System Status: Password not working? See the Status Page for more information.


inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #0 of 198: Welcome to the WELL (jonl) Thu 29 Dec 16 09:48
    
We're kicking off the 2017 edition of the state of the world
conversation with Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky. The WELL has
hosted this conversation every year since 2000. It's a free-ranging
discussion of anything and everything across the worlds of
technology, design, politics, high and low culture, fashion - pretty
much anything goes.

Bruce Sterling is a world-famous author, thinker, and bon vivant. He
has a global perspective, as someone who travels and reports
broadly. In addition to his writing, he is widely known as a
speaker, teacher and maker attentive to trends in science, culture,
politics, and design.

Jon Lebkowsky has been making and sharing experiences in digital
culture and media for over 25 years. He's been an activist,
sometimes journalist, and blogger who writes about the future of the
Internet, digital culture, media, and society.

The conversation will continue for two weeks, so be sure to bookmark
it and keep checking back for more commentary, insight, and crazy
wisdom...
  
inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #1 of 198: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 30 Dec 16 07:36
    
Stephen Hawking summarized one aspect of the state of the world
pretty handily in a Guardian op-ed, "This is the most dangerous time
for our planet." The tagline: "We can’t go on ignoring inequality,
because we have the means to destroy our world but not to escape
it."  He says globalization and automation "will accelerate the
already widening economic inequality around the world," and that
owing to the spread of the Internet and social media, "the stark
nature of these inequalities is far more apparent than it has been
in the past.... the lives of the richest people in the most
prosperous parts of the world are agonisingly visible to anyone,
however poor, who has access to a phone." It's no wonder, he says,
that there's a reaction against elites, and a against systems that
seem to benefit the rich at the expense of the not-rich. The elites,
he says, should acknowledge this, and suggests that elites should
not "reject these (Brexit, Trump) votes as outpourings of crude
populism that fail to take account of the facts, and attempt to
circumvent or circumscribe the choices that they represent..."
[https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/dec/01/stephen-hawking-dangerou
s-time-planet-inequality]

It's ironic that a member of the billionaire elite had the right
voice to speak to populist discontent in the USA, winning the
presidency with the political equivalent of a TKO. This win was just
another piece in a global jigsaw puzzle, assembling the future based
on anger and rejection, not based on vision, science, reason or
comprehension. 

Dangerous, yes, and complex. 

Many pieces of the puzzle are still in the box, out of site. I can't
pretend to have scenarios for the future to propose with any level
of confidence. However, like Hawking, I'm an optimist. I don't
believe we're going to reach meltdown. Maybe, as Rex Tillerson said
of climate change, the difficult current state of the world is "an
engineering problem, and it has engineering solutions." If so,
perhaps we should work at getting past the anger and confusion, and
think like engineers, problem-solvers looking for innovative
solutions.

In my own tiny life, I try to address the problem of inequality by
supporting worker-owned cooperative businesses. In the USA, we have
argued that we are the world's leading democracy, yet most business
enterprises here are structured as oligarchies. It should be no
surprise that we see a political drift here away from equality and
toward oligarchic authoritarianism in that case. How can we expect
equality, when we aggressively enforce inequality in our most
prominent organizational structures? In a worker-owned co-operative,
the workplace is relatively democratic, all workers participate in
governance and share in profit. Everyone has a stake, and everyone
can be part of consensus governance. This works pretty well in
smaller clusters, but democracy doesn't scale well as a process for
making decisions. That's a problem worth confronting head-on; a
problem of engineering effective and fair governance. Is there an
engineering solution?
  
inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #2 of 198: someone who just sucked on a dill pickle (wendyg) Fri 30 Dec 16 15:31
    
The thing is, the "elites" who get hammered aren't so muchh the actual
elites as the people in the middle who have a few advantages but aren't the
ones doing the damage. In the UK, they changed a bunch of tax rules in order
to soak expatriates, who are viewed as rich. The result was to triple
accountants' costs for peop like me, who *aren't* possessed of the kind of
wealth that makes a difference to the tax coffers, while the actual rich
bypassed all that  by paying a flat fee or moving away again.

wg
  
inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #3 of 198: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Mon 2 Jan 17 03:20
    
Back again for another twenty-first century edition of the WELL
State of the World!  Who's gonna collapse first:  us pundits, or
"the World"?

