inkwell.vue.343 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World, 2009
permalink #126 of 177: (wiggly) Fri 9 Jan 09 23:54
    
This food miles thread is a bit off the mark, but it should be noted that
Lincoln University, the source of that much-mentioned comparison of the
carbon footprint of various NZ agricultural products to their UK
counterparts, is a NZ ag school. Their conclusions may be correct, but
they also have a clear incentive to reach those conclusions. Sheep ranchers
in other countries have already questioned some of their assumptions,
including their calculations for shelter (or lack thereof) costs in
NZ.
  
inkwell.vue.343 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World, 2009
permalink #127 of 177: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sat 10 Jan 09 05:28
    
Did I suggest that global warming is pretty much accepted by everybody
by now? I should have excluded government leaders in my own home state
of Texas. From today's Austin American-Statesman:

>>>
The energy and environment issue is at the crux of the state's
industrial and demographic future. Home to manufacturing and oil
refining facilities up and down the Gulf Coast, Texas is the nation's
No. 1 carbon dioxide emitter. Meanwhile, with the state's population
growing by as much as 50 percent by 2030, utilities are proposing more
power plants, some of them cheap-to-produce coal plants.

Shaping policy under the dome, key lawmakers say they remain
unconvinced auto and manufacturing emissions of carbon dioxide
contribute to a changing climate.
<<<

The article goes on to say that "Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David
Dewhurst and a host of House committee chairmen ... dismiss anxieties
about global warming and ... torpedoed most pieces of environmental
legislation in the last session. Along with industry groups, they say
any kind of federal caps on carbon dioxide emissions could derail the
state's economy and cost billions of dollars in compliance."

http://www.statesman.com/news/content/region/legislature/stories/01/10/0110war
ming.html
  
inkwell.vue.343 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World, 2009
permalink #128 of 177: Lisa Harris (lrph) Sat 10 Jan 09 06:02
    
From offsite reader Hudson Luce:

-------------------------------------------------------
In response to the thread, and specifically the posting below:
......................................................
inkwell.vue.343 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World, 2009
permalink #12 of 125: John Payne (satyr) Fri 2 Jan 09 09:47


"Short term, I think the economy will rebound.  Long term, we're in for
changes that won't be denied, and the longer we try to put them off the
harder they're going to hit us when they do arrive."
==================================
My reply comment, and question are as follows:

By "short term", I assume you mean within the next year or so, say two years
at the most. As of July 2008, the US national debt was set at $10.6
trillion. The "bailout" money spent by the Bush Administration, and the
current year's budget deficit will increase this number by about $3
trillion, up to a total of $13.6 trillion (give or take a few hundred
billion dollars) by the end of FY2008. President-elect Obama has stated that
he expects to run trillion-dollar deficits for years on end, deficits which
will be added to the national debt, so that by the end of FY2009, the total
is $14.6 trillion, FY2010, $15.6 trillion, and so on. A lot of people liike
to think that the national debt is "money we owe ourselves", but interest on
it still gets paid, and the underlying bonds still have to be sold. To
someone who wants to buy them. Of late, the Chinese are losing interest in
buying US debt. Credit default swaps on US treasury instruments are getting
to be more expensive. Pretty quickly we're going to get into a situation
where the Treasury is going to be forced to offer more interest at the
Treasury bond auctions or not enough bonds will be sold. There might be a
problem, here: if we get into a situation like what happened in 1980, where
interest on 3-month Treasury bills went up to 11.4% and that on 1-year bills
was 10.9%, and so on, then refinancing the national debt might prove to be
more than the US could afford, since the interest payments alone could end
up consuming all of the taxes collected, leaving none for Social Security,
Medicare/Medicaid, and the defense budget, all of which are paid out of the
general fund.

At that point, there are two alternatives. One of them is to default on a
part of the interest payments on the national debt, also known as "sovereign
default", which could possibly trigger a massive sell-off of US Treasury
obligations and a concomitant increase in interest rates to compensate for
the loss in value. This alternative is generally not desired, because it
would engender the absolute collapse of the US financial system. This means
that people's savings, pensions, CDs, IRAs, whatever, would be wiped out.
True, people would still own tangible goods, crops in the ground could still
be harvested, and so on, but there'd be no foreign exchange because there'd
be no way to pay for it. Oil deliveries would stop. There'd be chaos, beyond
James Kunstler's wildest dreams.

