inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #51 of 186: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Sat 29 Dec 12 00:37
    
Speaking of art, the past, and its lessons for the future:

In my neighborhood in Turin, there's a bronze statue to a statesman
called "Massimo d'Azeglio."  Massimo happened to be born a rich
Turinese aristocrat, but he always wanted to be a novelist and painter.
 He married the daughter of the most famous novelist in Italy, and his
brother actually managed to become a painter.  

Massimo himself never managed that.  He wrote a few derivative
knock-off novels and he did a lot of weekend painting, but he happened
to be living in a time of national catastrophe and tremendous political
upheaval.  So he enlisted in the cavalry, where he got shot in a
losing battle and never recovered his health.  Then he got called into
politics, where the King made him Prime Minister because he was the
only courtier around who didn't lie and cheat all the time.

Massimo is a great statesman and the father of Italian
Constitutionalism and all that, but I never stroll past his statue, and
in Turin I do that all the time, without a shudder of dread.  That guy
was a born artist who was forced to become important because he was
never left alone to do what he personally wanted to do.  

He put his bohemianism aside, and he became dutiful and responsible. 
He made a big difference: he liberated a suffering people (for the
brief periods before they got stomped again), he forged a new national
consciousness, he signed a lot of budget bills, he sat around a lot of
smoke-filled tables with the rich and the well-born.  The wife never
liked it much.  There seems to have been a lot of trouble over that.

Massimo's got a bronze painter's palette and an open bronze book,
sculpted at the foot of his towering monument -- 'cause his persecutors
knew he was an artist -- but he's never gonna be able to bend down
from his bronze heights of statesmanship and pick them up.  

Given his noblesse oblige, I'm not sure that Massimo was ever allowed
an open choice about being powerful rather than being an artist, but
power is a form of bondage.   No one who needs power and has it, ever
gets enough of it.  Artists like to talk about their work, but powerful
people like to talk about their vacations.   

To think that you can become powerful, and not become like that
personally, is like thinking you can knock back a gallon of Gentleman
Jack and not get drunk because you can write novels and paint.  You can
write and paint, but that's not what it is, that's not what it means. 
  
inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #52 of 186: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Sat 29 Dec 12 00:42
    
Y'know @jeffk, I was reading that Aaron Strope speech with great
attention...  And it was so prescient, and so lateral, and so crammed
with weird harbingers that I thought, "Man, this must be just like what
it feels like to read one of those Well State of the World
encounters!"

Normally I'm spared the full head-spinning farrago because I'm also
creating it, but in the case of that Strope thing... It's full of the
inchoate ghosts of five years from now.  It's like the guy's speaking
cloud-based Big Data Sanskrit.

And he runs a museum, that's the good part.  If that's what's coming
out of our museums, imagine what the *innovators* are doing.
  
inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #53 of 186: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Sat 29 Dec 12 02:24
    
Starting your new year by sharing your "pre-loved" possessions.

http://www.shareable.net/blog/9-ways-to-kick-off-a-shareable-2013

There's enough of these share-ability characters around now that
they're almost becoming a visible class of activists.  Maybe this will
be the year when they get a cute, slightly demeaning name for their
emergent way of life, like makers and hackers did.  "The share-arati." 
The "pre-lovables." The "disowners."  Help me out here.
  
inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #54 of 186: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Sat 29 Dec 12 04:47
    
This piece from Aaron Stope's talk really grabbed me:

"We talk big about playing the long game but we don't, or haven't,
really followed through on that rhetoric when it comes to our
collections and the network.

I always try to think about this in terms of the network and not the
"web". It's hard to imagine the web going away these days but stranger
things have happened, I guess. The network – the internet – is forever.
Assuming that, like me, you think the network is here to stay. If you
don't then none of this is really a big deal. It's a baseline.

The whole point of putting our collections online is so that they will
be there in 50 years. In 100 years. They will still call back when
addressed because that's, I thought, the business we were all in
keeping this stuff.

Ours should not be to pre-vett every possible scenario or use case or
association of our collections along a fixed linear history or if it
is, it shouldn't be at the expense of the future. If that's what we're
doing I will be the bad man and say that we have reduced our cultural
heritage to little more than a monoculture."
  
inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #55 of 186: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sat 29 Dec 12 07:28
    
This quote makes me think of the New Aesthetic: "We traffic in things
that we don't necessary know how to collect yet, in part because of
their nature as things devoid of a single narrative motive." Also, re.
Parallel Flickr, "...an exercise to work through the idea of what it
means for an individual to take a more active responsibility in
archiving the digital bits that are left all over the internet."

