Ted Newcomb (tcn) Tue 5 Jan 16 15:31
Yes, I like participatory much better Jon. Lots going on there along with Blockchaining and Fintech..Have you heard about e-residency? https://e-estonia.com/e-residents/about/ An opportunity to become a digital citizen of the world...and you can locate your business(es) there and use blockchaining. I'm seriously considering it. Bruce and Jon, thoughts about that as one more affordance to collaborative economies? Agree it's nice the stacks are playing nice, but they will soon start eating each other. It's bad tech to wall yourself off. I get the short range greed factor. But long-range, it seems a losing strategy to me.
Ted Newcomb (tcn) Tue 5 Jan 16 15:38
Administrivia for those of you following from outside WELL... We try and keep our posts short and on point...if they go more than 6 paragraphs or so, or if we go off on a rant, we "hide" it, so others can quickly read along and stay with the flow of the conversation. You can click on the hidden response to see what was written, or read to the end of the topic and go back to read the lengthier posts. YMMV 'Slippage' means that someone else posted a question or response before yours was posted. It let's people know why the placement of your post may not seem to be in the flow of the conversation. 'Scribble' means there was an error or for some reason the writer decided to delete the post. Now back to our regular programming.
(fom) Tue 5 Jan 16 16:52
So about climate change. I find it disconcerting that in the past few years, people who are skeptical of the anthropogenic part get lumped in with those who don't believe it's happening at all. There used to be a distinction. To me it is a significant distinction and shouldn't be abandoned.
david gault (dgault) Tue 5 Jan 16 20:23
thanks Bruce and Jon. I needed some poetry. Reading this leads me to wonder who or what will be known as great artists in 2050 or 2100? An unanswerable question but fun to think about. I'm writing a 5 year technology plan for a small Community College at the moment. I'm having trouble with it.
Ted Newcomb (tcn) Wed 6 Jan 16 00:09
http://www.techfugees.com/ Bruce you are closer to this than the rest of us...the refugee problem is not just Syrian, but almost a world-wide diaspora. Are you aware of this site? Thoughts?
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 6 Jan 16 06:02
<fom>: One obvious effect of the anthropocene: an extinction event driven by willful ignorance. From that perspective, the nuances just don't seem that important. In other words... from the mitigation perspective, if you believe it's critical (to the survival of the species) to create policies to address and limit emissions globally, the distinction between the two forms of denial is moot. Both oppose taking effective action to constrain emissions and mitigate the catastrophe that climate scientists are expecting. And for some the debate is not really about whether the climate is or isn't changing, but about the economic impact of mitigation. "I don't want to think about the future, I don't want to think that this is happening, because I don't want to change the way I do business, and I don't want expensive profit-killing regulations - if science says otherwise, science must be wrong ..." <dgault>: Here's are related links to Juxtapoz http://www.juxtapoz.com/news/technology/start-ing-something-new/ and Apple https://www.apple.com/start-something-new/. Apple's "Start Something New" highlights artists using new (Apple) tools to make art. There's a live event tomorrow at an Apple Store in NYC. That doesn't exactly answer your question, but strikes me as relevant. I've always been interested in the possibility space the Internet has inspired, for collaborative network art. One of the early (as in early 90s) network art projects was SITO: https://www.sito.org/ I've wondered if we won't see a resurgence of that collaborative spirit...
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Wed 6 Jan 16 06:03
In these annual State of World events I like to take the planet's moral temperature; kind of a general health-check for our world's many regions and peoples. So, who among us can say that 2015 was a good time for them? That their position is improved, their footing is more solid, opportunity beckons, they have reasons to hop out of bed in the morning -- all that fine stuff? Well, not a lot of us. But some.
