Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 7 Jan 14 09:35
<gail>, speaking of footnotes, we're planning a SXSW party (for EFF and EFF-Austin) with a cyberpunk theme. Odd to think of cyberpunk as retro. It's really about the 90s and the seminal moments in building Internet 1.0, and the digital culture that formed at the core of the network = the fringes of mainstream culture. We were just learning to think with now-customary fragmentation of focus and attention, which I think of as a potential evolutionary mutation - unless I'm in a funk, then it's about devolving as a species. But who knows? Shakespeare and later Django lived with a different configuration of consciousness, most likely. I've always thought the evolution of the human species has been more internal. If we do assume that the our thinking and conscious experience is evolving and changing, I think it follows that our interpretation of past culture might miss something. (Then again, perhaps history and culture stabilize evolution, and we change less than we might otherwise, because we carry context forward.)
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Tue 7 Jan 14 10:28
http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2014/01/how-the-us-almost-killed-the-internet /all/ *Those are some illustrations in this Steven Levy article, folks.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 7 Jan 14 10:44
From that article: "In a sense, the tech companies are more like the NSA than they would like to think. Both have seized on the progress in computing, communications, and storage to advance their respective missions. (When you think of it, Googles original mission statement'to collect and organize the worlds information'might also apply to the activity at Fort Meade.) Both have sought to fulfill those missions by amassing huge troves of personal informationand both offer trade-offs that seemingly justify the practice. Google, Facebook, and others argue that they can use that information to improve the lives of their customers far in excess of any discomfort that may come from sharing that data."
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 7 Jan 14 10:54
Link via @omarg. Bedtime in the Internet of Things: http://www.engadget.com/2014/01/07/sleep-number-x12-bed/?ncid=rss_truncated "Sleep Number just announced the x12, which packs a variety of sensors to monitor your sleeping habits, movement, heart rate and breathing rate. Basically, then, it potentially eliminates the need for a wearable fitness tracker, assuming you can do without the activity monitoring. In particular, the bed has two sections, each of which are independently adjustable, so that once the bed knows your sleeping patterns, it can suggest ways you might want to change, say, the head incline. Additionally -- and this is perhaps our favorite feature -- a Partner Snore feature allows you raise your partner's headrest to help ease snoring. (Because anything that introduces passive-aggression to domestic relationships wins our vote.)"
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Tue 7 Jan 14 10:57
*If things weren't bad enough between the NSA and Silicon Valley, now they've got a Californian water war on their hands. Maybe they can retaliate by briskly shutting California's gas pipelines, like Enron used to do in their heyday. That'll teach those Stacks: no fossils, no cloud, you rascals. http://talkingpointsmemo.com/muckraker/nsa-nullification-california
a plaid pajama ninja (cynsa) Tue 7 Jan 14 22:02
(what brady said: thanks for doing this again, guys.) you're making me want to move to Serbia, bruce.