That Jack Berg quote hits me where I live:  "No one cares what you do
unless you think about it and no one cares what you think unless you do
it."

I love that Aaron gets into the details that we so often gloss. This
made me think of a project I was involved with years ago, when I was
working with technology for a large state agency. We were re-imagining
the database to track eligibility for poverty programs like Food
Stamps, AFDC/TANF, and Medicaid. A contractor was designing a
relational representation that would be the basis for schema design,
and my colleague and I realized at some point that he was including a
lot of data fields for items he was hearing about, but lacked the
experience to evaluate. I.e. he was including data that was not
relevant to the database, but should be stored as documentation only.
Determining what to store and how to store it can be a complex and
difficult can o' worms, and you have to burrow deeply into the problem
before you can solve it. And big data systems touch so many potential
stakeholders who might not be asked for input when they should be... so
I'm guessing we're building many databases that don't exactly work as
they should, not because they were badly designed but because they were
designed on incomplete or irrelevant assumptions.
  
inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #56 of 186: Jane Hirshfield (jh) Sat 29 Dec 12 08:48
    
(great "trim tab" metaphor up there, jonl, amplifying in the same way
as the idea it embodies; thank you)

The idea and possibility of art has always been more important than
the lives of those who make it, and perhaps more so than ever now. Art,
design, speculation are how the present is liberated into the future.
The baby Hermes invented the lyre after killing a turtle and stealing
Apollo's cattle. Trickster is art's guardian figure for no trivial
reason--to break the status quo, you need some chutzpah, some priapic
disregard for proprieties, some infantile newness of vision, and a
partly comic predisposition even if what comes out in the end looks
serious.

You mentioned the loss of your uncle, bruces, and spoke about how
grief throws a needed winter light. That we feel these things are
important is unquestionable. That they are outside any direct sense of
utility matters immensely. It also makes it hard to talk about. That's
partly what art partly holds--the realm of the seemingly unuseful which
is somehow also essential. For me, the singularity question should be
"Can a computer feel sad?" Decision-making untempered by emotion--is
that a hell or a heaven or both?

The state of the world... whose world, and what moment of looking... 
one instant I'm watching birds in the berries of the ceanothus right
outside my window, the next I am terrified for my country's future as a
functional society, the next I am reading about Japan's economy, the
next about the dendritic cells of a scientist dying of pancreatic
cancer. Each one of these is unweighable on any scale against the
others. The only one I feel I could possibly affect in any immediate
way is the birds. No wonder that Aaron Stope talks starts with a post
it note with the word "anxious" on it. Our relationship to any sense of
agency is one of the great shifting qualities of human life over
time... we who participate in this conversation have some presumption
of personal agency that feels to me an alteration from that of most
human beings over most of history.
  
inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #57 of 186: Julie Sherman (julieswn) Sat 29 Dec 12 09:00
    
From an off-WELL reader:



Great to see the yearly discussion underway again.

The year ends with me doing a slow-motion move to my own house on the
other side of my Portland-suburb new-urbanism community. Packing and
moving my own stuff one Honda Civic load at a time has given me the
time and incentive to really cull my stuff. 

The web was around the last time I moved, but since then (2002) we
truly have entered a world with different relations to information. I'm
donating (or selling . . . thank you Powell's) great heaps of books.
And magazines, and clipped articles . . . it seems utterly bizarre,
now, that a clipping file was something once worth keeping. There's a
certain genus of ephemera -- like a manual for wooden pipeline
construction or a 1940 training manual for Navy electricians -- that
I'm not sure what to do with . . . toss them? Scan them? Find a
collector?

The biggest attraction to having my own place: Room for a shop. I
painted the garage to make it a room,  a place to make things, as
opposed to a cave to store shit. I hope making stuff, be it with a 3D
printer or old school tools, continues to be a Thing. The whole notion
of building stuff in cyberspace, be it Second Life or a Minecraft
world, doesn't appeal. 

-
I'm not an connoisseur of Bollywood movies, but I've been trying to
get friends and co-workers to see "3 Idiots," a wonderfully goofy story
about engineering students. 
  
inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #58 of 186: David Gans (tnf) Sat 29 Dec 12 09:23
    

Jane talks about something I have some to think of as emotional tectonics:
all these things going on in our lives at the same time that must be dealt
with, each on its own terms.  My professional life consists of several
interlocking gigs, which I am reasonably good at managing.  There is my
personal life, my engagement with the political and cultural world around,
and so on.

