people who politically identify with churches and televangelists. While the OWS is a very loose cluster of people who politically identify with flash mobs and social networks; there's not an OWS guru around who could get elected dog-catcher. So, you know, "paradoxical optimism." "The worse, the better," as Lenin used to cheerily remark. Yep, the bright side of forest fires is that they free up a lot of minerals. What other attitude makes sense nowadays? I'm inclined to think that paradoxical optimism is a major temperament of our times. But I'd cut a little closer to the bone and just call it "dark euphoria." Because we're not working out solutions rationally; we're just spitting for luck, and we're rolling the bones.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 6 Jan 12 13:05
Mark McDonough (mcdee) Fri 6 Jan 12 13:08
Ironically, I think the Tea Party and OWS are both responses to the failure of more conventional institutions to address things like growing economic inequality and de-industrialization. The Tea Party is a little trickier to analyze because it is both a genuine movement of populist political outrage, and a movement manipulated and in part created by the "Kochtopus." In a sense, almost anything you say about it is partially true. I think the unifying idea of OWS is "the 99%" and that's a very big idea indeed, and thank you to Adbusters for coming up with it. I do not think OWS is a child of the Democratic Party, although it's probably true that very few of its members would vote Republican. The Democratic Party has been as enthusiastic as the GOP in facilitating the transfer of wealth and power to the 1%. The 99%/1% idea is not entirely at odds with some of the notions motivating the Tea Party, but the emotional mindset and cultural references and assumptions of the two groups are obviously quite different. I think it is very true that Americans (myself included) have little or no idea of what even threatened social breakdown looks like. Sure, we've had urban riots from time to time, but we always knew that order would be restored.
Peter Meuleners (pjm) Fri 6 Jan 12 13:10
Good post, Mark.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 6 Jan 12 13:11
Bruce sez "The logical extension of domination by the global ultra-wealthy, and/or the local warlords, is for everyday people to become their gangster molls and hired henchmen....This prospect may seem like a stretch for Americans who've never witnessed or experienced that life, but globally, quite a lot of people do live like this." This is the state of the world you're embracing, folks, when you're *voting the warlord ticket.* It's almost a cliche to note that citizens of the USA are voting hard against their own interests.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 6 Jan 12 13:20
<mcdee>: "I think the Tea Party and OWS are both responses to the failure of more conventional institutions to address things like growing economic inequality and de-industrialization." I suppose you're right, but it's not surprising that institutions that've been gutted and hung out to evaporate in the climate-nouveau sun fail to address things. It's like when they say a guy who's bankrupt, homeless, and driven into abject misery should goddamit get a job, take on some responsibility. He can't even ties his shoes, if he's lucky enough to have a pair.
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Fri 6 Jan 12 13:34
Military balloon deploys "Tempest" drone, which deploys "Cicada" drones. http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2012/01/balloon-drones/
for dixie southern iraq (stet) Fri 6 Jan 12 13:46
Fascinating discussion, at which I arrive late. One influential catchphrase I didn't see referenced was the one Thomas Friedman picked up from Infosys' Nandan Nilekani, 'the world is flat.' Problems used to remain much more drastically localized. Now, they feedback and build across the planet. And we have bad precedents in parts of the past for this. In China, the Tang dynasty collapse killed something like one-third of the population, precisely because previous Tang successes had created a large peaceful interdependent area in which a civil warfare end to interdependence turned into a holocaust. Now we have that kind of situation cubed. Are we worried?
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 6 Jan 12 15:01
This interview with Clement Valla suggests aesthetic singularity: http://rhizome.org/editorial/2012/jan/3/artist-profile-clement-valla/ "At this moment I think human and computer activity is hardly distinguishable. I am interested in the moments where the typical distinction is blurred or even inverted. Take Amazon's Mechanical Turk, billed as artificial-artificial intelligence. Amazon took the name from an 18th Century automaton that successfully beat humans at chess. A figurine that looked like a seated Turk sat behind a huge contraption filled with gear and levers, that would whir and smoke as it played. It was eventually revealed that the machine was operated by a human hidden inside. We see here an example of a machine using a human to accomplish its task; I like to think of it as the machine outsourcing to a human. In Amazon's Mechanical Turk, they built a system whereby computer programs can query humans, get responses, and react accordingly: human aided computation as opposed to computer aided design."
