Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 18 Jan 12 12:10
I'm thinking trendspotting isn't the same as prediction, and neither is necessarily "futurism," which is actually a pretty useless term, when you think about it. Some of us who were forward-thinking or future-focused in the 60s, 70s, and 80s found, in the 90s, that the future was right in front of us. And with a few years' experience, we could see that essentials changed less than we thought they would, though technology was evolving like crazy.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 18 Jan 12 15:22
I should mention that we're almost done - tomorrow's the final day of the State of the World conversation. We should think of Profound Things to summarize our conversation. I was reading an very striking interview today with scientist Bernardo Kastrup: http://www.skeptiko.com/bernardo-kastrup-consciousness-research/ It hit home with me because of my interest in states of consciousness, what it means to be aware, etc. How conscious are we, what are the states of consciousness, what does it mean to be unconscious? He relates it all to memory. An excerpt: Therefore, if the brains impaired because you are asleep and you are not in a dream state, or because you fainted, or youre under anesthesia, consciousness then disappears. But one cannot tell the difference, of course, between the absence of an experience or the absence of a memory of an experience. It is impossible for us empirically, from a first-person perspective, to tell the difference. "So the absence of consciousness, or the assumption that consciousness may be absent, when we interfere with the brain in certain ways, natural or unnatural, is considered an empirical reason to believe that consciousness is generated by the brain. "But it may be different. It may be that interference with the brain interferes with memory formation; that consciousness perhaps was there all along. Maybe you were in amazing dream worlds while you were undergoing surgery under anesthesia. Its known world-wide that, for instance, teenagers play a very dangerous game called, 'The Fainting Game,' in which they on purpose choke themselves to have a mystical experience and hopefully return. That is something that is not recommended for anyone to do. "But all these things are suggestive that consciousness goes on during periods in which we are assumed to be unconscious and the only thing that gets impaired is the formation of the memory that gives you later access to that experience."
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Wed 18 Jan 12 15:27
*Jamais makes the interesting point that the technologies we consider "futuristic" haven't changed much in years. Of course they've advanced at terrific rates, but we haven't seen an entirely new one lately. Cascio speaks: "Here's what I mean: if you were to grab a future-oriented text from the early part of the last decade, you'd find discussions of technological concepts that radical futurists and "hard science" science fiction writers were seeing as being on the horizon, developments like: Molecular nanotechnology (((mmmph))) Artificial intelligence and robots galore (((drones galore, some Siri stuff and searchware collective intelligence))) 3D printers (((big boom on the street))) Augmented reality (((I like it a lot, it's not a big business))) Ultra-high speed mobile networks (((Sorta))) Synthetic biology (((term covers multitude of sins))) Life extension (((old Tim Leary favorite))) Space colonies (((yeah yeah, sure sure))) "I could go on, but you get the picture. All of those technologies appeared in the "hard science" science fiction game series Transhuman Space, which I worked on in 2001 to 2003. Most could easily be found in various "what the future will look like" articles and books from the late 1990s. (((Robots 1920s, Sputnik 1950s))) "Since then, some of those concepts have turned into reality, while others remain on the horizon. But pin down a futurist today and ask what technologies they expect to see over the next few decades, and you'll get a remarkably similar list -- often an identical one...."
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Wed 18 Jan 12 15:41
*People who think today's sci-fi writers should be politically active might enjoy this set of essays. Just look at 'em tearing their hair. http://www.sfsignal.com/archives/2012/01/mind-meld-current-politics-in-sff/ *Of course, a discourse on political science fiction that doesn't mention Newt Gingrich is like a cavalry parade that doesn't mention machine guns.
Ted Newcomb (tcn) Wed 18 Jan 12 17:03
Nothing profound, but as there has been this recent polarization of the 99% of us and the 1% of them, I've had Howard Rheingold's phrase in my head this whole conversation: "What it is, is up to us." The burden is on the "us"...it's up to us, the semi-enlightened technorati, to put the tools of our time to good use and create the future(s) we want to see, rather than inherit the dregs of the 1%. And that is going to have to be done within the context of the real world reality Bruce spelled out at the very beginning. This has all been very sobering.