Brady Lea (brady) Tue 7 Jan 14 22:09
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Tue 7 Jan 14 23:59
Gail Williams (gail) "Thinking about Django Reinhart reminds me that his music was radical and not timeless when it was first played." *I'd agree that the idea of a French gypsy as a maestro of American Jazz was pretty radical in Django's day. Likely that seemed rather threatening to the great and the good, at the time. But Django Reinhart is classic now. Nobody can ever be "classic" except in some "now." *Some artist's "nows" are longer than the nows of other artists. *Tolstoy was a radical Christian Socialist. His own wife was freaked-out by his political eccentricities. Tolstoy is classic now, though. I'm not sure that we have any other way to get our "classics." *Our true, no-kidding "classics" are supposed to be from genuinely remote, ancient times, like the Latin or Greek "classics." But the creatives who were making up that stuff back in the ancient, classical world, they never walked around in their togas in real-time, being all self-consciously "classical." *Ovid, for instance. Ovid was banished from Rome by Augustus Caesar -- because of some obscure, yet obviously awful, imperial sex scandal. I don't know what sleazy mischief that poet Ovid was up to, but it was so transgressively unbearable that Ovid was banished to a dismal barbarian village -- a place that's downstream from my current residence here. *I can scarcely stroll out of my apartment, and go to gaze upon the misty, wintry Danube (which is a good-sized river by European standards, and it's quite pretty, too, just check my FlickR set) without feeling an obscure yet genuine pang about Mr. Ovid. Having read some Ovid, I often think about him -- even though Ovid is merely a dusty, lifeless Roman imperial apparatchik that nobody reads in his own language nowadays. *Could Ovid, in his real life, possibly have been such an actively dangerous, busybody little sleazebag nuisance that he really *deserved* to end up in Bulgaria? *Ovid is a pretty good writer, and being a writer myself, I'd love to defend a fellow writer unconditionally. But -- (let's at least admit this possibility) -- maybe Ovid really WAS that bad, as a Roman citizen. Maybe the classical Ovid wasn't just "radical," but much too radical. Ovid somehow placed his sandaled foot on the (as yet nonexistent) electrified third rail of Roman Imperial politics. Ovid got thrown out of town, to the distant rim of the Empire; nobody ever let him back in. *It's not implausible to wonder if the classical "intelligence community" was involved in the dire fate of Ovid. His fate was obscure, and maybe that obscurity was deliberate. Any court with court poets is bound to have some court spies. The Emperor Augustus was a busy man. The autocrat needed his spies. *Somebody -- some unknown but very real person -- had to go inform Augustus Caesar about Ovid, and Ovid's misbehaviors. "Listen, Your Wonderfulness: we've been following this Ovid guy around, while undercover in our togas. He's a close friend and media confidante of this rotten, decadent playboy who's in bed with your out-of-control, bad-girl daughter, Julia." That obscure whisper would have pretty well done it for the author of the METAMORPHOSIS. Ovid would have been ancient, Roman, a classic poet -- and toast. *And that story is why I don't expect the readers of the WELL here to rush out in a body and abolish espionage. I also don't expect you to rise up in your righteous wrath and abolish prostitution, narcotics, and ancient, classical religions that you may not currently approve of, like, say, Christianity. Call me a pessimist if you will, call me a cynic. I know how to watch a calendar. Pessimism and cynicism aren't the problems at hand in these matters. *The problem of espionage is inherently political. It's a power relationship. If I spy on you, and you know it, that's a virtue, it's "transparency." When you spy on me, and I don't know it, that's a vice, it's "surveillance." *As mediation evolves into ubiquity, mediation becomes more political: who writes the checkboxes, and who is forced to click on them. Since we live in a digital world, you and I both know that it's not "law," it's mere "shrinkwrap." Shrinkwrap is a mockup, it's a prototype, it's in permanent beta, you don't care, and neither do I. Until we have to care, because of some political train-wreck, and then the rampant lawlessness of shrinkwrap looks pretty awful. *There's no click box to let Snowden leave Moscow. There's no click box to let Assange leave the embassy of Ecuador. You can't hit a RETURN key to let Barrett Brown out of custody in Texas. You can't click a box to grant amnesty to that ex-military gay guy who likes to change his name so as to spite his jailers. *They are some very digital people indeed, but they are at one with the classic Mr Ovid exiled in Bulgaria, these four guys. I can't doubt they'd have a lot to discuss, if they could escape their fetters, and gather in one spot in space and time.