This idea hit me a few years ago, when my beloved cat was dying and I was on
tour in Utah and Idaho, driving and crying and doing some critical listening
for my radio show while on my way to play a house concert.  Grieving the cat,
wishing a slow death upon John Boehner, enjoying the hell out of my
performances and the attendant schmoozing - all these powerful thoughts
colliding in my mind.

"It's all so complicated now," as Johnny and the Distractions sang.  Why I
still remember that band and that song after 30 years is another mystery of
the mind.
  
inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #59 of 186: From Mediabastard via E-Mail (captward) Sat 29 Dec 12 11:56
    
"The state of the world"...ok

which world?   ok. lets assume we mean "ours" the tech driven, money
counting peoples clicks supreme being one. 
the one about "people" and "communities"..;)
lets ignore the earth,nature, and universe, which just do their own
things and pretty much don't care about us humans or what we do
anyway...

so. the "state of the world"

it's "leveling" for all but .01%.
We're allowing media machines to "level" all "humans" to "media
impressions" as how we relate to each other. Thus the age of "human
rights" for actual individuals is over, and the age of "media rights"
for systems has begun.

Well, began "again"., since its not new and we've been here before--
dark ages, feudal ages, tribal ages etc.

Soon we all will be "equal" property (IP)... grunting sounds we echo
from the internetz to pass the time....and fighting over water and
dumping grounds.

A very few will live in Googedomes... those who like the Emperors new
glasses. And of course the Court Jesters...
  
inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #60 of 186: Via E-mail from Maximilian (captward) Sat 29 Dec 12 12:42
    
hi jon & bruce,

again a great and thought provoking wrap-up of currents and
undercurrents in the world! given you touched quite a bit on europe and
the dynamics happening there I wonder what your take on germany is? 

seen by some as a new hegemon - or even as an accidental empire -
germany certainly is in a much different position in 2012 than it was
before say 2008 and the beginning of the financial crisis.
  
inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #61 of 186: (Jeff Kramer) O o . o O (jeffk) Sat 29 Dec 12 13:10
    
On another topic, how bout those quantified self folks.  Trim and fit and
shiny and wired up with more sensors than an F1 car.  It used to be
pedometers and wireless connected scales, now they're getting stylish gear
that measures heart rate, persperation and skin temperature constantly.
Pretty soon they'll be getting "You just had a heart attack" push
notifications.

<http://www.mybasis.com/tour/>
  
inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #62 of 186: Jane Hirshfield (jh) Sat 29 Dec 12 16:18
    
Belatedly, would like to clarify something I said some posts
back--"The idea and possibility of art has always been more important
than the lives of those who make it..." I meant that from the point of
view of art, not from the point of view of lives. It's easy to read
fast or excerpt and get the wrong impression from a sentence like that,
and I would not want to let that possible misinterpretation sit in the
archives uncorrected.

"Emotional tectonics," gans, yes, you have named it beautifully. We go
through our days so often feeling like slip-strike zones.

It's that old slippery wrestling partner--are we a "self," a "selves",
a system with a set of interesting/sometimes useful delusions, or
something far subtler than any of the above.
  
inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #63 of 186: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sat 29 Dec 12 20:36
    
The Quantified Self practices seem rational: it makes sense to monitor
health data and work at optimization, though many won't go there. It
could be even more interesting if we build systems for collective
collection and comparison of metrics. We've seen interesting results
when patients with common conditions form online communities and start
comparing notes and researching together. 

But there's also those who have an intense obsession with the
processes and flaws without our bodily systems, stoked by media and
advertising. In industrial nations, especially the U.S., health issues
abound. We have depressions and bipolar states, cardiac arrythmias and
blocks, surging rates of self-inflicted diabetes, urinary urgency if
not incontinence, viral epidemics and mass vaccinations, roaring
tinnitus, positional vertigo, allergy cycles, headaches, fibromyalgia,
erectile dysfunction, maybe-it’s-alzheimers moments, drawers filled
with antacids, antiflatulence pills, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, aspirin,
loratadine, fexofenadine, diphenhydramine, etc.  Patients fill clinics
and emergency rooms, now spilling over into drug store and grocery
store mini-clinics. Ad channels are filled with pharmaceutical
inducements with rapidly mumbled small-print side effects galore, and
those side effects are creating even more health issues. The healthcare
system is strained, costs are spiraling upward, insurance companies
are cutting benefits... what a mess.
  
inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #64 of 186: (Jeff Kramer) O o . o O (jeffk) Sat 29 Dec 12 22:58
    
I'll admit that I had the fitbit pedometer (till it took a bath in the
washing machine)... and the wifi connected scale.  They've certainly made me
attentive to my body's metrics, but looking at the graphs, they haven't
resulted in an improvement.  It's possible that they stopped things from
getting worse, of course.