fartron (julieswn) Wed 18 Jan 12 20:19
From Fartron: "NASA's "open source" license isn't. The future is one in which more and more people claim that more and more things that are less and less open source are "open"." *Every piece of "open-source" anything is considered an act of fascist oppression by somebody somewhere." " It may be true that Stallman has been running around telling everyone that the sky is falling for decades now, but I'm not convinced yet that he's wrong. Huge mainframes have returned under the doublespeak name "The Cloud." Google no longer sees fit to return the most interesting and relevant results to my searches, but instead sees its purpose as connecting me with the most relevant salesman. Over New Years an intoxicated and not particularly tech-savvy friend expressed the issue to me by saying, "All I know is a few years ago I had access to all the world's long hidden and secret information, and in no more than 5 seconds. And today there's less of it and it takes longer." Most of the information technology developments of recent years have been at the service of an increasingly centralized few. So maybe Stallman wasn't a headless chicken but a breathless canary.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 19 Jan 12 06:26
I'm not so sure that we had access to "hidden and secret" information, or that information that was available a few years ago is less available today. There's a fog of marketing over the web, but fog doesn't make things go away, it makes things less visible. Noise doesn't make signal disappear, but makes it harder to pin down. If you make your living as a content provider, there's huge pressure to spew more and more content at higher rates and figure out ways to be heard above the din. The dubious practice of SEO draws billions of dollars per year from companies desperate to boost their search visibility, all hoping to be in the first page of some search results, as though that page could hold 'em all. Twitter is a firehose of often useful, just as often trivial information. As David Weinberger says, "everything is miscellaneous" and information strikes you in ever random/uncategorized blasts. Through searches and tagging you can find pretty much anything, the question is where and how to focus. We look for guidance and find few truly authoritative voices. More than ever, I think we need to get control of our heads and understand the processes associated with attention. That last thing I posted helped me understand that consciousness is memory, and working on attention means cultivating memory with discipline and focus. I don't know what this does to the "state of the world," I suspect it can only be helpful.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 19 Jan 12 06:50
State of the physical world: the earth's crust is stretching, not just along fault lines: http://www.krqe.com/dpp/news/local/central/earths-crust-in-nm-is-stretching
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 19 Jan 12 06:54
Kodak files for chapter 11: http://techland.time.com/2012/01/19/former-trailblazer-kodak-files-for-chapter -11/?iid=tl-article-latest The company didn't think to lobby to have digital photography outlawed.
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 19 Jan 12 09:26
You know, it was sadder than that. Kodak was a pioneer of digital photography, but Kodak didn't want to lower itself to make crappy digital cameras that took lousy, grainy pictures. It was Kodak's dedication to quality that really did 'em in. As engineers, having reached a high-tech peak of performance, they couldn't cheapen themselves and crawl down. It's like watching an analog aristocracy done in by vulgar, jumped-up, digital arrivistes. You know that Kodak is the Gothic relic of a vanished era, but there's still something painful and demeaning about seeing them forced to sell off their patents like the family's long-cherished silverware. I get the same tremulous feeling from Yahoo and FlickR, nowadays. I'm still heaping photos in there, but the Instagram crowd is eating their Web 2.0 lunch -- and FlickR didn't last any 130 years, either. They seem to be watching their Yahoo favela crumble with a sense of flaccid resignation. Probably they're all busy on Twitter.
Paulina Borsook (loris) Thu 19 Jan 12 09:33
wrt to social-cultural forces: this, from an egyptian journo who was there --- social capital, culture, boots on the ground mattered far more than FB in the egyptian arab spring http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2012/01/15/INKR1MKGSI.DTL
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 19 Jan 12 09:35
"Gothic High-Tech" and "Favela Chic." The squalor of this transition is gonna play out for quite a while -- at least a decade, I think. It's not just a one-year state-of-the-world thing. "Gothic High-Tech" and "Favela Chic" have their virtues and their upsides, but when they crash directly, like they just did in this SOPA thing, they seem to be in a culture-war over who can become more squalid. The Gothic side is all about, "hey, let's bribe some Congressman behind closed doors" and the Favela group is in firm global solidarity with spammers, pirates and organized cybercrime. The very LAST thing they're gonna do is have some kind of honest and open debate about the central issues. They don't know what honor is, what fairness is, or what justice is, and in their pitifully deflated marketplace world, there's nobody left who can tell 'em. There's a philosophical comfort in futurism, in knowing this won't last forever. Because it won't, but boy is that situation ever 2012.
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 19 Jan 12 09:36
How are you, @loris Paulina? Long time no see.