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Wed 6 Jan 16 06:04
1. China China made a lot of money in a time when there's not much around. Most people who make any money now have it swiftly mopped up by ultra-rich moguls, but China threw an anticorruption campaign in 2015 that scared the local malefactors. When it comes to cyberwar and cybersovereignty issues, China is just plain winning. They have stolen just fantastic amounts of adversary data, including every dossier of any American federal official with a security clearance. I've never even heard of such of comprehensive feat of espionage. To use the American's own federal security system to wreck their security was worthy of Shaolin kungfu. "Cybersovereignty is basically just raw nationalism at work, but China's shown that they can not only get away with raw digital nationalism, but persuade other powers to throw in with them. Russia is their client state in this regard. There's not a regime in the world now that doesn't secretly hanker to do it China's way, and that definitely includes the US. The South China Sea thing obviously means a lot to China. It's weird that a huge groaning land empire would invent a new way to steal more of the planet's surface, but they did. Their naked aggression has lost them a lot of soft power and aroused deep and lasting regional resentments from Japan, Vietnam, the Philippines, whomever, but obviously China thinks it's worth the cost. Nobody chased them off and took their wild-eyed ocean claims back from China, and they seem to be limbering up the drilling rigs while they terraform unsinkable aircraft carriers from dying coral reefs. I'm thinking they sternly mark this as a major positive achievement. China has a big Moslem problem, like every other major power, but they're able to repress their Moslems more quietly than everybody else thanks to their media control. So they don't suffer as much from this endemic crisis of the 21st century. Superpower rivals the USA and Russian Federation are bogged down in multiple, unwinnable, land/drone expeditions that cost political capital, never end, and convey no geostrategic benefit. China is free of that in 2016. So they're one of the few big global players who can march forth without carrying an anvil; they've got freer hands.
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Wed 6 Jan 16 06:04
2. India India could claim that 2015 was a pretty good year. There were no major scandals afflicted the slightly weird Modi government; a guy who came to power with the gore of a Moslem pogrom on his hands, but nowadays no one will fuss. The Indian population is in a relatively stable mood; no massive calamities, the Maoists are on the back burner; Indian public life is so calm that even feminist issues are getting a public hearing. This is very contemporary of them, considering that, in every polity around India, women are crushed without a second thought. India's victory condition for 2016 is to just keep growing and slowly rolling forward while everybody around them withers or hides in a ditch. India wins by the widening comparative advantage. Indians don't have much say in world matters -- everybody cordially ignores them their suggestions -- but it doesn't matter if India says "yes" or "no" to any global issue. No matter what they proclaim from their high-minded pundit pulpit, they never actually do much of anything on the world stage, so that's cool.
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Wed 6 Jan 16 06:04
3. Italy, Spain, Portugal *2015 was rough for Europe's troubled southern rim, but there was more daylight in it than in the truly stormy years of '12, '13, '14. These afflicted states don't have to play the wounded cripples of Europe in 2016, because Europe's crippled all over. *Spain elected a less austere government. From sleepy Portugal no news is good news. Italy's still pretty far from prospering, but it wasn't in free-fall in 2015. *In Torino, where I spend a lot of my time, the city government is more or less broke, but the city is just awash in lively culture-event tourism. There are lines outside museums that stretch around the block, and the prosecco flows like water. I don't get it. Maybe the Turinese are too hospitable, and not scalping the foreigners with enough severity.
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Wed 6 Jan 16 06:05
4. Iran (sort of) Iran enjoyed a diplomatic breakthrough in 2015 and looked like it was going to re-join the world. Then, late in the year, it got swept into a Shiite proxy war with Saudi Arabia. Iran is always troubled, but it must please them to see their neighbors more obsessed with bloody-handed martyr cults than Iran ever was. In 2016 they're a world player, as opposed to the basket-cases of Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and other neighbors. 5. Myanmar/Burma and Vietnam had a good 2015. You can say they had nowhere to go but up, but hey, they really went up. 6. For last but best, Canada is looking quite a lot perkier. They got rid of a cynical, foul-tempered national leader and voted in a shiny young family dynast. Dynasts are pretty bad news for democracies, frankly, but at least dynasts tend to arrive with pre-packaged court retainers who know where to find the pork. It's been unnerving to observe Canadian politics, normally the boring-est in all the G-7, and realize that the Canadians were gabblingly out of control, cocaine-soaked weirdos like former mayor of Toronto. For 2016, its reasonable to think that they might return to their usual world status of well-behaved good-example.