The US Government would most likely prefer to avoid this scenario, so they'd
probably choose another scenario, the one that Helicopter Ben is busily
bringing about, and that is to print money. Lots of it. Backed by the "full
faith and credit of the US Government". The idea is to create money out of
thin air to pay off debt, and that's what the Fed is beginning to do right
now. The plan is to increase the money supply by $3 trillion by monetizing
the debt, and then to further monetize additional trillions in deficits as
they are incurred. The real effect of this is to turn the US dollar into the
Zimbabwean dollar. Yesterday you could get 10 million ZWD for a dollar.
Today, it's more worthless. The national debt can get paid off quickly this
way, but there's the same trouble: the dollar ceases to be a meaningful unit
of exchange, just like in the Weimar Republic in 1923, where it was easier
to use currency for fuel than try to buy wood with it.

 There's an interesting article on this prospect in the Financial Times,
written by Willem Buiter, a professor at the London School of Economics and
a regular contributor to FT (http://blogs.ft.com/maverecon/2009/01/can-the-
us-economy-afford-a-keynesian-stimulus/) In the article, he forecasts a
collapse in the value of the US dollar within the next 2 to 5 years.
Obviously, he's not counting on there being any sort of recovery.

My question is this: What happens to the projections for 2009 and the next
few years if these things occur, namely, if the US dollar ceases to become a
useful medium of exchange or store of value?
  
inkwell.vue.343 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World, 2009
permalink #129 of 177: Emily J. Gertz (emilyg) Sat 10 Jan 09 10:04
    


>Aspirational apocaphilia.


Brilliant, Jamais!

Adbusters, of course, beat Re/Search to this special issue.  For a blast of
nostalgia, read Dawn Danby's post about it on Worldchanging from Oct.
2004:

"The issue alludes to S11.2, a single, catastrophic event that causes the
whole global machine to crash. The lights go out, the US government
relinquishes power, and the world's cities empty. Where the people go is
not clear. Those who felt this coming all along cleverly begin to plant
victory gardens on rural property and urban rooftops. The scenario is
implausible, but its device - an unspecific post-apocalypse, led by
anarchists turned back-to-the-landers, is in many ways deeply familiar.
Adbusters' tone has changed, and the writing is almost buoyant. In the
S11.2 world, the culture jammers have won. Somewhat fittingly, after years
of ballooning, the magazine has lost half its weight: the pages are thin,
like newsprint."

"...This young person's depopulated America reminds me of the
idealistic/myopic vision that some anarchists share with libertarians: both
worlds operate much better if you take the elderly, the very young, and the
sick out of the equation."

http://www.worldchanging.com/archives/001419.html

---

I've been looking around for biotech interventions to global warming.  Has
anything interesting come across your screen, Bruce?
  
inkwell.vue.343 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World, 2009
permalink #130 of 177: Emily J. Gertz (emilyg) Sat 10 Jan 09 10:22
    

Last year's big biotech/climate change story was really another skirmish in
the existing mess of corporations patenting genes:

Corporations Grab Climate Genes
http://www.fpif.org/fpiftxt/5223
  
inkwell.vue.343 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World, 2009
permalink #131 of 177: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Sat 10 Jan 09 11:27
    
*A big day here in Torino: I got a washing machine.

*I now stand ready to console people insisting
that I check the production mileage in my clothing.

*Next, the artificial food issue.  Never mind
the hot-button of food -- let's talk artificial
fibers.  I happen to wear nylon, spandex, and
polyesters... How many among us are wearing organic fur
we hand-spun off our mohair goats?  Come on, there
must be at least a couple of us.

*I'm wearing my favorite Jhane Barnes sweater now,
which was digitally designed.  This garment couldn't be hand-loomed
short of a hundred man-years of peasant labor.  

*Rather than condemning those faceless peasants to decades
of righteous toil for my benefit, I think I'll just publicly
admit right now that Jhane Barnes is my favorite couturier.