Paulina Borsook (loris) Thu 19 Jan 12 10:36
howdy back, bruce
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 19 Jan 12 12:06
And hello from me, as well! Speaking of the future, here's an io9 piece that says big data manipulation is "creating the science fiction future." Their #2, "social networks already know who you know," made me wonder of the author's jumping to conclusions. The idea that LinkedIn can tell who I know is laughable to me - their "people you may know" list is laughable. It's filled with people I barely know or don't know at all. I don't think our technologies are as "smart" as we like to pretent. My one experience with Siri via a friend's new iphone as a complete bust. Siri was dumb as a post, couldn't answer any of my questions accurately (because "she" made wrong inferences, and couldn't seem to parse even careful human speech very well).
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 19 Jan 12 12:59
*Yves Behar geezer chic. "Old people in big cities who are afraid of the sky." But with awesome design for their medications! http://www.fastcodesign.com/1665857/5-innovation-lessons-from-a-breakthrough-b rand-aimed-at-aging-americans#1
Ted Newcomb (tcn) Thu 19 Jan 12 14:01
Interesting piece on future scenarios for India; nice example of the process: http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/Inayatullah20120114
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 19 Jan 12 14:47
*Here's a nice big piping heap of RAND futurist demographics. The takeaway: America has kids, China doesn't. Nah nah nah. *Even the poor, who used to have tons of kids, don't, unless they're Moslem or Subsaharan. http://www.rand.org/publications/randreview/issues/2011/winter/dusk-dawn.html "In this article, we turn our focus to the demographic futures and related economic prospects facing China, India, and the United States over the next several decades. The trends in these countries reflect just some of the shifts in power to which the world has already, literally, given birth. How the countries respond will determine their ultimate fates. (((There are no "ultimate fates."))) "Chinas population is expected to peak at 1.4 billion in 2026 and to decline thereafter, whereas Indias population will likely keep growing through mid-century, surpassing Chinas no later than 2025 and topping 1.65 billion in 2050, according to the U.S. Census Bureaus International Data Base (see Figure 1). More importantly, by 2035, Chinas population will skew heavily toward older age groups, while Indias largest cohorts will still be in the age groups below 50. (((Hey India and China, let's you and him fight.))) "Right now, as of 2012, China is entering an era in which its rapidly aging population could constrain its economic growth. India, in contrast, will enjoy a substantial demographic advantage until around 2030, when the ratio of working-age Indians to dependents will likely be at its highest. "Alone among the worlds large affluent nations, the United States will see modest increases in its working-age population through 2050; meanwhile, the working-age populations of Europe and Japan are projected to fall steeply through 2050. These demographic and economic trends alone may mean the United States will be the predominant global power for at least the next half-century. If anything, the United States could become even more dominant in the alliances it leads...." (((My guess is that if you're European and you look at those stats, that's somehow not what you see. My guess is that Europeans don't see any dominant swaggering Yanks there, but a terrifying demographic wave of Moslems immigrants.)))
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 19 Jan 12 17:22
*If you'd like to see this discussion end in a burst of contemporary razzmatazz, you could check out #megaupload on Twitter right now. Megaupload a multinational file-sharing site with an alleged 150 million users whose founders and profiteers just got arrested by US feds. Millions of hackers just got deprived of their customary cheap and easy access to movies and films. For the darkside crowd, a war in Iran would be minor news in comparison.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 19 Jan 12 21:43
We're good for one more day, we'll be holding forth here through tomorrow, Friday, and we'll wrap Friday with a face to face - if you're in Austin, catch us at Chuy's South (William Cannon and MOPAC) around 6pm Friday. I'm watching a replay of the South Carolina Republican Debate, where several candidates are coming down against SOPA. That's a wonder to behold. (Rick Santorum says "the idea that anything goes on the Internet - where does that come from?") Joanna Macy has co-authored a book, due in March, called _Active Hope_: "Most books addressing global issues focus on either our dire problems or grand-scale solutions. Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone focus instead on equipping readers with a transformational mind-set. Facing the facts of a planet and economies in crisis, many individuals feel hopeless because they recognize that they cant create their desired outcomes. But rather than allowing this reality to shut us down, we can choose active hope. This hope is something we do rather than something we have. Instead of acting only when we deduce we may succeed, we can focus on our intention and let that be our guide." (http://www.newworldlibrary.com/BooksProducts/ProductDetails/tabid/64/SKU/19726 /Default.aspx) What would a transformational mind-set look like, I wonder? Maybe we start with beginner's mind: "If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything, it is open to everything. In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's mind there are few." (Shunryu Suzuki)
Gail Williams (gail) Thu 19 Jan 12 22:14
Very interesting! What does the beginner's mind do about all those aging populations unable to pull their own weight? In 1968 there was almost accidentally a huge international sense of generation across cultures in North America, Europe, Japan and elsewhere. It was at first a music driven understanding of identity and common cause, with an emerging outrage about war and other bad practices. Up against the wall! For many reasons it was fleeting, but it was strikingly unlike anything before, and parts of the expression of revolt were disturbing to various governments. Maybe all governments. We have not seen a world wide wakeup call that is young, clear and fearless. Perhaps that will be left to countries with aging populations. Perhaps their young have common cause with the young of other countries and languages. Many different scenarios come to mind.