I saw the CEO of Aetna speak at SXSW and he said that they found about a
third of people respond to metrics and monitoring, a third of people respond
to group encouragement, and a third of people don't respond to either.  His
take away was that just encouraging 'fitness squads' or giving pedometers to
everybody wasn't going to fix the entire problem.
  
inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #65 of 186: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Sun 30 Dec 12 01:35
    
"The baby Hermes invented the lyre after killing a turtle and stealing
Apollo's cattle. Trickster is art's guardian figure for no trivial
reason--to break the status quo, you need some chutzpah, some priapic
disregard for proprieties, some infantile newness of vision, and a
partly comic predisposition even if what comes out in the end looks
serious."

I'm all for this cool notion of the artist as the mental-liberationist
Greek trickster figure who steals most of his material -- but it's
because I was raised that way. It's a very bohemian approach, very
anti-bourgeois, very grasshopper to the ant.  In some ways this
approach to art limits what you can think and create.  It's a
freeze-dried set of attitudes; when all you've got is the crowbar of
Hermes, everything looks like art-loot.

That's why I enjoy art such as Petar Njegos' epic of early Montenegrin
literature, "The Mountain Wreath." 

http://www.rastko.rs/knjizevnost/umetnicka/njegos/mountain_wreath.html

 Here we've got this very intelligent and determined hillbilly
aristocrat, a poetic priest-warrior gangster chieftain, out of a
half-forgotten province of the Ottoman Empire.  His people are
pre-literate; he's one of the first to read and write his own language.
 

This poem, the "Mountain Wreath," is mostly about tribal patriarchs
flying into a righteous rage and cutting each other's heads off.  It's
very like the Iliad in that way; it's full of noble perorations that
are mostly along the line of, "Rascal, you've done something unbearable
for years now, and I was constrained to get involved in this awful
mess you've created; but this time it's personal. So, prepare yourself:
I'm taking your head, your pistols, your horses and all your women,
and I may even burn your farm."  In the context of this artwork, it's
certainly the right thing to do.  It's the definitive thing to do; it's
how you know you're alive.

Then you compare that artwork -- written by an aristocrat, an
authority figure in deadly moral earnest -- to this kind of
ontological-trickster writing, this kind of "What is Reality, Mr
Njegos," postmodern gendankenexperiment, of which me and my sci-fi
colleagues are so enduringly fond... Well, keen as I am to write that
stuff, it can seem like pretty thin soup.  

There are mountain guys in Pakistan and Afghanistan who think just
like Mr Njegos now.  They're not going away.  They're not even losing
their wars, and they've got the highest birth-rates on Earth.   

If they could read, they'd read this Njegos text and back it a hundred
percent:  "At last, moral advice from the shores of the Mediterranean
with which we entirely concur!"

Brian Aldiss once told me that science fiction was full of guys who
would write about Martians without ever visiting Indonesia.  But
visiting Indonesia is one thing -- if you actually *hang out* within
Indonesia, you *become* Indonesian.  You don't visit it, or steal it,
you are it.

You have to get past the stark fact that Njegos is an Ottoman
Christian-sect hillbilly on horseback who knocks people down with
spiked clubs and cuts their heads off as trophies.  He is, but he's
also a great poet.   Njegos even has a wry sense of humor; it's just
not what Americans would consider "wry" or even "humor."  When you
understand his jokes, when you know they're genuinely funny, that's a
bigger mental yoga-stretch than we're supposed to allow ourselves
within the USA; it makes a "galaxy far far away" look like a Hollywood
backlot in Southern California.  Which is what it is, pretty much.
  
inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #66 of 186: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Sun 30 Dec 12 01:39
    

I like the "Quantified Self" trend -- I'd certainly like to know more
about what's going on in my own body.  It doesn't seem fair that it's
such an unknown world in there, wilder and lesser-known than the
Amazon.