On the face of it, this is the worst condition the SOTW's world has
ever yet been found in.  I do hesitate to bluntly state that,
because whenever you tell Americans a harsh truth nowadays, instead
of pragmatically taking some hands-on action to cash in (as was once
their wont) nowadays they tend to empty a bottle of Oxycontin and
float out on a paisley tide of weltschmertz.

I don't intend to mince a lot of words here, as that is not our
tradition,  but I would start by strongly urging you prize your
existence in 2017. Life is precious and shouid be valued, for it's
easy not to have it.   Besides, despair is an act of intellectual
arrogance.  Despair implies that you've got it all figured out,
while the only sure thing about 2017 is a forthcoming boatload of
unheard-of surprises.

Although everybody expressed shock and surprise at world events
during 2016, I saw little evidence that anybody actually changed
their mind much yet.  Scarcely anybody broke a filter-bubble;
positions simply hardened all around.  

You'd think that having your 2015 weltanschaaung reduced to 2016's
gonzo cartoon-status would cause everybody to undergo some healthy 
reassessment of ground-state reality.  But, no.  Nowadays, that
sends confirmation-bias into overdrive.  
  
inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #4 of 198: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Mon 2 Jan 17 03:23
    <hidden>
  
inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #5 of 198: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Mon 2 Jan 17 03:24
    

So, in thinking back over  my own 2016, which was one of the
weirdest years of my extensive lifespan, I wondered if I myself had
changed my mind about anything.  Were there any shocking facts I had
stumbled over that had disarranged my long-established prejudices? 
Was there a situation where I thought, "You know, I believed (X) for
thirty years or more, but in today's perturbed situation, I can see
that I should no longer believe (X), and henceforth I will purport
myself differently!"

Maybe.  Sort of.  But it wasn't facts or reason that convinced me. 
Instead, I found that a new sensibility that had crept up on me. 
I'll tell that story here, although, admittedly, it may seem a tad
morbid.
  
inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #6 of 198: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Mon 2 Jan 17 03:25
    
t's a story of sudden unexpected death.  Specifically, the
assassination last December of the Russian ambassador to Turkey,
Andrei Karlov.  The assassination of an ambassador is commonly seen
as a large and awful business.   World-scale dread ensued when that
diplomatic was blown away on video, dramatically riddled with
bullets by a cop who was trained to shoot and didn't miss.  

Dread ensued for a news cycle or two, maybe 48 hours.  A common
hot-take on this geopolitical incident was that a new Sarajevo had
occurred.  World War III might be at hand, etc.  

Then the shooting of Karlov gently faded into the background noise. 
On New Years Eve some ISIS guy in Turkey staged a nightclub
slaughterhouse that was  39 times as gruesome, so Karlov's brief
fame as a terror icon evaporated from the networks.
  
inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #7 of 198: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Mon 2 Jan 17 03:29
    
But in reading about Karlov's demise, and watching the numerous
jpegs and videos of the shooting (because they were all over the
place), I realized that I was having a strange and novel emotional
reaction.    One I'd never felt before.

I felt a kind of genuine and rueful affection for the guy.  As if we
were on a first-name basis, and he'd slipped and fallen on an icy
sidewalk that presented a danger to anybody.  "So, it's come to
this, has it Andrei?" I wanted to say.

That feeling wasn't grief, fear, indignant alarm, least of all was
it "terror."  It wasn't even pity or sorrow; no, it was a kind of
genteel intimacy, as if I'd told him over a cocktail glass: Well,
that's a bad break for you, Andrei, but that's how it is for all of
us nowadays.  It wasn't me this time, but, well, I get where you're
coming from.

I think my reaction came to me because that killing took place in an
art gallery.  Since I hang out in Europe, I've personally seen about
a zillion of those well-meaning cross-cultural exhibits in various
art galleries.  In the case of the Karlov killing, it was a public
show of pretty photos of the Russian countryside.  Typical.