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Wed 6 Jan 16 06:06
Then there were all the various guys who made 2015 infamous, and boy were there ever a lot of them. What a mess it was. 1. Syria. Horrible. Just an amazingly bad regional scene with grim world implications: much worse than the Balkans in the 1990s. Not one faction there to cheer for. No ray of light anywhere. Everybody hates and despises the Syrians, everybody is blowing them up on the ground and walling them off wherever they run. Worse yet, they bitterly hate themselves and blow themselves up. They're the Quasimodo of the Arab Spring, the free-fire range for anybody who wants some target practice with roadside mega-bombs and aerial killer robots. ISIS is just amazingly wicked, a struttingly evil theocratic terror group that is morally viler than organized crime. They make bin Laden look like a quiet country gentleman. It's like they're deliberately stretching acts of public evil as an Overton Window. If you're ISIS, where is the end game for this dismal arc of war-crime? Genocide followed by a Masada-style suicide cult in their last bunker, presumably. 3. Turkey, so close to a European destiny, caught Syria's authoritarian disease. After 2015, Turkey is very badly off, bewildered, beset with hazards. I blame Erdogan: he betrayed Turkish democracy. He turned his horse into a crocodile just so he could keep riding. Ataturk would have jailed or shot this guy. He's disastrous. Turkey shot down a Russian aircraft in 2015. This proxy hot-war in the skies over Syria is like the drone-chickens of the 1990s coming home to roost. It's swell to bug-splat the rebel tribesmen with your invulnerable drones, but now the sky's so thick with fighter aircraft that they're shooting each other.
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Wed 6 Jan 16 06:07
(ISIS counts as a not quite #2 region/ nation-state for those keeping count up there *8-/)
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Wed 6 Jan 16 06:08
4. Iraq remains a catastrophic mess. Since they're so visibly keen on sectarian ethnic-cleansing, they ought to abandon the shell of the national order and form balkanized mini-states. It makes sense, but I don't think even that would help them. 5. Saudi Arabia is indiscriminately killing Shiites and scimitar-rattling at Iran. Cheap tracking has wrecked their OPEC advantage. They had a dreadful 2015 and 2016 looks darker for them in every way. 7. The Emirates and Dubai are under the curse of cheap oil and the abject political failure of their Arab Spring projects. These little entities were throwing their weight around like giants five years ago. Now they must want to hide in a black tent with a sheepskin over their head.
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Wed 6 Jan 16 06:10
8. The Islamic religion may have been the biggest loser of 2015. If you are Moslem, then people hate and fear you in every corner of the planet, especially within the Moslem Umma. Islamophobia is winning across the board. It's a sure vote-getter anywhere on Earth, even in Islamic states (as long as it's the wrong kind of Islam you're voting against, and there is no right kind of Islam anywhere for anybody). After 9/11, there was a broad assumption that the sane majority of Muslims would soon mellow out the tiny fraction of deadly, crazy ones, but that's not true. It's like thinking that sane majority guys in the Austro-Hungarian Empire were too bourgeois and placid to start World War One. Terror thrives in the shadow of the Minaret; Moslems are killing each other in 2016 with the kamikaze gusto of American gun-nuts. They constantly play the persecuted-minority card when anyone decries that behavior, and indeed they are a persecuted minority, but God help you if you are smaller minority in their merciless grip: a Yezidi, a Druze, a Kurd, a Jew, they'll kill you as soon as look at you. Islam is going into a ghost-dance spiral of decline; it's quite hard for unbelievers not to share the factions' violent hatred for one another. Even the Moslem diasporas are in peril, and those diasporas are getting bigger every day as Moslems scatter in well-deserved, bone-deep fear of other Moslems. If this were the 19th century, they'd simply be wasting away with epidemics and famine.
