inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #51 of 240: 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." 
  
inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #52 of 240: 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
  
inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #53 of 240: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #54 of 240: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #55 of 240: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 6 Jan 12 13:05
    <hidden>
  
inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #56 of 240: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #57 of 240: Peter Meuleners (pjm) Fri 6 Jan 12 13:10
    
Good post, Mark.
  
inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #58 of 240: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #59 of 240: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #60 of 240: 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/
  
inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #61 of 240: 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?
  
inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #62 of 240: 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."
  
inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #63 of 240: 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?
  
inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #64 of 240: 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/
  
inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #65 of 240: 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>
  
inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #66 of 240: Jef Poskanzer (jef) Fri 6 Jan 12 20:49
    
Of course Stuxnet didn't get in via the internet.
  
inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #67 of 240: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #68 of 240: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #69 of 240: Julie Sherman (julieswn) Sat 7 Jan 12 09:43
    <scribbled by julieswn Sat 7 Jan 12 10:19>
  
inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #70 of 240: J. Poskanzer (jef) Sat 7 Jan 12 09:47
    <scribbled by julieswn>
  
inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #71 of 240: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #72 of 240: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #73 of 240: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #74 of 240: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sat 7 Jan 12 11:41
    <scribbled by jonl Sat 7 Jan 12 11:42>
  
inkwell.vue.430 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2012
permalink #75 of 240: 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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