But I wonder what will happen when this practice mainstreams, and
becomes less of a fringe hobby for numerate Yankee geeks.  It's
alarming to live in a place with disastrously low life-expectancy, like
Belgrade.  The lifespan difference between Serbia and Northern Italy
must be close to 25 years -- especially for men.

These Serbian men who perish in droves of alcohol and cigarettes in
their late 50s, they've got a "quantifier" already -- all they have to
do is look in the mirror.  But telling them that they'd live longer
without those substance-issues is like telling Americans that they'd
live longer without their cars and handguns.  It's perfectly true, but
it's so beside the point of living that it doesn't show up on the
radar.

Maybe if you had *much better radar* -- like you got nagged by your
handheld every morning, because it took your pulse and sniffed your
breath?  People think that if you're told the truth you'll change what
you're doing.  Obviously they've never met a Creationist or a
climate-change denier.  I can imagine a Russian-style Quantified Selfer
where Ivan Sixpack checks himself out and says, "hey, I'm not drunk
enough yet!" and chugs down another one.

"Yeah, my lungs are brown now -- but on me, that looks great!"

And, somewhere in California -- "My Quantified New Age Self."  "My
God, look at the state of my chakras this morning!"
  
inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #67 of 186: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Sun 30 Dec 12 01:50
    

I am starchily informed by a member of the home team that there were
plenty of drones in the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s.

At least, according to these Russian guys:

http://www.radardaily.com/reports/Unmanned_Aerial_Vehicles_Increase_In_Numbers
_
999.html

"In this context an analysis of UAV losses during the Yugoslav war
from April to the end of June 1999 is interesting. All in all, the
coalition lost 47 vehicles: 17 by the U.S., 7 by Germany, 5 by France
and 14 by Britain. Four vehicles were traced to no specific sources."

I'd totally digging the "sourceless" drones.  I'm betting sourceless
drones are gonna be a major trend.
  
inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #68 of 186: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sun 30 Dec 12 06:47
    
Interestingly, "sourceless drone" can also be a musical reference.

I have a friend whose hobby, building radio-controlled hobbyist
airplanes, has become exponentially cooler now that these devices can
be characterized as drones. He was recently showing me a sophisticated
device he'd built - it was mounted with a camera that could be
controlled via head movements from the ground. He had another device
that was more of a hovercraft with granular controls. It could be
mounted with a ping-pong "bomb" that he could drop wherever. I think
there are many like him who have the technology well in hand and are
looking for suitable applications. "Sousveillance" came up in our
conversation. Imagine anti-drone drones...
  
inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #69 of 186: (Jeff Kramer) O o . o O (jeffk) Sun 30 Dec 12 10:00
    
It sounds like there's some deeply weird EU-bending stuff going on in
Catalonia right now.  Of course, there's no mention of it in the US news.
Is it something the rest of the southern Europeans are talking about?
  
inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #70 of 186: Ed Ward (captward) Sun 30 Dec 12 10:48
    
I can tell you the French around here are eyeing it nervously, and I'm
sure down by Perpignan they're really watching. It's all very
interesting, especially the comparisons with Scotland. What do you see,
Bruce?
  
inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #71 of 186: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sun 30 Dec 12 10:49
    
Some context re Catalonia here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Politics_of_Catalonia#The_amendment_to_the_Statut
e_and_current_political_issues
  
inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #72 of 186: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Sun 30 Dec 12 12:23
    
A sourceless drone that delivered GPS-scrambling "sourceless drones"
might be a force to be reckoned with.

I was stunned to discover in this article that the Chinese Red Army
allegedly has a crack force of 50,000 carrier pigeons.  That's right --
silent, radar transparent, winged, avian Chinese drones!  What do they
know that the West doesn't know?

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324439804578104933926157320.html

  
inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #73 of 186: reminder (satyr) Sun 30 Dec 12 17:30
    <hidden>
  
inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #74 of 186: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Sun 30 Dec 12 17:40
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inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #75 of 186: John Payne (satyr) Sun 30 Dec 12 19:03
    
> <28> (bruces) Americans don't have state-supported censorship, but 
> they do have a civil cold war, and the factions don't talk to one 
> another at all.  There's no open debate, there's no discourse.

This was the sad conclusion I came away from the election with.  Sure,
I was glad that Obama had won, but that was tempered by the narrow
margin of victory in the popular vote, an inexplicably narrow margin
if you were to assume that everyone was exposed to the same media as
myself.  Had that been the case, Obama should have won by a landslide!

It's sad, and worrisome, and I don't know what to do about it.
  

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