Gearteeth (echodog) Fri 6 Jan 12 16:54
>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. I'd appreciate some clarification on this point. Do you mean that adherents of the Islamic Caliphate have lost momentum due to the events of the Arab Spring? Or that they are unable to take advantage of the chaos present in those collapse regimes to create the caliphate they aspire to? Some combination of those points, or something different?
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Fri 6 Jan 12 18:42
What gives with the new Predator Shuttle here, one wonders. http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/01/06/x_37b_spying_tiangong_1/
Brian Slesinsky (bslesins) Fri 6 Jan 12 20:18
I wonder if we will see more attempts at national firewalls? "Speaking to the Guardian on condition of anonymity, an Iranian IT expert with close knowledge of Iran's national internet project, which he described as corporate-style intranet, said: "Despite what others think, intranet is not primarily aimed at curbing the global internet but Iran is creating it to secure its own military, banking and sensitive data from the outside world. "Iran has fears of an outside cyber attack like that of the Stuxnet, and is trying to protect its sensitive data from being accessible on the world wide web." Stuxnet, a computer worm designed to sabotage Iran's uranium enrichment project hit the country's nuclear facilities in 2010." <http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jan/05/iran-clamps-down-internet-use>
Jef Poskanzer (jef) Fri 6 Jan 12 20:49
Of course Stuxnet didn't get in via the internet.
Rob Myers (robmyers) Sat 7 Jan 12 04:16
A future in which Adbusters is having an actual political effect is one I really didn't see coming.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sat 7 Jan 12 05:43
I just posted this to a private email list, and thought it was worth repeating here. The discussion was about Vint Cerf's NY Times Op Ed, source of the quote "Technology is an enabler of rights, not a right itself." The conversation on the list is about what rights people should have, how a "right" is defined, what it means to have "rights". Someone brought up the issue of cost, and I responded: A big concern for activists focused on what we have sometimes called "freedom to connect" is whether we limit practical access by limiting some access or some quality of access for some users, by tiering services and costs. Healthcare presents a similar problem: low-cost limited health insurance from a company like Assurant is like no coverage at all; lacking a solid group insurance plan could make a significant, even life-threatening, difference. Of course the wealthy often have "more" and "better," but in areas like communication, healthcare, and education, some of us believe the playing field should be level.
Julie Sherman (julieswn) Sat 7 Jan 12 09:43
<scribbled by julieswn Sat 7 Jan 12 10:19>
J. Poskanzer (jef) Sat 7 Jan 12 09:47
<scribbled by julieswn>
Julie Sherman (julieswn) Sat 7 Jan 12 10:19
From off-WELL reader Art Dangerfield: Inspired by the droid that Luke blindly practices his lightsaber on, NASA put SPHERES on ISS http://www.universetoday.com/92381/nasa-channels-the-force-with-smart-spheres/ Apparently a "test bed for the development and testing of multi-body formation flying and other multi-spacecraft control algorithms" Swarms of autonomous bowling ball satellites in orbit soon. Operated, of course, by smart phones glued to their sides.