*I know she's not in San Francisco any more --
she jetted off to the other coast and rebuilt
a dream home -- but Jhane, if you're listening,
let's talk.
  
inkwell.vue.343 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World, 2009
permalink #132 of 177: Jamais Cascio (cascio) Sat 10 Jan 09 16:12
    
Em, Rob Carlson is the person you want to talk to regarding biotech
interventions and global warming. And thanks.
  
inkwell.vue.343 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World, 2009
permalink #133 of 177: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sun 11 Jan 09 07:25
    
Bruce, I made my way over to Jhane Barnes' virtual shop, and checked
out the nifty lightweight sweaters, 64% Rayon/36% Nylon, $250. Sweaters
in my world can range from twenty to eighty bucks... $250 is downright
inaccessible for the average pilgrim shopping bargains at Macy's (or,
even more likely, shopping clothes at Target or Old Navy).

Retail had a crappy Christmas season, everyone was shopping for
bargains, and the ration of buying to looking was looow. The word on
the street is that many retail stores will fail, and those that barely
survive are making it by slashing prices to the bone. Will there still
be a market for $250 Jhane Barnes sweaters?

This may not seem relevant to the state of the world, exactly, but a
collapse of the retail sector could be a pretty significant economic
bomb, especially among so many others.
  
inkwell.vue.343 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World, 2009
permalink #134 of 177: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Sun 11 Jan 09 07:30
    
I've been looking around for biotech interventions to global warming. 
Has anything interesting come across your screen, Bruce?

*Well, I'm kinda liking Vinod Khosla's cellulosic ethanol scheme,
mostly because it's so light on chrome-plated scifi whizbang.

*Basically you cover vast hectares of marginal land with
cheap, tough, fast-growing weeds, crack the fiber and
turn it into booze. Then you burn the booze and let the
roots of the weeds store some carbon in the soil.

*Then when you drive your huge, ugly car around on
long, unnecessary commutes, your car, as a net benefit,
removes carbon-dioxide from the air.  Which would
mean that colossal traffic jams were sucking pollutants
out of the sky by the megaton.

*I like the green cognitive dissonance here.
  
  
inkwell.vue.343 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World, 2009
permalink #135 of 177: Emily J. Gertz (emilyg) Sun 11 Jan 09 07:41
    


It's got a certain elegance.
  
inkwell.vue.343 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World, 2009
permalink #136 of 177: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Sun 11 Jan 09 07:42
    
Will there still be a market for $250 Jhane Barnes sweaters?

*Aw, it's just the rag trade.  Prices there are all for show;
those are catwalk prices.  

*I don't remember what price I paid for this Jhane Barnes
sweater I'm wearing right now.  Don't get me wrong:
that price was hefty.  Obviously a lot of guys who
used to be swanning around in Jhane's finest are
gonna feel the urge to kit-out in German military
surplus sweaters; there's tons of 'em, they keep
you warm and they're indestructible.

*But I don't agree with that approach.
My own feeling about it is that a Depression
is basically a culture-war.  When fat-headed
spendthrifts rule the roost, when everyone's
in rhinestone blingbling, THEN you should dress in
urban anarchist camou and matte black.

*But when your freakin' BANKER is dead broke
and selling apples and pencils from a cart, that's when
you should go out of your way to look like
Fred Astaire.  Dapper. Ritzy.  A candle in
the general darkness.

*My new year's couture resolution is to
try to remove some of the black from my wardrobe.
Black is just too archaically 80s-90s in these fraught times.
I can't possibly go so far as the Pantone color
choice for 2009, the unfortunate "mimosa yellow,"
but I'm thinking, well... some gray.

*I can't leave black entirely behind, but yeah,
I can go for gray.
  
inkwell.vue.343 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World, 2009
permalink #137 of 177: John Payne (satyr) Sun 11 Jan 09 08:14
    
Way back in <97> (lrph) said:
> If this doesn't scare you, just think about it: starvation and 
> dictatorship seem to be the only proven ways to make people go 
> sustainable.
>
> I hope there's a third way...

There may be, through making it an easier choice, by letting machines do 
most of the hard, tedious work.  See http://cultibotics.blogspot.com/
  
inkwell.vue.343 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World, 2009
permalink #138 of 177: Lisa Harris (lrph) Sun 11 Jan 09 09:06
    
(Did I really say that? It doesn't sound like me.  Oh, it's not me.  It's me
posting the comments from Frank - our off-WELL participant.  Never mind.
Carry on)
  
inkwell.vue.343 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World, 2009
permalink #139 of 177: John Payne (satyr) Sun 11 Jan 09 09:35
    
Sorry about the faulty attribution.