I wouldn't jump out of my chair to see an anodyne exhibit like that,
but it's plausible that I would show up in such a situation. 
Because nobody looks at the art at these shows, except for Grandma
and the 11-year-olds.  Events like Andrei's are all about
state-supported culture industry guys gossiping over the cheese and
crackers.  Sometimes I meet guys like that.

Also, Ambassador Karlov and I were two months apart in age. 
Contemporaries, really, me and this portly, bespectacled, dignified
apparatchik who was blown away at his podium while trying to say
something to the local foreigners that sounded civilized.

I never met Andrei Karlov, but I've met other people rather like
him, so I think I know how that encounter would have worked.  
  
inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #8 of 198: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Mon 2 Jan 17 03:34
    

Something like this: "So, Mr Ambassador, congratulations on your
photography show."

Then he would have replied in lightly accented global-diplomat
English, "Thank you for coming, where did you come from?"  I would
have said, "I'm from Texas, but I've been to Moscow and Petersburg.
I met some Russian artists there," and then he would have said --
lowering his voice half an octave -- "Oh yes, Texas. I've been to
Houston. They have space rockets there," and that would have been
that. 

If you happen to lock eyes with a power-broker guy like that, the
subtext is something like: Fine, keep your nose clean, I've got your
number now.  That's how they are.
  
inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #9 of 198: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Mon 2 Jan 17 06:45
    

And I wouldn't have minded it.  I wouldn't expect a well-suited
official representative of a foreign power to behave any
differently.  
 It's a bit creepy, because there's always a whiff of spook intrigue
around diplomats, but it would have been cordial and normalizing. 
It wouldn't concern me that Andrei Karlov and I were not destined to
be good buddies.  

On the contrary, I'd get gravely alarmed if a Russian ambassador got
all cozy with me:   "Wow! Is it really you??  Aren't you the famous
Bruce Sterling, who used to write about Russia for WIRED?  I love
your sci-fi novels!  How about writing a little something topical
for 'Sputnik' or 'Russia Today'?  We've got girls and vodka!"

That would be disturbing.  I'm thinking that journalistic colleagues
(especially European ones) are gonna see rising levels of that
behavior in 2017, because, given events of 2016, how could they not?
  
inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #10 of 198: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Mon 2 Jan 17 06:46
    
But that wouldn't have changed my reaction to Karlov's sad tale,
because, frankly, all of that has been factored in by now.  It's not
that I'm overlooking the geopolitical aspects of the event, or that
I'm blinded by sentimentality because some guy got killed.  Nope, I
get it about  Aleppo, the war in Syria, the barrel bombs, the
Russian special forces creeping in from Ukraine, the ethnic
cleansing, the disaffected 22 year old cop who turns his own gun on
his masters because of some fit of political rage that he judged was
worth his own life.

So it's not like some peace-and-brotherhood riff that I'm espousing
here, more  of a human recognition that we share the same lifeboat. 


Andrei Karlov wasn't a person one would much need to pity.  To judge
by his CV, he was a capable career guy.  He spent most of his
diplomatic career in North Korea, probably persuading  them not to
randomly incinerate the neighbors.  When Karlov got sent to Turkey
three years ago -- obviously well aware of the bloody mayhem in
Syria and the sky-high stakes of the bold Russian offshored military
adventure there -- he must have been pleased and proud of the
confidence invested in him. 
  
inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #11 of 198: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 2 Jan 17 07:45
    
I had my own, personal, familial experience of death toward the end
of 2016, and it did change my thinking, really struck like lighting
at the core of my self-perception.  It was an "everything you know
is wrong" moment - overwhelming the usual ego-experience, exposing
the fragility of personality and the impermanence of life - more
than that, the impermanence of everything. As someone drawn to
Buddhism I've meditated on impermanence and emptiness for many
years, but a sudden untimely death brings it home, you can feel that
sense of impermanence deep in your bones. And your life just shrinks
into a new understanding, how tiny you are, and how ephemeral.