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Wed 6 Jan 16 06:11
*I deleted number 6, Venezuela, because the less said about their utterly dismal situation, the better.
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Wed 6 Jan 16 06:12
9. One think that Israel would be thriving by the utter breakdown of their sworn enemies all around them. Unfortunately, Israel's regime is so incompetent and paranoid that everybody hates them. Israel has no sincere friends left on Earth, except for the nutcase-fundie wing of the US Right wing, and even they know they're being played. Israel is a developed society with exceedingly talented people, but they can't assert any order at all in their region. They huddle behind the high walls while gangs throw garbage-cans full of explosives on them. Security walls are one of the few big Israeli cultural exports. 10. It was trendy to talk about the "BRICs" or "BRICSA" a few years ago: "Brazil Russia India China South Africa." They so share some geostrategic interests, but they balkanized under Internet Counterrevolution. They can't find any common ground. South Africa is broke and economically incompetent. Brazil is the same, a shocking mess; it's the same old back-broken Brazil, only with Lula's hapless secretary wondering where her charm went.
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Wed 6 Jan 16 06:12
11. Russia is so lastingly humiliated by their failure to globalize that they've become a "troll state." To have a fellow Slavic people take to the streets in Euromaidan really hurt their national pride; it was like a traumatic divorce. I get it why Putin is popular in Russia; he's deftly acting-out their dog-in-the-manger attitude for them. Granted, Russians have got a lot to be resentful about from the way the world has treated them; if the world wants to place them under economic sanctions, why should they ever play nice about globalization any more? There was never much in that game for them, except for one of the worst cases of mogul oligarchy ever seen anywhere. In 2015 the Russians saw themselves as kicking ass and taking names. However, they're broke from the oil thing, and the long-term consequences of Crimea and Novorussia will be lastingly burdensome and embarrassing. Especially if you are actually love in Crimea and Novorussia, and you trustingly imagined that Mother Russia is the soul of kindness. I'm quite the Russophile, actually. I genuinely sympathize. I listen with care to all their laments, and have learned a lot from them. I listen to Russian thinkers even Russians can't stand, like, say, Alexander Dugin. They're the Other White Guy Continental Superpower. In two major world wars Russia was allied to the USA and extremely valuable, even critical to victory. So it's a shame to see a second Cold War setting in for 2016, but, well, it will be cold. Russians and Americans almost never actually shoot each other. It's not exactly a love-hate relationship, but it's a deep relationship; something like estranged stepbrothers. I do wonder what happens when Putin falls off his stallion. He's working the ol' personality cult, and as a Russian leader he's been very gifted and also lucky. But in 2016, Putin's getting older and he's not made of bronze. He's just a weird Petersburg spook hustler with a taste for judo and female gymnasts. What do the Russians do after Putin? Is there any kind of unifying vision for them? Do they have any idea what they want from themselves and the world?
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Wed 6 Jan 16 06:15
12. Great Britain is becoming Little Britain. The UK is like a giant Cayman Islands in 2016. They used to be the wise and perfidious grownups in the geostrategic room, but now it's all about squalid, petty things like Brexit, Scottish secession, anti-immigration; British political extremes are thriving and the middle is dead as mutton. They've lost their soft-power by the bucketful; people who used to beg for their wise counsel now ignore them. What do they want -- to be Airstrip One for any creep with a trailer-truck full of cash? I've never seen them think so small. 13. Japan in 2016 is simply sad. The Boom Japan of the 1980s was such a vivid, impressive society. It sounds a little odd to say this, but the thing I really miss about Japan was their inventiveness. They used to do such profound, subversive stuff; transistor radios, portable phones, miniature anything, giant neon, freaky robots, even velcro shoes. In 2016 they're the Electronic Galapagos. I can't remember the last time the Japanese made or exported anything that set the world on its ear, and that used to seem so effortless for them. What is wrong with them? Is it their aging demographics? If so, then we're in for the fate they pioneered, because we're all gonna be like that in a couple of decades. 14. Greece is crippled and forgotten by its angry creditors. That's plenty bad, and worse when you deserve it.
