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inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #26 of 179: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #27 of 179: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #28 of 179: (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.
  
inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #29 of 179: 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.  
  
inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #30 of 179: 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?
  
inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #31 of 179: 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...
  
inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #32 of 179: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #33 of 179: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #34 of 179: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #35 of 179: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #36 of 179: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #37 of 179: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #38 of 179: 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-/)
  
inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #39 of 179: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #40 of 179: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #41 of 179: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #42 of 179: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #43 of 179: 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?
  
inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #44 of 179: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #45 of 179: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #46 of 179: 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/
  
inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #47 of 179: 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?
  
inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #48 of 179: 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. 
  
inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #49 of 179: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #50 of 179: 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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