In October we visited Rocky Mountain National Park and its elk. When
we arrived we found elks in rut, a bull elk protecting his harem
from an invading bull, squawking (the reality of "majestic bugling")
bugling and scraping his antlers. They faced off at one point but
didn't lock horns. I'd seen a similar dance two decades before. In
that moment the life of the bull elk is all assertion of dominance -
his life and his world resolve as that moment, in that place of
defense for the protector, offense for the invader. Ego is like
that, assertion and dominance, protecting the fragile internal life
we all experience as bundled with, and to great extent driven by,
the kieshas: anxiety, fear, anger, jealousy, depression etc. 
Brittle walls built around our experience, guards at the gates, a
deep moat surrounding.

Early morning October 23, our sixteen-year-old grandson Carson's
heart stopped, and he died in his sleep.  We live nearby, had an
urgent call from our son, his father, to come quickly, there were no
signs of life. After we arrived other family members followed, until
the house and yard were full of shocked, grieving family trying to
make sense of the impossible situation we were sharing. That kind of
shock is a trigger - for mourning and grieving, yes, but also for
deep self-assessment.  "What could I have done to prevent this" is a
first thought, followed by "how could I have made his life better,
how much did I take him for granted?"  In my case, that thinking
extended to all my family, friends, acquaintances - to all my life,
seeing the fragility and impermanence: how could it be better?  What
should a life be, what is the nature of our experience?  Ego, like
the elk, has worked to dominate and to protect, but in the moments
following the death of someone close, I could see that the stakes
I've been fighting for, day in and day out, are tiny. My tiny life.

And I could see, grieving with others the same loss, that the real
and better source of protection is love, not resistance.

Prominent people died in 2016, a year of news dominated by
obituaries, including the Turkish ambassador Bruce mentioned... and
Leonard Cohen, who wrote near the end...

You say I took the name in vain
I don't even know the name
But if I did, well really, what's it to you?
There's a blaze of light in every word
It doesn't matter which you heard
The holy Hallelujah....

Bruce has said to me, many times over, "Every day is a gift." And he
says above, "...prize your existence this year. Life is precious and
should be valued, for
it's so easy not to have it."

Don't worry about Trump or Putin or this or that political party
ruining your life: it's yours to ruin or not, and we are empowered
to do better, and we could do better by loving more and resisting
less. 

The world is not defined by politicians or pundits, or by news, real
or fake. Check out "99 reasons 2016 was a good year," at
[https://medium.com/future-crunch/99-reasons-why-2016-has-been-a-great-year-for
-humanity-8420debc2823#.xrmlqrejx] 

In fact, the world is a better place than we realize, great things
are happening, bodhisattvas appear every day to guide the rest of us
away from suffering. Scientists, engineers and innovators work away
improving the world, ignoring politics, news, and despair. 

The real state of the world, incomprehensibly complex, is as readily
characterized by joy as by despair. 

In the USA, I think Donald Trump's election is less of a problem
than the fear response I've seen in many public and private comments
by my compatriots. Fear is unproductive, fear is paralyzing... the
path to hell is paved with fear. The question I would ask is, what
reality does this election result manifest, and what is the most
productive, most helpful response?  We appear to be seeing a
reaction to globalization, not just in the USA but elsewhere, e.g.
Brexit.  How do we speak to the fear and anxiety driving that
reaction? What is our path forward?
  
inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #12 of 198: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 2 Jan 17 07:49
    
And how do we respond to destructive forces in the world? E.g. (via
Bruce) "Aleppo, the war in Syria, the barrel bombs, the
Russian special forces creeping in from Ukraine, the ethnic
cleansing, the disaffected 22 year old cop who turns his own gun on
his masters because of some fit of political rage that he judged was
worth his own life"?
  
inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #13 of 198: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Mon 2 Jan 17 09:24
    
The Great Game, that was Andrei's circus,  Such is the Westphalian
order.  Been like that quite a while. This world doesn't lack for
people who are glad Andrei Karlov is no longer with us.  I'm not
glad, but I noticed that people who wrung their hands over Karlov's
sad death said nothing much about 35 Russian guys just like Karlov
who just got kicked out the the USA on the pretext of
cyberespionage.   They're like him, pretty much.  However, I feel
differently about them after this Karlov moment I had.  Although
they're faceless and leaving under a cloud, I'm more aware of their
living presence as individual people, somehow.  Less inclined to
freeze them and polarize them as icons of threat.

