inkwell.vue.134 : Bruce Sterling 2002: The State of the Whirled
permalink #0 of 82: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 26 Dec 01 10:07
Introductory Hash

Because he's a distributed kind of guy, you can find a broad set of texts 
by and about Bruce Sterling in many (more *and* less visible) virtual 
corners of cyberspace.  Why build an intro from scratch? Here's a set of 
fragments that seem to do the job:

Standard Bio

Bruce Sterling is the author of many books, including The Hacker Crackdown, 
Holy Fire, Heavy Weather, Distraction, and most recently Zeitgeist. With 
William Gibson he co-authored the acclaimed novel The Difference Engine. He 
has written for The New York Times, Newsday, Whole Earth Review, Details, 
Mondo 2000, bOING bOING, Interzone, and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science 
Fiction, and is currently a contributing writer to Wired. The winner of a 
Hugo (for the novelette "Bicycle Repairman"), he is currently working on a 
non-fiction book about beauty, truth, and technology which should appear in 
late 2001. He lives with his wife and two daughters in Austin, Texas.

Some Quotes

(, 1/31/02001, Ash Crawford, 

"A 'futurist' is an increasingly old-fashioned thing to be. I don't think 
this has much to do with weariness of subjects or genres, though. I think 
the culture's sense of historical continuity has broken down. There's no 
Progress myth, there's no Titanic Manichean Death Struggle. Societies still 
have a future. That's very obvious, but they've rejected consensus myths of 
The Future. The Future is discredited; no one dares to declare that their 
dreams will surely come true. To declare that the Forces of History favor 
you is seen as 'ideological,' 'fanatical,' 'imperialistic,' 
'phallocentric,' 'anti-market,' 'deterministic,' 'statist,' 'arrogant.' 
Pick your dismissal.

"We're entering a different conception of history, in which Armageddons and 
Utopias are seen as simple-minded. Because they're the same thing: a bogus 
method to stop thinking about the passage of time. In a Utopia, history 
ends because everything's perfect; in an Apocalypse, history ends because 
everyone's dead. The problem here is not that we need pie in the sky or 
death-threats in order to feel awake. The problem is that the clock doesn't 
stop ticking just because we might find that intellectually convenient."

From the Sterling FAQ

I finished my second nonfiction book, called TOMORROW NOW. I'm also 
spending a lot of time running a mailing list and website about the 
Greenhouse Effect and postindustrial design. Plus, I write science fiction.

I'm a design groupie. They're a whole lot like really good science fiction 
writers, only with much better shoes.

From the Seminal Viridian Design Speech of 1998

"We're Viridian Greens, the Viridian movement. That's because we're green, 
but there's something electrical and unnatural about our tinge of green. 
We're an art movement that looks like a mailing list, an ad campaign, a 
design team, an oppo research organization, a laboratory, and, perhaps most 
of all, we resemble a small feudal theocracy ruled with an iron hand by a 
Pope- Emperor. We have our own logo -- or we will. We have our own font and 
our own typography. And we have an entire list of favorite 
Viridian-approved tie-in products: T-shirts, chrome stickers, socks, solar 
panels, ultrasonic sterilizers, and so on.... We're going to be spending a 
lot of time picking bits and pieces out of the background clutter, and 
assembling them, and placing our stamp of ideological approval upon them. 
The future is already here. It just hasn't been assembled as a cultural 
inkwell.vue.134 : Bruce Sterling 2002: The State of the Whirled
permalink #1 of 82: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 26 Dec 01 10:19
As we open this interview, India and Pakistan are pointing nukes at each 
other, and you can feel the itch on those trigger-fingers all the way down 
here in Texas. With that, plus the Afghanistan engagement and chilly 
weather over Palestine, we should probably talk about war...?
inkwell.vue.134 : Bruce Sterling 2002: The State of the Whirled
permalink #2 of 82: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Wed 26 Dec 01 21:50

As long as we're hashing, I've won two Hugoes and my new book won't
be out till late 2002, which is just as well as the 21st century
likely started on Sept 11.

