inkwell.vue.473 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2014
permalink #176 of 193: 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. I’d like to think I’m 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. "
  
inkwell.vue.473 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2014
permalink #177 of 193: 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
  
inkwell.vue.473 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2014
permalink #178 of 193: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.473 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2014
permalink #179 of 193: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.473 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2014
permalink #180 of 193: 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. 
  
inkwell.vue.473 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2014
permalink #181 of 193: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.473 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2014
permalink #182 of 193: 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?
  
inkwell.vue.473 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2014
permalink #183 of 193: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.473 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2014
permalink #184 of 193: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 20 Jan 14 06:51
    <scribbled by jonl Mon 20 Jan 14 06:54>
  
inkwell.vue.473 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2014
permalink #185 of 193: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 20 Jan 14 06:54
    <scribbled by jonl Mon 20 Jan 14 06:56>
  
inkwell.vue.473 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2014
permalink #186 of 193: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.473 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2014
permalink #187 of 193: 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/
  
inkwell.vue.473 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2014
permalink #188 of 193: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.473 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2014
permalink #189 of 193: Brady Lea (brady) Mon 20 Jan 14 18:32
    

Thanks so much for this conversation, <bruces> & <jonl>.
  
inkwell.vue.473 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2014
permalink #190 of 193: 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. 
  
inkwell.vue.473 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2014
permalink #191 of 193: 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!
  
inkwell.vue.473 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2014
permalink #192 of 193: 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...
  
inkwell.vue.473 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2014
permalink #193 of 193: 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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