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Wed 6 Jan 16 06:15
15. Germany, just marking time and holding on, hoping for a change in the political weather. They'll get one, but it might be a turn for the worse, 16. France, petrified with GWOT terror after some zealots wasted a crowd of rock and roll fans -- not exactly a hard target. That massacre instantly played into the hands of the French Right, who are they most-advanced-yet-electable version of everybody else's European nationalist fringe right. In 2016 every European nation's National Front is crawling out from under its rock and yawning for fresh air. Modern Euro kids kinda like these guys in jackboots, they vaguely know that the fascists genuinely scare the straights, for some reason. In 2016's Tumblr-based social-media European neofascism, it's all about cool metal-band political logos and white-power tattoos for cute blonde girls. 17. And finally there's the USA, where I rather imagine that the WELL SoTW will be giving TheDonald more free publicity.
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Wed 6 Jan 16 06:34
*Here is our brandy decanter shaped like a Nikola Tesla memorial climate-wrecking light bulb. You may have thought I was kidding about that. Nope. https://www.flickr.com/photos/brucesterling/23584368783/
Emily Gertz (emilyg) Wed 6 Jan 16 08:46
"What do the Russians do after Putin? Is there any kind of unifying vision for them? Do they have any idea what they want from themselves and the world?" I also wonder, what do Russians want FOR themselves? If you pay attention to the demographics, it's clear that Russia is in the midst of a hard fall. The population is hollowing out at the same time that the Putin regime has squelched any semblance of economic diversification or modernization in favor of oil-driven kleptocracy. Conditions in Russia seem closer to the Russia of the late 19th century, with Moscow, Petersburg, and a few other cities around the rim prospering while the rest of the country barely gets by, than to even the late Soviet era of perestroika. On a personal level, the emergence of Putin's Russia as a geopolitical spoiler in the past few years has been enthralling, because it's made my undergraduate education in Soviet-American relations and Russian relevant to the 21st century. I spent most of the fall working out of a small city in Norway 10 miles from the Russian border. I was there the day Turkey shot down the Russian fighter jet. Sitting in Kirkenes, it felt a lot more alarming and threatening and relevant to my daily life than it would have if I'd been at home in New York City, and brought home how fragile things seem to be in Europe right now. But stepping away from my little intellectual gratifications, I really worry for the Russians. How many times can they get stepped on by modern history before they collapse completely?
david gault (dgault) Wed 6 Jan 16 09:35
On the other hand, the Russians have endured and survived through many previous collapses. They may be better positioned than their rivals in Europe and North America, if collapse is in the cards.
Emily Gertz (emilyg) Wed 6 Jan 16 10:22
Enduring and surviving is not thriving, never mind progressing. Most of Europe, and North America, have managed to emerge from several crises over the past 150 years with the frameworks of democracy and pluralism relatively intact. Russia has no such experience. Further, the less ordered things are in Russia, the more likely they will continue to pull fossil fuels out of the ground after 2050, and raze rather than save their forests. Both have enormous consequences for climate change.
Andy Dupont (jonl) Wed 6 Jan 16 12:06
Via email from Andy Dupont: Hello and thank you all again for consolidating and documenting your conversation for us once more. I look forward to reading your responses for the next two weeks as we all look forward with tepid anticipation to 2016. I want to ask, what are your thoughts about virtual reality looking forward? It seems like every year there is a new "killer app", a higher refresh rate, a lower latency, a cheaper consumer model, etc. But we never achieve the Snow Crash / Neuromancer techno-utopian virtual reality that we've always been promised. Will virtual reality remain in the realm of the flying car or is the surrounding ecosystem finally ready to make this technology a part of our daily life?
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