It's pretty interesting to see the Titanic Manichean Death Struggle back in
its Al Qaeda guise.  We've got some no kidding, fanatical imperialist
phallocentric characters here, but I don't think they're  all that good at
their work.  They're just too simpleminded.  Bin Laden thinks he's Dr No,
but when you see him at his ease, he comes across like a cross between Aum
Shinri Kyo and a Rasta guru.

An efficient bin Laden wouldn't bother to blow anybody up; he'd probably
keep the handy disguise as the philanthropist to camouflage his world
subversion.  Kinda like Bill Gates.
inkwell.vue.134 : Bruce Sterling 2002: The State of the Whirled
permalink #3 of 82: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 27 Dec 01 05:26
(The curse of the Internet: outdated bios persist! For the record, the 
second hugo was for the novelette "Taklamakan.")

Bin Laden reminds me of the Wizard of Oz, the man behind the curtain.  
Except that, in this case, it's not Toto but Tommy Franks and Nic Robertson
that yank the curtain and expose the pile of flesh and fur standing behind
it. More interesting, I think, is the war fervor in the U.S. and elsewhere;
the escalation of intentions as our blood overheats. Conflict really seems
to boil the testosterone over into regions of the brain otherwise content
to eat, sleep, and contemplate emanations from the telly. Is war hell, or
is it sport (especially when mediated by CNN/MSNBC coverage)? GW Bush says
this is a war year: is he shortsighted?  Is it in fact a war *century*?
inkwell.vue.134 : Bruce Sterling 2002: The State of the Whirled
permalink #4 of 82: virtual community or butter? (bumbaugh) Thu 27 Dec 01 10:20
Looking for something else last month, I happened over your closing talk
from CFP98, Bruce. And I thought, "Wow! This guy *is* a futurist!" 'cause
you mentioned anthrax, ad hoc political arrangements, Afghan guerrilas,
"segmented, polycephalous influence networks" and more.

How do you keep yourself not just *aware* of the cultural pulse, but *ahead*
of it?

Looking forward to the new book, too.
inkwell.vue.134 : Bruce Sterling 2002: The State of the Whirled
permalink #5 of 82: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Sun 30 Dec 01 18:49

   The secret is in setting my watch forward.  Ha ha ha.

   You wanna read a real futurist, check out this blurb
I just wrote for Jules Verne's latest English-language
translation, INVASION OF THE SEA.

"Mr Verne's latest techno-thriller boldly confronts the  menace of
Islamic terrorism.  He has topnotch chops in technical accuracy, with
endearing dashes of broad humor and a keen eye for telling detail.
Let me be the first to predict this:  someday this French novelist will be
known worldwide!"

And it's true, because Verne's book really *is* about Islamic terrorism,
specifically, French engineers versus fanatic desert saboteurs in
North Africa.  Some "wars" are older than others.  Bin Laden thinks
that war been going on since the 12th century, but, you know, how often
do the rest of us bother to notice?
inkwell.vue.134 : Bruce Sterling 2002: The State of the Whirled
permalink #6 of 82: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sun 30 Dec 01 21:51
We do seem to jump into the fray, when provoked. This latest war has 
weird features, though: it's so open-ended. The enemy's not a nation, 
but a network, and it's in the shadows. We could fight this war for 
years, no? And evolve a kind of Spartan culture, always bulking up for 
the next battle.
inkwell.vue.134 : Bruce Sterling 2002: The State of the Whirled
permalink #7 of 82: crying "well a day." (vasudha) Mon 31 Dec 01 13:16

I've just recieved, "Hubbert's Peak: The impending World Oil Shortage"
by Kenneth S. Deffeyes of Princton for Christmas
and been reading it. And so therefore I can't help
but believe that the impending war(s) around the region of
Saudi Arabia have all to do with the necessity of controling
oil production. Considering qualified academic speicalists in the
field are predicting world oil production will peak within
the next five years, I would assume the major oil suppliers and
oil businessmen would know the same.