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Wed 8 Jan 14 00:07
*"Use this new technology." "Oh please, no, I can't do that, because it's just so geeky and ugly." I've seen that struggle happen so many times. Generations of it, even. There's something voyeuristically fascinating about it, it's like watching some very halting and clumsy marriage-courting ritual. *Now it's "wearables." She's entirely right of course, they do look like crap. But mobile phones used to be uglier than sin, and I bet if she lost her current mobile in the subway, she could cry. http://www.elle.com/news/fashion-style/where-is-the-wearable-tech-we-want-to-w ear "I get why the Fuelband is cool. I get why its important and what it does. I just dont want to wear it. Its like wearing sneakers on the subway and changing into heels when you get to the office. I get the point of it. It just kills my vibe. "I cant imagine using any of these itemsmostly because theyre techy looking, and not in that sleek, sexy way, but more in a masculine, rubbery, will-ruin-my-outfit way."
Alan L. Chamberlain (axon) Wed 8 Jan 14 01:15
>we're planning a SXSW party (for EFF and EFF-Austin) with a >cyberpunk theme. Odd to think of cyberpunk as retro. You simply must book Billy Idol.
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Wed 8 Jan 14 04:02
"a plaid pajama ninja (cynsa): you're making me want to move to Serbia, bruce." *Well, don't arrive here in your plaid pajamas. *It's true that it thrills me to see this new Serbia that's rather like its obscure cousins Slovenia or Slovakia; just another weird, harmless place with a vowel shortage. *It seems to me that positive aspects of their national culture are coming to the fore these days, that their troubles have long repressed. They're more creative now, more expressive, less of an armed camp, more alive to their own possibilities. There are events and situations in Serbia now, like say the Exit Music Festival, or Resonate, or Share, where one can have a pretty good time in Serbia, and even learn something new that's worth knowing. *Still, despite increasing and diligent effort, they don't really have a tourist industry in Serbia. It's not yet a sleek and seamless place to visit. *The coast of Croatia, any foreigner can manage pretty well; Croatia has about the same level of material culture as Mexican coastal resorts. Croatia's full of tourism professionals who will sell your kids ice cream from carts in the summer. Serbia, not so much; they don't go out of their way to parodize themselves for foreigners, like, say, my home town of Austin, Texas does on Sixth Street. *So, if you show up here in Serbia, they feed you, but they just feed you what they themselves eat. You have to sleep in their hotels, use their own rattletrap buses and taxis, scratch your head over the relative material deprivation in their shops, etc. Belgrade is still an authentic place with its own regional food and music. If you go into a cafe, nobody speaks English. The radio is full of pop hits rooted in local folk traditions. The newspapers and magazines are obsessed with the doings of celebrities nobody else has ever heard of. *In 2014, things are much, much better here, just better by pretty much any objective standard, but the Balkans have always been poor. There have been some occasional rich people around here, moguls, princes, warlords and so forth, but it was never a prosperous society. The Balkans is an ancient region that's been through slavery, and peasantry, and Communism, with occasional outbreaks of slaughter to vary the pace. *It's just a harsh, rugged part of our world, and although it's looking pretty good nowadays, quite upbeat even, a marvel of improvement to tell the truth, you're not going to see a lot of European Union people lining up for a residency in Serbia. While the opposite: Serbs aspiring to live in Europe, or Canada, the US or Australia -- well, there's nothing more common. My fondness for their eccentric and colorful habits doesn't restrain them from getting out when as they can. One should trust their judgement there. When people vote with their feet, they're sincere about that. *My guess is that it's the diaspora Serbs who are really changing Serbia, in this decade. I don't know quite how that works out, because the Radikalni are intensely patriotic politicians, they cling fiercely to symbols of state, church, land and people, they're all about the braided leather shoes and the hats of extinct river pirates. But they just don't act like hicks, any more. It's because they don't think like hicks, I guess; they don't remember how. *It's hard to say what they do act like, right now. Like the canny operatives of some small, regional, European nation-state, I guess. They seem to have figured out the nation-state, at about the same time that everybody else realized that nation-states are almost useless.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 8 Jan 14 08:23