Ted Newcomb (tcn) Fri 20 Jan 12 05:25
Swapping is the New Buying. A small pebble in the pond. http://www.good.is/post/at-this-vending-machine-swapping-is-the-new-buying/
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 20 Jan 12 06:53
"What does the beginner's mind do about all those aging populations unable to pull their own weight?" It approaches the question without preconceptions, I suppose. Expectations conditioned by legacy thinking restrict creativity in finding solutions. I've engaged online with a couple of libertarian thinkers who feel that social security payments should be abolished. When you ask what should happen to those who felt that SS was their retirement plan and have no other means of support, they don't really have an answer. Similarly, there are those who are opposed to the provision of free healthcare to those who can't afford it otherwise. The result would be that the elite, those who have good jobs and a stash of money, would surive, others would be on the streets or worse. It's their own damn fault - they didn't accumulate wealth, have financial luck, or come into the world with an already-well-established support system. When we have elderly living and dying in the streets, I think there'll be a backlash - I don't think we like to see that sort of thing. OTOH we could do what the Germans did with the Jews, create concentration camps and put those folks out of sight/out of mind. Or we could develop programs of euthanasia. A decade ago I would've said the U.S. would never go there, that we have an inherent commitment to mutual support, that we would always take care of each other and see that as part of the mission of government. I would also have said that the John Birch Society sort of libertarians would never be taken seriously or take any sort of power in the U.S. I was evidently naive. Globally we have large and growing populations and shrinking availability of resources. Academics who've done the math have told me that the world could never support a broad global extension of the U.S. middle class standard of living, but more and more are demanding it, hence the strain on resources. Those who are already rich and powerful may be less apt to tolerate middle class consumption of resources that doesn't challenge their wealth, but as it's increasingly obvious that there's not enough pie to go around, some at the table may be lunging for the pie and running with it. Sooner or later, the rest of the folks at the table notice this - they wake up and give chase. One possible future is that civil Occupy demonstrations give way to movements that are angry and done with civility. Hope we don't see that happen. Smart monarchs know to give the people enough that they don't get totally pissed off and storm the castle. That's one version, anyway. Between the lines there's an implication of unlikely conspiracy, but sometimes I wonder.
Ted Newcomb (tcn) Fri 20 Jan 12 08:12
<scribbled by tcn Fri 20 Jan 12 08:12>
Ted Newcomb (tcn) Fri 20 Jan 12 08:20
We're going to have to have an honest and open conversation about health care and end of life, here in the U.S. Now that I've retired and am approaching my 65th birthday, this is my year for Medicare and some semblance of health insurance. Choosing Parts C and D are my big decisions for the year and the choices aren't all that great. I'm not sure I've ever "pulled my own weight". But, clearly, I'm becoming a burden. I've seen all kinds of facts and figures...National Health Care estimates as high as $2.5 trillion.(https://www.cms.gov/NationalHealthExpendData/25_NHE_Fact_sheet.asp) And a great proportion of that total is spent on "end of life", prolonging or postponing the inevitable at questionable qualities of life that even doctors who prescribe all this would not follow themselves. (See "How doctors die?" http://zocalopublicsquare.org/thepublicsquare/2011/11/30/how-doctors-die/read/ n exus/) It's all bizarre, yet part of my reality. And at the same time I'm feeling very entrepreneurial. Fortunately I have my wits and health, at the moment, and a general sense that I still have another 20 years or so of productivity. So, while I may not be able to do any heavy lifting, I'm hoping to carry some of the load. And I think there are going to be a lot of us "boomers" doing the same. We may actually turn out to be the spark that lights up some of this dreary scenario.
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