Suppliers can fake a shortage when there is none but a supply
cannot be faked. Once we turn that corner everything will change.
inkwell.vue.134 : Bruce Sterling 2002: The State of the Whirled
permalink #8 of 82: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Mon 31 Dec 01 15:06

  You wanna read some trippy oil stuff, read Thomas Gold's
"The Deep Hot Biosphere."  In the way of contrarian
science theory, that's probably the weirdest thing I've
read in the past ten years.

   Gold thinks that crude oil is carbonaceous chondrite
material that is embedded throughout the Earth's crust
and oozing *up.*  So if you leave an oil field fallow
long enough, it'll top off again.

   Personally, I doubt that the climate can survive burning
all the oil, so whether we invent some shortages or not
is immaterial.
inkwell.vue.134 : Bruce Sterling 2002: The State of the Whirled
permalink #9 of 82: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Mon 31 Dec 01 15:19

   On the war front, I don't see a lot of point in becoming
Spartan in order to fight shadows.  If anything, we're
likely to become spookier.  You end up dressing the Special
Forces as Yankee hippie tourists, and every time they
go click click click with the digital camera, it's off
to Fort Meade with the data.  Once civilians figure out
that they are the primary target for casualties, they're
likely to get pretty enthusiastic about becoming

   If bin Laden is killed or captured, this "war" per se
will be over, but no matter what happens the Great and
the Good are going to take the New World Disorder a
lot more seriously from now on.  Any place on the
planet that is left to rot will breed narcoterror.
The Powers That Be are going to be imposing
client states on anybody  who doesn't get it
about government.
inkwell.vue.134 : Bruce Sterling 2002: The State of the Whirled
permalink #10 of 82: jumping the railroad gate (vasudha) Mon 31 Dec 01 17:47

<bruces>, as if the civilization isn't poised to
burn all the fossil fuel? After that's done they'll
head for the Rockies and dig them up for the coal.
inkwell.vue.134 : Bruce Sterling 2002: The State of the Whirled
permalink #11 of 82: Ja'Nell (goldennokomis) Tue 1 Jan 02 10:21
It's already been done here in the Appalachians...
inkwell.vue.134 : Bruce Sterling 2002: The State of the Whirled
permalink #12 of 82: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 1 Jan 02 11:32
Considering <vasudha>'s response above, based on your view into 'clean 
energy' evolution through your Viridian work and whatever crystal balls 
you might have laying around, do you see any hope for recovery from 
fossil fuel addiction in the short term? It seems to me that there's 
'way more focus on 'clean energy' sources now that there were in years 
inkwell.vue.134 : Bruce Sterling 2002: The State of the Whirled
permalink #13 of 82: exiled in viridianistan (reid) Tue 1 Jan 02 12:31
How do you feel about the news blackout surrounding civilian deaths in
Afghanistan?  It seems that a techno fix along the lines of those wingless
angel minicam/cell phone units would come in handy over there right about
now.  I remember something similar in Islands, where "terrorism" is met with
a total news blackout, and I remember feeling like some of the characters
you created had these enormous blind spots because of this policy (the
singapore riot in the soccer stadium where Laura mentions the no-smoking
rule exemplfies this almost autistic perspective)

How relevant is the world you created in Islands in the Net to today's
situation and how do you reconcile this idea of news blackouts as a
counterterroism measure with your idea of information armaments like the
cheap civilian minicam cel phone combination?
inkwell.vue.134 : Bruce Sterling 2002: The State of the Whirled
permalink #14 of 82: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Tue 1 Jan 02 16:37

I don't think it's so much a "news blackout" as a
"relevance blackout."  It's not like there's some
 magic number of Afghan civilian casualties where the
Coalition is going to suddenly have a moral qualm about them
and declare "oh well never mind then."   That's not  their mission.

A superpower had its military nerve center blown up.
The US military will not slow down until they feel that
they've severely diminished the chance of a repeat
performance.  Anyone who gets in the way of this will
be shredded.  Every power player of consequence fully
understands this.  Anyone who failed to flee that rain
of vengeance is politically expendable.