In these annual conversations, we focus on surfaces and seldom discuss the inner worlds of "three-brained beings," as Georges Gurdjieff referred to humans. I wonder how our minds are changing as we're conditioned to think in 140-character bursts of information. What's the impact of focusing on screens of data as persistently as many of us do? In the past I argued that those screens are windows on the world, but windows are analog, constrained, persistent. Through our screens we're receiving digital signals at an increasingly high rate of speed, and there's a hypnotic quality to the flow of light, color, and data. We see details of the lives of our friends and acquaintances in an attention-challenging stream of Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr posts, Instagram images, short-burst Vine videos. I just hopped over to Facebook, thinking to look for examples. I found a post from Howard Rheingold, an image of Howard with Wavy Gravy, with a long thread of responses in which he mentioned his trip to Austin with Mr. Gravy back in the 90s, and I posted a couple of memories of that trip. Then I saw that Jean Russell mentioned Facebook's "other" inbox, and I couldn't resist checking it out. There were two Nigerian spam messages offering to connect me with large sums of money, which I quickly learned to report as abuse, and a message from a former high school friend I hadn't seen in something like 45 years. I posted a note back to him. Then I saw that my friend Tiffany posted a song sung before lunch at her son's preschool: Give thanks to the mother earth Give thanks to the father sun Give thanks to the plants in the garden where the mother and the father are one. Blessings on our meal. Our song at the end of the day: I open my eyes to you I open my heart to you Together we reach our arms to the sun and together we are opening our loving hearts as one. Thank you for a beautiful day. Below that, Pat Lichty had posted a photo of Chicago under ice, pretty surreal, and Mark Frauenfelder posted a link to a medium.com piece, "Explain Bitcoin Like I'm Five." I resisted the urge to follow that link, but if I had followed it, I suspect I would have read the first two paragraphs, saved it, and never looked at it again. Another friend posts that she's awake again in the middle of the night, another about "a friend's amazing long term partnership" and whether it's better to be single. Under that there's a Harry Knowles defense of Michael Bay's CES bounce, and John Shirley's posted a link to a Slate post about growing up unvaccinated (in which the author says "As healthy as my lifestyle seemed, I contracted measles, mumps, rubella, a type of viral meningitis, scarlatina, whooping cough, yearly tonsillitis, and chickenpox." Surfing social media like this is seductive. It's worthwhile to watch yourself while you're doing it: see how the gears shift, see how the attention is conditioned to ebb and flow. Recently concerned that this surfing activity was creating a worse than usual attention deficit in my flow of consciousness, I decided focus where sustained attention is required, e.g. reading books, or building things. Many years of meditation have already shown me how hyper the monkeys in my head can be, and how difficult to tame, yet despite that awareness, despite regular dedicated attempts at focused attention, I was undermining any potential mindfulness and focus as I was bouncing around Facebook, Twitter, and other online information streams. We all have different selves, different "I's" inside our heads. Part of me wanted focus and consistency, another part wanted to drink from the firehose.
david gault (dgault) Wed 8 Jan 14 08:36
Just wanted to quickly point out that while Congress is as unpopular among the polled as has been noted here, Congress is very popular with its owners.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 8 Jan 14 10:29
In case you're wondering who those owners are, here's a 2010 overview from Mother Jones: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2010/09/capitol-hill-top-corporate-sponsor s
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 8 Jan 14 10:48
The state of the world could shift abruptly and catastrophically if a large asteroid struck the earth. Last year a relatively small asteroid struck earth's atmosphere above Russia: http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/news/fireball_130301.html. It caused significant injuries and damage: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chelyabinsk_meteor. Good to know that somebody's paying attention: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/space/10558514/Nasa-spacecraft-spots-potent ially-hazardous-new-asteroid.html
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Wed 8 Jan 14 13:22
*Looks like I just got a full complement of contributors for TECHNOLOGY REVIEW. Tragically, none of them are eighteen. Maybe one or two will be struck by an asteroid and I'll be back at the last minute begging for genius again. *I've seen some YouTube compilations of people's reactions at Chelyabinsk, by the way. It's really frightening and pitiful to be assaulted in that way -- by some grave danger that is utterly random, out of the sky. Worse than an earthquake, really. It's easy to joke about something as weird as being killed by an asteroid, but I felt true sorrow for those people.