 Not that I forgive them for cyberspying, but really, getting kicked
out of a country is such a personal drag.  You've got to sell your
house, get rid of your car, fire the babysitter, fill out all kinds
of stupid international paperwork…  One minute you've got a plum job
in Washington, a weird foreign power where things are just getting
lively and interesting, and next day you're packing a valise like
some goddamn Syrian refugee. 

 Just because you've been spearphishing VCs, CEOs and Congressmen,
whatever.  Sure, it's sneaky and against the host country's national
interests, but were you supposed to NOT do that?  You're in the
freakin' diplomatic corps!  It's an existential condition. 
  
inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #14 of 198: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Mon 2 Jan 17 09:27
    

People who exult at Karlov's death act realpolitik about it, with
sentiments such as, "Well, I don't condone Muslim terrorism, but the
Russians got in hot water with this Syrian thing and that's the kind
of vicious attack that their wicked meddling provokes," but, well,
there's still Andrei.  A formerly living being. He's not geopolitics
in the flesh, he's a guy full of holes on an art gallery floor.

Andrei followed political reality.  It's not that he gets a clear
moral choice in the matter.   How could he possibly refuse the post
of ambassador to Turkey?   Could Andrei say  "Well, I'm a career
diplomat, and this is a plum post in my career where I can really
make a difference, but -- I think I'll back out on this top-notch
assignment because, well, uh, the death of innocent civilians in
Aleppo is morally dubious!"

Karlov is never gonna say any such thing.  He might think it
sometimes, but a diplomat without the morally dubious is like a
lawyer without crime.  So sure, the guy may well have been as
crooked as a fresh basket of Kamchatka crabs, but I wouldn't
reproach Karlov for his line of work. 

Plus, Karlov was educated, intelligent and sophisticated.  If I
started effectively picking at his leprous moral scabs, he would
probably riposte. Something along the lines of, "So, Mr Cyberpunk
Writer!  Are you aware that young men in my country are obsessed
with computer crime, due to you and your colleagues romanticizing
this kind of misbehavior in your decadent novels of the 1980s?"  Not
to mention Karlov's own colleagues, just tossed on their ears for
cyberespionage.  

Why, I can remember when Cliff Stoll used to write books about that
Russian cyberstuff, and nobody believed it was possible.  If I'd
known things were gonna turn out the way they did in 2016, I might
have been a tad more proactive.
  
inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #15 of 198: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Mon 2 Jan 17 09:32
    
 don't claim I'm Karlov's moral equivalent, but suppose that it was
me shot in the art gallery, instead of him.  That's plausible,
surely.  I'm just some scribbler, but people shoot journalists way
more often than they shoot diplomats.  There are all kinds of swell
reasons to shoot journalists, or even bloggers.  I haven't
carpet-bombed Aleppo recently, but surely I could get promptly mowed
down at a Turkish discotheque.  So many do.

Now imagine Karlov happening to notice me getting killed, while he's
comfortably alive at his embassy.  I think that I would like him to
have this same kind of attitude that I had toward him.

I would not want Karlov to thunder indignantly, or yell that the
assassins who killed the nice science fiction novelist deserve
relentless justice, or all that common War-on-Terror boilerplate. 
In 2017, that just seems so hokey.  It's formulaic.  There's an
insincerity about it.  

No, I'd like Karlov to glance over my obit, "Oh well, another dead
writer, got into some kind of weird trouble; that happens, it's a
tangled world now, tough luck for him.  Hope he was doing his best."
  
inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #16 of 198: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Mon 2 Jan 17 09:35
    
If Karlov were to join us from beyond the grave in this WELL
discussion, it wouldn't surprise me if he were quite clear-headed
and analytical about it.  He wouldn't cry in his vodka about his own
sudden, violent death, because he's not the only Russian patriot in
a welter of his own blood in the Middle East at the moment.  