Point of view is worth eighty IQ points here.  Afghans
die in droves whether Yankee bombs kill them or not.
There's  also a "news blackout" on Afghanistan's
casualties over the past 30 years, or the past
300 years.   So it's not a question of lives saved; it's
a question of American political culpability.

There is not gonna be a lot of publicity traction
over Afghan civilian casualties, because (a) the carpet-bombing
is over and (b) everybody is sincerely terrified.  So as long as the
vengeful Americans don't go utterly nuts and start incinerating rich people
wholesale, there will be few audible complaints.

The media blackout I'm trying to pierce is the curious one
over bin Laden's most recent tape.  The other one -- that
impromptu confession that was war booty --
that was pored over word by word, but OBL latest
Al Jazeera communique doesn't seem to have an
English transcript on the web.  I'm very interested
in knowing what OBL had to say.  I think there's a good likelihood
that he or various pretenders and impostors will be
popping up with similar genocidal sermons for the next ten

If the War fails to deliver bin Laden's head in a bag,
it's going to dawn on people that Al Qaeda and all the
top Taliban have successfully scarpered, leaving the
Yankees in the position of computer cops who seized the
ISP without arresting the hackers.  If so, that'll change the
tenor of the conflict.
inkwell.vue.134 : Bruce Sterling 2002: The State of the Whirled
permalink #15 of 82: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Tue 1 Jan 02 16:38

On the subject of green energy, I'm determinedly optimistic,
but I'm looking toward Europe for progress.  America
is most definitely the Greenhouse Evil Empire.  It's extremely
dangerous to confront America militarily in its current mood.
An economic confrontation will just beggar all parties 1930s
style in the fragile global market.  That leaves environmentalism
as the best and safest arena for othr governments to assert
some sovereignty and initiative and take the Yankee Hyperpower
down a peg.  Maybe something useful can be made to happen.

More likely it'll continue to be mostly eyewash until some
cataclysmic Greenhouse event takes out a chunk of Manhattan.
If that happened tomorrow the Greenhouse compass would turn,
Bush would be greener than green overnight, and  all the delay would be
blamed on Bill Clinton.
inkwell.vue.134 : Bruce Sterling 2002: The State of the Whirled
permalink #16 of 82: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 1 Jan 02 18:02
Isn't it more likely that, though, that greenhouse disaster will creep 
slowly enough along that the catastrophe won't be evident before it's 
too late?  That's assuming reduced funding for Arecibo won't result in 
collison with a 'Near Earth Object' before the polar ice caps finish 
inkwell.vue.134 : Bruce Sterling 2002: The State of the Whirled
permalink #17 of 82: You wanna read some trippy oil stuff (stewartc) Tue 1 Jan 02 22:06
In 14, are you saying that adding cheap media feeds from areas of
Afghanistan (and, say, Kasmir, the West Bank, Yemen, etc.) with
civilian casualties will not change the political/military climate? 
How much can it cost to place a dozen live feeds in Kabal, Kandahar,
Mazar-e Sharif, etc. Certainly it's less money than the genetic
engineering operations budget of Greenpeace, cheaper than one cruise
missle. It seems to me that <reid>'s point in 13 is that lots of cheap
media is used as a political tool in Islands, so maybe it's worth
trying in the current war to avoid civilian casualties. Just because
the Pentagon doesn't give a shit, and the "no kidding, fanatical
imperialist phallocentric...simpleminded" terrorists use previously
recorded video, rightfully or not, doesn't mean that lots of micro
feeds from blacked out places might change the political balance.
inkwell.vue.134 : Bruce Sterling 2002: The State of the Whirled
permalink #18 of 82: exiled in viridianistan (reid) Wed 2 Jan 02 05:53

The December 11 tape transcript?  From

Thursday December 27, 10:00 AM

Full text of Osama bin Laden's videotaped comments

DUBAI (Reuters) - Following is a transcript of the videotaped comments of
Osama bin Laden as broadcast by Qatar's al-Jazeera television on Wednesday.