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Wed 8 Jan 14 13:25
*Here's a nice map of people trying to own Congress. They don't strike me as a happy, satisfied bunch of guys. More like haunted figures pulling levers at the Sheldon Adelson casino. http://brucesterling.tumblr.com/post/71963060721/non-americans-should-get-hip- to-this-useful
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 8 Jan 14 14:10
<scribbled by jonl Wed 8 Jan 14 17:25>
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 8 Jan 14 17:30
I believe Colorado's going to shift from Financial sector contributions to Agriculture...
Matthew McClure (mmc) Wed 8 Jan 14 19:59
Fukushima strikes me as an important event of 2013, one whose impact on the future is likely to be significant, and one whose uncertainty casts a broad pall. But it prompted Safecast, too (http://www.safecast.org, a global sensor network for collecting and sharing radiation measurements to empower people with data about their environments). People like Joichi Ito and Ray Ozzie got together and came up with a clever way to croud source Big Data to provide reality-based information, as opposed to Jon's Snopes hoax. They've aggregated tens of millions of radiation readings around the world (including Antarctica recently - so all seven continents now). Mind you, any amount of radiation is harmful to human health and the story's not over yet, but at least we have a way of knowing what's real, which seems increasingly difficult these days.
Matthew McClure (mmc) Wed 8 Jan 14 20:04
(Yes, I know Fukushima happened in 2011, but its impact was still significant in 2013. And I meant crowd sourcing, not croud sourcing.)
Julie Sherman (julieswn) Wed 8 Jan 14 21:16
From an off-WELL reader: Hi Jon and Bruce, Long time lurker, first time poster: It occurs to me that Bitcoin may be much more than just a great way to buy drugs online. As software eats industries and robots eat jobs, the rise of a currency that requires no centralized control seems to represent an existential threat to the nation-state itself. How are we doing at acknowledging and handling that, both here in the States and abroad? Managing currencies are kind of the de facto power of a late-Capitalist nation, so how do we plan to keep relevant when the nation-state itself gets crammed through the "digitizer" (see Bruce's health care screed a few years back), and how do we influence the way it comes out on the other side? Thanks as always for doing this, guys. It's an annual tradition I always look forward to! -Toby
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 9 Jan 14 05:39
*Hmmm. One doesn't normally see Cory Doctorow writhing around sleepless and predicting doom. http://mostlysignssomeportents.tumblr.com/post/72759474218/we-are-huxleying-ou rselves-into-the-full-orwell *I'm not entirely upset about "losing the web," having already lost bulletin-board systems and the Information Superhighway. Losing the "personal computer" is gonna feel like a weird one, but I was alive before the PC existed and I have an intuition I'll outlive it.
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 9 Jan 14 05:44
I'm trying to think of something witty to say about Colorado marijuana, without moaning for the awful fate of the armies of prisoners, and the cruel decades of repression and criminality. *Maybe "sushi pairings" are somehow funny. I mean, the ideas of aesthetes in a mountain state eating Japanese raw seafood as they puff exotic brands of semilegal narcotic. Probably the Emperor Nero would have found that genuinely amusing.
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 9 Jan 14 05:52
http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/atlarge/2014/01/13/140113crat_atlarge_mo rozov *When is Evgeny Morozov finally gonna wise up and realize that it was really the WELL that caused all this stuff that he decries in the New Yorker here? Boy, what a scolding he's gonna give us. *I'd like to take personal credit for destroying Ruskin's Arts and Crafts Movement, but unfortunately the dates are wrong. Stewart Brand though, wow. Somebody they'll figure out that Stewart invented chemtrails. *It's got to be him, am I right? Look at the mountains of evidence!
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