Probably Karlov would point out that the formerly hostile Turkish
government has made a full apology, and named a street and a square
after himself, and that the Russian diplomatic hand in this NATO
Moslem country is much stronger than it was before his sacrifice. 
So, although he fell in the line of duty, he hasn't been defeated.
No,  it can be truthfully said that his time at his post in Turkey
has advanced Russian aims considerably.  Maybe even historically.
  
inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #17 of 198: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Mon 2 Jan 17 09:36
    
It wouldn't even surprise me if Karlov  even made some suavely
diplomatic remarks about his 22 year old cop assassin, with the
more-in-sorrow than-in-anger tone that us 63-year-olds like to
affect -- that there are many similar hotheads as tragically misled
as this young man, that the leaky Turkish security services could
use some Russian advice, and so on.  
  
inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #18 of 198: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Mon 2 Jan 17 09:36
    
Karlov would also likely make some remarks about Trump that would
irritate the WELL readership considerably.  He'd be inviting Russian
fake accounts into the chat here, trying to mess with our opinions,
the newly-standard adversary antics of a poisoned global Internet.  

He's got an alien value system, his activities don't align with my
interests, but somehow, I'm beyond that kind of knee-jerk irritation
not. Troll hot buttons rarely get to me at the dawn of 2017, I
understand them as the counterfeit pennies of the modern
intellectual marketplace.  Karlov is dead, and I take his death
"personalitically."  The personal is the political, and he's like a
freshly coffined microcosm of the trouble we share from pole to
pole.
  
inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #19 of 198: Paulina Borsook (loris) Mon 2 Jan 17 09:40
    <scribbled by loris Mon 2 Jan 17 17:17>
  
inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #20 of 198: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 2 Jan 17 13:02
    
The Russian cyberattack story has detractors, e.g.
http://arstechnica.com/security/2016/12/did-russia-tamper-with-the-2016-electi
on-bitter-debate-likely-to-rage-on/ and http://www.robertmlee.org/critiques-of-the-dhsfbis-grizzly-steppe-report/. Donald Trump questions the intelligence community's, and the Obama administration's, strong assertions that Russians hacked (or phished) the DNC.

From what I know of the intelligence community, I can't imagine that
they could reveal their best sources for the story, hence the weak
report.

And we know that every intelligence agency worth its salt is hacking
and phishing with a vengeance - all part of the
intelligence-gathering apparatus. If they put their hides together,
they could collaboratively produce a state of the world report that
would make this conversation seem thin and pale by comparison. 

I'd be shocked if they weren't practicing this kind of surveillance.
What's new here, if the Russians were behind the intrusions, is that
the data was "weaponized" (as pundits like to say) and deployed to
influence the U.S. election. Whether that influence was sufficient
to alter the course of the election is arguable, but the attempt
itself would be worthy of response. Not that the U.S. is entirely
innocent of meddling in the political affairs of other nations.

Looking on the bright side... if we're going to have wars, hacking
and retaliatory sanctions are no doubt preferable to nuclear attacks
and counter-attacks.
  
inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #21 of 198: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 3 Jan 17 12:16
    
A quick one: I just tweeted this Vox interview with Harvard
psychology professor and polymath Steven Pinker:
http://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2016/12/22/14042506/steven-pinker-optimi
stic-future-2016

Pinker says we should "look at history and data, not headlines. The
world continues to improve in just about every way. Extreme poverty,
child mortality, illiteracy, and global inequality are at historic
lows; vaccinations, basic education, including girls, and democracy
are at all-time highs."

He's not a cockeyed optimist, but he's following the data. "I’ve
never been 'optimistic' in the sense of just seeing the glass as
half-full — only in the sense of looking at trend lines rather than
headlines. It’s irrational both to ignore good developments and to
put a happy face on bad ones."