Bin Laden, shown dressed in a camouflage combat smock and with a
submachinegun at his side, spoke in Arabic:

"Three months after the blessed attacks against the international infidels,
against the main infidel America, and after almost two months have passed
since the start of the vicious Crusade against Islam, we would like to talk
about some of the facts that these events have revealed.

"These events have revealed a lot of very important issues to Muslims. It is
very clear that the West in general, spearheaded by America, holds an
indescribable amount of Crusader loathing for Islam, and that those who have
lived all these months under the constant bombing by different types of U.S.
planes know this for a fact.

"How many villages were annihilated without committing any crime? How many,
if we calculate, millions of people were made homeless during the biting
cold, and how many of these oppressed men, women and children are now
sheltering in tents in Pakistan? They have not committed any crime. America
launched this campaign based on a suspicion.

"Those who claim to uphold humanitarian values and freedom, we saw their
true criminal nature. A shell weighing seven grams is sufficient and
actually more than sufficient (to kill) a human being but America, because
it loathes the Taliban and Muslims to such an extent, used on our brothers
on the frontlines projectiles weighing as much as seven tonnes and those who
can calculate know that this is equivalent to seven million grams when seven
grams are sufficient for a human being.

"When the youths, may Allah accept them as martyrs, detonated (the bomb) in
Nairobi less than two tonnes, America said this is a terrorist strike and
this is a weapon of mass destruction. (But) when it uses two bombs each
weighing seven million grams, there is no shame in that.

"And the (U.S.) Minister of Defence comes out after they bombed whole
villages without just cause, just to terrorise people and to make them fear
hosting or coming near Arabs... and he says that this is our right. It is
their right to annihilate people as long as they are Muslims and not
Americans. This is crime in its clearest form. All you hear about (them)
making a mistake, that is a clear lie. A few days ago, they hit what they
claimed were al Qaeda targets in Khost and they directed a missile at a
mosque, although they said they made a mistake. Investigations proved that
Muslim ulema (scholars) were praying Taraweeh (special Ramadan prayers) and
that they had a meeting after the prayers with the hero... Sheikh Jalal al-
Din Haqqani who was one of the most senior mujahideen against the Soviet
occupation and who rejected the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan.

"They hit the mosque while the Muslims were in prayer, killing 150 of them
but Sheikh Jalal survived, may Allah bless his life.

"This is the Crusader loathing, so let those who repeat words without
thinking about its consequences and they say we denounce terrorism. Our
terrorism against the United States is blessed, aimed at repelling the
oppressor so that America stops its support for Israel."

(yahoo news Singapore)
inkwell.vue.134 : Bruce Sterling 2002: The State of the Whirled
permalink #19 of 82: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 2 Jan 02 06:23
Since we're talking prediction, we could also consider Pat Buchanan's 
new book, _The Death of the West : How Mass Immigration, Depopulation & 
A Dying Faith Are Killing Our Culture and Country_.

From Publisher's Weekly: "Fearful that America is being
'de-Christianized,' Buchanan argues that 'while the prognosis is not
good,' America must reevaluate itself and reclaim its white, Christian
origins; despite the current 'coarseness of her manners, the decadence
of her culture, or the sickness in her soul,' the nation is worth
inkwell.vue.134 : Bruce Sterling 2002: The State of the Whirled
permalink #20 of 82: democracy being a left thing, anyway (ludlow) Wed 2 Jan 02 08:53
that's certainly ugly
inkwell.vue.134 : Bruce Sterling 2002: The State of the Whirled
permalink #21 of 82: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Wed 2 Jan 02 10:15

  Thanks a lot  for the transcript, but surely that's not
half an hour's worth of rambling, even in Arabic.
Where's the rest of it?

  I don't think "cheap video feed" helps much unless
there is some context for response.  For instance,
a lot of people die of lung cancer, and you could
put "cheap video feed" into cancer wards, but
would this cause smokers to change their behavior?

    I didn't stop smoking until I couldn't stop
coughing.  Then, yeah, I managed to quit, but
there are plenty of people who don't and can't.

