Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sun 19 Jan 14 08:15
<rw>, thanks for bringing your valid perspective into the conversation. I don't agree that it's any way at odds with what we're discussing here, and look for you or one of the hosts to unhide your longer post, which I see as a valuable contribution to the conversation. I think you somewhat misrepresent my own rambling post, but c'est la vie. For instance, I didn't say that "war, famine, and death" are tragic exceptions - I was referring specifically to war casualties. Death is never an exception, we all get there one way or another. War is certainly exceptional so far in the 20th century, though the global peace index shows that the war is 5% less peaceful than in 2008 - but I was comparing the 21st century to the 20th, in which there were two very hot world wars and a very tense cold war. The current deterioration in peace scores owes to the number of homicides, increased military expenditure, and pervasive political instability. (Note that the drug war in Mexico over the last year claimed twice as many lives as the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. We should explore how the drug war relates to world peace...) I didn't say much about famine, but 15% of people in developing nations are undernourished, according to the best statistics I can find, but the number undernourished has decreased significantly in some parts of the world (Asia and the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean.) There's a slight increase in developed nations. Do we have global famine - i.e. a global scarcity of food? I say we don't, though I acknowledge a concern that local and possibly broader food crises could emerge in the future. Consensus is that there's enough food in the world to feed the current population, so why are people hungry? Issues of economic justice and poverty, ongoing local conflicts, and climate change (e.g. drought) are primary causes. What did I say about health? I'll repeat part of it here: "In the USA and I suspect in much of the world, we humans are healthy and resilient, and well-cared-for despite the volume of complaints about the medical establishment. We do have real problems, e.g. growing instances of hospital-acquired infections and antibiotic resistance." An argument that humans are healthy and resilient for the most part, that healthcare is generally good in most of the world - much better in some other countries than in the USA - and that there's no global pandemic is not the same as an argument that no one is ill, that no one is suffering, that the world is disease-free. And I wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry at Paulina's reference to "pandemic of frail elderly/persistent serious mentally ill on the streets." Old age, mental illness, and homelessness are not infectious diseases. It's terrible to have anyone, even the young and healthy, living without shelter, but while this is a compelling social issue, it's not a health issue. It's true that we should include these sorts of issues in our discussion, but we misstate or overstate the grimness of the world in so many discussions of this sort; in our annual conversation, we often try to show that the world is so much bigger than its miseries. Some <rw> quotes: "Everywhere I look there are communities for whom rape, forced abortion, violence and death are persistent and frequent facts of life." Well, yes - all these things occur everywhere in the world with some persistence, and may seem frequent, especially given media amplification. It appears you live in the UK, and in Europe, homicide rates are relatively low and declining. http://www.unodc.org/documents/data-and-analysis/statistics/Homicide/Global_st udy_on_homicide_Key_findings.pdf That humans can be violent and commit awful acts is inescapably true. I question whether we should focus on the exceptional worst (yes, rape, violence and murder are still exceptional globally), or consider, at least occasionally, what's working and right with the world. "Just how much of the world is actually net-connected anyhow? Half?" The latest figure I saw was 40% and growing. You can see how it breaks out at this Wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_Internet_usage Hopefully you'll forgive us for focusing so much on networks and associated technologies, but I think both of us believe that the state of the world is increasingly shaped by the state of world networks. I'm sure that's open to debate. Here's a for-instance about the transformative impact of network technologies: http://www.technologyreview.com/view/519041/how-cell-phones-are-transforming-h ealth-care-in-africa/ "I am not convinced that the most vulnerable people in the world, of which there must be billions, will be helped or hindered by 3d printers, wearable technology, or the political shenanigans of the big 5 tech companies. Id like to think Im wrong. But I fear that the future state of the world, and the actual experience of most of it's occupants during 2014, will depend so much more upon human nature than any of this technological window-dressing." Probably both. Technology adoption has spread rapidly for a reason: access to the world's information, even narrower slices of it, via the Internet can be transformative and empowering: http://www.salzburg.umd.edu/unesco/empowerment-through-internet-access However there's also the potential down side, e.g. as foreseen by Jerry Mander: http://www.wholeearth.com/issue/1340/article/54/internet.the.illusions.of.empo werment We're hardly technoutopian in this discussion. Check out my initial post, for example: "...I think we're still in a transition with attendant confusion. These stacks and related businesses are all about media and marketing, and they require massive cycles of content, not so much as product but as fuel for the engines of commerce. So the pipes are full of information, but it's less reliable than ever - we're missing the intermediary vetting within the cycle, everybody's running just to stay in the race. And where media is amplified by a proliferation of content - channels and sources - there's more room for media manipulation, political propaganda and commercial marketing messages are embedded, often indistinguishably, in the signal and the noise. "
Paulina Borsook (loris) Sun 19 Jan 14 09:28
jon, you know me well enough that i dont think chronic illness (diabetes, all the ailments of old age, serious mental illness, etc etc) are -infectious-. but they -=are= health problems that dont have easy cures; are costly in every sense --- and are growing probs even in developing countries. back to discussions of network effects
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sun 19 Jan 14 09:32
Paulina, I was just questioning your use of the word "pandemic," which is associated with infectious diseases, and is the word I had used... i.e. we weren't talking about the same thing.
Paulina Borsook (loris) Sun 19 Jan 14 10:17
'pandemic' actually is a nod to my pcp, an old-school wise family doc kinda fellow --- who -years- ago referred to the 'epidemic' of frail elderly. and i realized he was right: the etiology may not be cooties but the widespread illness is just that, widespread illness. so blame him and then blame me for fanciful (but i think evocative) use of language.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sun 19 Jan 14 12:03
I certainly have no issue with evocative language, as long as the apples are sorted from the oranges by context and connotation. Again, I was emphasizing what I saw as a conceptual gap between my post and your response. And while I may seek to clarify any misperception of where I'm coming from, I'm glad you and <rw> expanded the focus of the discussion.