"As it happens, most global, long-term trends have been positive. As
for the future, I like the distinction drawn by the economist Paul
Romer between complacent optimism, the feeling of a child waiting
for presents, and conditional optimism, the feeling of a child who
wants a treehouse and realizes that if he gets some wood and nails
and persuades other kids to help him, he can build one. I am not
complacently optimistic about the future; I am conditionally
optimistic."
  
inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #22 of 198: Roland Legrand (roland) Tue 3 Jan 17 13:46
    
One could argue for being "conditionally pessimistic", as technology
advances and makes individuals and small groups ever more powerful.
There are young men who want a weapon of mass destruction and who
realise if they get the kind of wood and nails necessary to make
this thing and if they persuade enough other young men to help, they
can build it. 
Hence governments and intelligence services have to monitor ever
more each and everyone of us, since our individual powers to destroy
on a massive scale are increasing exponentially. The same logic
which makes us so individually powerful, calls for measures to check
the individual ever more carefully. What happened in 2016 and what
is going to happen this year, the hardening of the positions and the
antagonisms, the United States possibly even more retreating as a
global power and the emergence of ever more smaller or even very
small global powers, all this is making morbid scenarios of
"pessimistic conditionality" increasingly possible. 
  
inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #23 of 198: Dave Waite (dwaite) Tue 3 Jan 17 14:39
    
Is this a balancing between the have and have not societies?

>Extreme poverty, child mortality, illiteracy, and global inequality
>are at historic lows; vaccinations, basic education, including
girls, >and democracy are at all-time highs."

While the world seems to be growing up around the United States, it
seems to me that the United States sinks deeper and deeper into the
middle of the pack on many of these points.
  
inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #24 of 198: Administrivia (jonl) Tue 3 Jan 17 14:48
    
World-readable short url for this discussion: http://bit.ly/sotw2017
Hashtag: #sotw2017

If you're not a member of the WELL, but you have a comment or
question to offer, send via email to inkwell at well.com.
  
inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #25 of 198: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Tue 3 Jan 17 14:59
    

I don't want us to chat about dead guys during this entire SOTW,
although there were plenty of 'em last year and will be more. 
However, I'm thinking there may be some useful positive life-lesson
here.  

For instance, after seeing Karlov shot, I thought to myself -- you
know?  What about The Vladimir?  What if disaffected zealots also
appear in Putin's own security detail?  

Putin is supposed to be the sinister world leader-figure of 2017 --
mostly because he got some lucky breaks, and things are kinda going
his way -- but suppose we lost him in 2017?

Wouldn't people instantly cry buckets about Vladimir Putin?  They'd
sob and moan.  Especially if he met the fate of Karlov.

Of course Russians would be hugely upset, but wouldn't the vast
majority of  people worldwide also be seriously shocked,
disoriented, even traumatized?  After all, Putin's been a
stabilizing presence on the world stage for a generation.  Even
though he occasionally poisons an FSB traitor or has a journalist
iced and such, so that him getting killed as well is not some
outlandish prospect, it's not like Putin is Ivan the Terrible.  He
doesn't rage, bluster and chew the carpet.   His paid trolls are
trained to talk like paranoid lunatics, but Putin himself makes
quite calm, thoroughly-considered remarks.  He's statesmanly. 

Putin's not a peaceful guy -- he's a violent guy.  He's into judo,
spy subversion and occasional military adventures.  However,
compared to the new crop of deglobalized race-realists that Putin's
ushering toward power, Le Pen, Farange, Trump, Orban in Hungary,
Kascinzky in Poland, that wildly convulsing Turkish dictator --
Putin comes across like Louis XIV.

Putin biggest problem is that he actually IS a lot like Louis XIV,
in that classic sense of I-am-the-State and After-Me-the-Deluge.  So
if he suddenly demonstrated his mortality, as so many of us do,
well, people would be thunderstruck. 

 Putin actually vanished for a couple of weeks once. People were
nearly unhinged with anxiety.  No one was happy about his vanishing
trick, either -- they were all deeply anxious.

Maybe the proper attitude in 2017 is not piling such emotional
effort into: "What is this awful guy gonna do to mankind, what are
his dreadful capacities," but  "What if he's not around?"
  

More...



Members: Enter the conference to participate

Subscribe to an RSS 2.0 feed of new responses in this topic RSS feed of new responses

 
   Join Us
 
Home | Learn About | Conferences | Member Pages | Mail | Store | Services & Help | Password | Join Us

Twitter G+ Facebook