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Sat 7 Jan 12 10:34
http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/the-changing-face-of-yugoslav-journali sm *Here's this 90-year-old veteran Balkan journalist pondering what's been going on in his region in his long lifetime. I think this rumination well illustrates my point about "optimism" and "pessimism" as attitudes unsuited to futurists. Sometimes it takes 90 years for a best-case-scenario to show its dark underside, but it'll have one, somewhere somehow, just like dark clouds spew their silver linings. This commentator's currently hanging out in Slovenia, which was certainly the most fortunate of the wartorn ex-Yugoslav republics. Slovenia scrambled out of the Balkan rubble, joined the EU and basically became the Balkan equivalent of Iowa. Peaceful, prosperous, and a little dull. "When we separated from Yugoslavia," he says, "all that mattered to us was to achieve the goals we had set for ourselves and the chief goal was to enter the EU as soon as possible. "We wanted to have the Euro as currency at any cost because we believed that to be an ideal and a permanent solution. Now we see that it was neither ideal and, as it seems, also not a permanent solution. Slovenia craved the West then, but now Slovenia will have to reflect on its position...." So, here's this elderly political observer who's staring at the tremulous state of the Euro today, and nostalgically regretting the dignity, stability and international respect that was lost with Yugoslavia. How "ironic" that is, right? But it's not irony, it's just history. The problem here isn't with Yugoslavia or the European Union, even though they obviously have problems. The real problem is with those concepts of "idealism" and "permanence," because those are phantoms. "Idealism" is Platonic of course, but there's a lesser-known classical notion called "enantiodromia" that Plato, Heraclitus and even Karl Jung used to carry on about. Enantiodromia can't be measured with an "enantiodrometer," so it's not science any more than the Platonic ideal is. But whenever people talk to me about eternal human truths, I contemplate enantiodromia. Enantiodromia is the dynamic process of things turning into their opposites. The metaphysical nature of things is ornery. Things aspire to become contrarian. Good intentions aren't enough. Power to act isn't enough. Not only is "the power to be your best" also the power to be your worst -- the fact that it IS powerful is likely to conjure up your worst, by expanding your opportunities for temptation. A cute little girl is one of the nicest things in the world. But when time passes, and you become the mother of a cute little girl, then it's no good to remain a cute little girl yourself. That must be foregone. Instead, you have to become the little girl's opposite, the mom. Mom is a major source of irritation to this cute little girl, with that ceaseless flow of motherly homilies about standing up straight and using a fork. There's nothing so "timeless" as motherhood, but motherhood is a very time-bound and dynamic condition. Nobody who has a baby keeps a baby. What you've got there is an instantiation of the human gene-pool, an entity through whom time flows.
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Sat 7 Jan 12 11:09
*I just got this from a bunch of biotech guys who have genetically hot-wired silkworms to exude super-strong spider-silk. "Hey man, mutant silkworms, we're all gonna be rich," except, well, maybe not. "Cautionary Statement Regarding Forward-Looking Information "Statements in this press release about the Company's future and expectations other than historical facts are "forward-looking statements." These statements are made on the basis of management's current views and assumptions. As a result, there can be no assurance that management's expectations will necessarily come to pass. "These forward-looking statements generally can be identified by phrases such as "believes," "plans," "expects," "anticipates," "foresees," "estimated," "hopes," "develops," "researching," "research," "potential," "could" or other words or phrases of similar import. "Similarly, statements in this release that describe the Company's business strategy, outlook, objectives, plans, intentions or goals should all be considered forward-looking statements. "All such forward-looking statements are subject to certain risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those in forward-looking statements. "Management cautions that its ability to further its research, and create commercially-viable products may be affected by the competitive environment, the Company's financial condition and its ability to raise sufficient capital to meet the financial obligations of its business plan and to fund its continuing operations. "This press release does not constitute an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to buy any security and shall not constitute an offer, solicitation or sale of any securities in any jurisdiction in which such offer, solicitation or sale would be unlawful prior to registration or qualification under the securities laws of such jurisdiction." *It's great work with the legal boilerplate there, but I'm waiting for the design-fiction video with supermodels in bulletproofed pantyhose.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sat 7 Jan 12 11:41
<scribbled by jonl Sat 7 Jan 12 11:42>
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sat 7 Jan 12 11:44
That's like the fine print on a big pharma advertisement. Common side-effects are loss of libido and erectile dysfunction, reduction of or zero semen, nasal congestion (runny/stuffy nose), dizziness and blurred vision, difficulty sleeping, lightheadedness, body pain or malaise, stomach upset, diarrhea, upset stomach, muscle and joint pain, common cold or flu-like symptoms, drowsiness upon awakening, headache, a drugged feeling, sinusitis, dry mouth, lethargy, back pain, influenza-like symptoms, constipation and sore throat.
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