Russell Wiltshire (rw) Sun 19 Jan 14 15:40
<jonl> thanks for taking the time to respond. You were right to clarify certain points - my writing is nowhere near as succinct and pithy and misses the mark fairly often. Having said that I think we'll have to agree to disagree on some issues too. I don't want to go back and forth and tie up the flow of conversation but I would like to respond on one quick point. You mentioned my characterization of atrocities as "persistent" and suggested that this view may be colored by mass media exaggeration. I want to point out that none of my facts or anecdotes were based on mass media reporting. It was direct experience (Sami, child welfare), articles direct from reporters in the field (Uyghur) or official statistics untainted by the mass media filter (causes of death). I would respectfully suggest that my point stands - certain significant aspects of the state of the world go unreported by mass media and do not change. Those things which mass media/politicians/and big business omit will shape our view of the world just as much as the subjects they choose to exaggerate. It's easier to figure out what they are exaggerating because they give as a ready made list of topics to examine and criticize. We have no way of knowing what they omit until we go looking for it ourselves.
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Mon 20 Jan 14 04:50
http://www.theguardian.com/business/2014/jan/20/oxfam-85-richest-people-half-o f-the-world *You have to wonder why eighty-five moguls own so much in 2014; why not just ten, or one?
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Mon 20 Jan 14 04:54
*I think this is our last day, isn't it? I'm kind of busy in the Torino Fab Lab, sawing stuff up now. I"m pretty awful at fabrication, it's not my metier and doesn't suit me at all, but while I do it the most extraordinary literary ideas come to me. Typing fiction really seems like a fun idea when I'm covered with hot-glue and sawdust.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 20 Jan 14 06:51
<scribbled by jonl Mon 20 Jan 14 06:54>
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 20 Jan 14 06:54
<scribbled by jonl Mon 20 Jan 14 06:56>
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 20 Jan 14 06:56
Yes, this is formally the last day of the discussion. We're welcome to post more after today, but I suspect our exhausted readers won't be checking here, but will be off to Reddit, Boing Boing, Hacker News, Medium, Re/Code, Huffington Post, Salon, Arts & Letters Daily, etc. No dearth of daily new content. In a couple of weeks they'll be watching the Stoner Bowl (http://www.celebstoner.com/sports/sporting-highs/2014/01/19/its-denver-vs.-sea ttle-in-the-stoner-bowl/?ref=6&ref_type=tab), and the world will no doubt have changed state... According to the Economist, innovative, emerging technologies mean that the rich will get richer and the poor will be poorer (http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21594298-effect-todays-technology-tomorr ows-jobs-will-be-immenseand-no-country-ready?), support for <rw>'s contention that human nature and the human condition haven't changed all that much, despite the "digital revolution" and the spread of information technologies in both developed and developing nations. And we all inevitably die, one way or another, so mortality is a constant throughout the many states of many worlds past and to come. There may be some comfort in the realization that we're all in this together, the 99% and the 1%. Death is 100%. I personally think what we do between birth and death matters, so I'm trying to make the best of it.
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Mon 20 Jan 14 11:11
One never knows with readers. Maybe they'll be energized rather than exhausted. Strange people, readers. I would know, being one myself. I often feel strangely refreshed when I find myself reading stuff that I'm absolutely certain I was never meant to read. Material that makes, just, no attempt to please you as a reader at all; written material that doesn't care if you understand it; it would prefer that you didn't, really. JG Ballard used to call that "invisible literature." He said it was a gold mine. Ballard was never the founder of a literary school or anything, but one of the things I learned from Ballard was that useful willingness to just go ahead and look. Sure, maybe it's weird garbage, inexplicable, heartbreaking even; but a lot of the stuff you ALREADY know is inexplicable heartbreaking weird garbage. You're just used to it, that's the only difference. I appreciate these rituals we have at the WELL every year. They give me a heartening sense of continuity. Hope to be back in 12 months, with another backpack full of the implausible. Why not? We've done it before. The track record speaks for itself! http://brucesterling.tumblr.com http://www.wired.com/beyond_the_beyond/
bill braasch (bbraasch) Mon 20 Jan 14 15:03
They're raising money to restore Kesey's bus for the 50th anniversary. <http://www.oregonlive.com/pacific-northwest- news/index.ssf/2013/03/ken_keseys_family_wants_to_fix.html> as Kesey said, "You're either on the bus or off the bus." thanks for this latest trip report.
Brady Lea (brady) Mon 20 Jan 14 18:32
Thanks so much for this conversation, <bruces> & <jonl>.
Gail Williams (gail) Mon 20 Jan 14 19:56
Thanks, Bruce, Jon, Brady & everybody who posted and mailed, for the array of new things to think about. And Bruce, that's right down to the last post with "invisible literature." It somehow turns the idea of lurking inside out. I have recently been reading some scientific abstracts outside any field I ever studied, and have thought of myself as a semi-literate lurker. Now it turns out it's optional to feel that way. Now I am me, being happily curious, and the sources become invisible literature. Damned handy idea.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 20 Jan 14 20:12
I neglected to post my links: http://weblogsky.com http://weblogsky.tumblr.com/ Thanks to all! See you next year!
david gault (dgault) Wed 22 Jan 14 06:20
thanks for everything, and especially the list of writers who signed the privacy petition. More than enough new books for a lifetime...
Robin Russell (rrussell8) Wed 22 Jan 14 14:40
Stimulating stuff, thanks to all who contributed, thanks to all who read.
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