  Maybe if I'd had cheap video feed of the inside
of my own lungs in real-time...  But to think
that cheap video feed would stop the US from
bombing Al Qaeda...  All they have to do to
counter such a feeble act of propaganda is to
turn up the amps from the images of mayhem
at Ground Zero -- some o' those *expensive,
nicely produced* video feeds.

   One Geraldo on wholly-owned Fox News
is likely worth about 100 little NGO guys with
shouldercams.  So if the hundred start
"changing the political balance" in some
annoying way, why not restore the lost balance
by just buying and deploying another Geraldo?

   I doubt that OBL is winning  many
recruits by complaining about how big the
Yankees' bombs are.  It's the same kind of
category error, really. Yeah brother, the enemy
controls huge, centralized industries that
manufacture really big bombs.  That's kind
of the point, actually.  The Yankees don't
have big bombs because they have huge amounts
of emotional rage against Islam.  They built the bombs
that way because of the economies of scale, a phenomenon
that the Koran doesn't address.  The guys who are throwing
those things out of the backs of B-52s, they're  probably listening
to techno music on headphones.
inkwell.vue.134 : Bruce Sterling 2002: The State of the Whirled
permalink #22 of 82: Life in the big (doctorow) Wed 2 Jan 02 10:20
Bruce, have you seen part two of Patrick Farley's online comic, "The
Spiders?" ( He draws up a very nice skiffy
universe of streaming footage from Afghanistan and posits some interesting
applications for same.
inkwell.vue.134 : Bruce Sterling 2002: The State of the Whirled
permalink #23 of 82: Gail Williams (gail) Wed 2 Jan 02 13:10

The argument that US bombing is state terror and worse than the idealistic
terror of the "little guy" has been compelling in a lot of other
situations, and will appeal to a lot of people in this situation too.  

The size of the bombs is just a metaphor.  

Looking at that transcript I'm thinking those guys are still trying to 
have the moral appeal of the intifada, citizens with stones versus occupying 
forces with guns.  Size is very important, and "ours is smaller" wins in
that argument.  Something the US is not used to countering, you know.  
It would be good to see the rest of the transrcripts, but that segment
seemed provocative to me.  I know GW Bush said he found it boring.

Bruce, I happened to have a NY Times on a flight yesterday, and found myself
reading the captions and notes on the weather page.   I found something
slightly alarming.

Though the advantage of more recorded weather records might be 
that "average" has more data, the NY Times noted that "average" 
temperatures were previously based on 1961-1990 but would henceforth be 
based on 1971-2000.  

I'm assuming that now "cooler than average" may mean "warmer than what
average meant to old farts who have been around for more than three
decades."   And that disturbs my Viridian sensibility.
inkwell.vue.134 : Bruce Sterling 2002: The State of the Whirled
permalink #24 of 82: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Wed 2 Jan 02 14:20

You think that's heavy, check out this New Yorker article.
inkwell.vue.134 : Bruce Sterling 2002: The State of the Whirled
permalink #25 of 82: Craig Newmark (cnewmark) Wed 2 Jan 02 17:49

This is just to thank Bruce for two ideas which we're
trying to make real.

In Holy Fire, he observes that emerging biotech may greatly
exacerbate the difference between medical have and have-nots.

I have a friend with an emerging genomics startup that might
be a big deal... and we talk about how they can give away some
technology that might be substantial.  I've offered even to 
buy cheap gene-crunchers for grad students up the street at UCSF
if it makes sense.  ("the street" is Parnassus in SF, where the
novel's protagonist initially lives.)  Whether or not something
really happens, I don't know... but I think I can find a way
to inject this, meme-style, into local media.

In Distraction, there's a nomadic, high-tech tribe which
governs by reputation system online.  In the craigslist
discussion boards, we're quietly putting in the underpinnings
of something like that.  It'll be a long effort, and there's
lots of ways to go nowhere ... but we've put in some fraud 
protection right at the beginning, which might make for success.

All this says is that Bruce's work is more influential than
usually credited.

All of this might go somewhere, maybe not... but we're persistent.




Members: Enter the conference to participate. All posts made in this conference are world-readable.

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