I might also mention that anyone looking to get involved in moving service
robots from the pages of science fiction into the real world would be well
advised to look through the projects hosted on http://sourceforge.net/ and
to pick up a copy of Make Magazine.  For existing agriculture-related
projects, the best site is probably
http://www.service-robots.org/applications/agriculture.htm
  
inkwell.vue.343 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World, 2009
permalink #140 of 177: Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Sun 11 Jan 09 09:53
    
<*My new year's couture resolution is to
try to remove some of the black from my wardrobe.
Black is just too archaically 80s-90s in these fraught times.
I can't possibly go so far as the Pantone color
choice for 2009, the unfortunate "mimosa yellow,"
but I'm thinking, well... some gray.>


Go green, Mr. Sterling, green. Haven't you been paying attention?
Dark, dark green if you want to look thinner.  Limey green when on a
factory tour of "Oliver Twist" capitalism. Combat green for the opening
of Dubya's Presidential Library (a multibillion dollar earmark where
there you will find a fine collection of easy-read manuals on torture,
but no books per se). Forest green if you want to feel reeeeeeelly
green.  Jhane Barnes green if your last advance was enough (we'll all
be green with envy). Does she digitally design a flesh-colored body
suit that changes shade with the wearer's mood?  That would be the
perfect green to wear when dining on soylent.    
  
inkwell.vue.343 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World, 2009
permalink #141 of 177: John Payne (satyr) Sun 11 Jan 09 11:03
    
From offsite reader Hudson Luce <128>:
> By "short term", I assume you mean within the next year or so, say two 
> years at the most.

Well, if you're interpreting my use of "rebound" to mean getting back to
the same level (as measured by the stock market) where we were just over a
year ago, then possibly never, but if you're thinking in terms of getting
back to the level of last summer, then two or three years, but without the
sickening feeling that there's no bottom to it.  I think the trend will be
clearly upward by mid-summer, '09.  This is just hunchwork on my part.

> President-elect Obama has stated that he expects to run trillion-dollar 
> deficits for years on end, deficits which will be added to the national 
> debt, so that by the end of FY2009, the total is $14.6 trillion, FY2010, 
> $15.6 trillion, and so on.

Sounds like he's taking a page from Reagan, with the difference that Obama 
won't be just trying to jump-start the old economy, as it was, but to get 
on with the process of transforming the economy into one that's more in 
step with the times, which is to say fundamentally healthier.  Given that, 
deficit spending in the assurance that resulting growth will offset it in 
the long term is probably valid.

> There might be a problem, here: if we get into a situation like what 
> happened in 1980, where interest on 3-month Treasury bills went up to 
> 11.4% and that on 1-year bills was 10.9%, and so on

No doubt there'll be a lot of pressure on Obama to show that the downward
trend is at least reaching a plateau, if not reversing, sooner rather than
later.  We're in dire need of at least a modicum of faith to go with the 
hope.

> The plan is to increase the money supply by $3 trillion by monetizing
> the debt, and then to further monetize additional trillions in deficits 
> as they are incurred. The real effect of this is to turn the US dollar 
> into the Zimbabwean dollar.

If carried on without limit for a long time, yes, but I'm sure that's not
what they have in mind.  The Fed is a fundamentally conservative
institution, charged with maintaining the value of the currency.  If the
economy actually does grow, tracking closely on the heels of the increase
in the money supply, then there'll be little harm done, if any.

> Willem Buiter, a professor at the London School of Economics...
> Obviously, he's not counting on there being any sort of recovery.

That's not a very good bet.  Stimuluses work.  The question is whether the 
result is something that contributes to the long-term health of the 
economy or not.  We can't afford to blow this chance at transforming the 
U.S. economy into one that's more sustainable.  If we do, we'll be up 
against the wall again a decade from now, only next time it'll be worse.
More of the same old same old won't get us there.  Growth has got to be 
accompanied by change.

> My question is this: What happens to the projections for 2009 and the 
> next few years if these things occur, namely, if the US dollar ceases to 
> become a useful medium of exchange or store of value?

Can't happen so abruptly.  Carry on with 'monetizing' deficit spending 
without corresponding growth in the economy for ten years, then maybe.
  
inkwell.vue.343 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World, 2009
permalink #142 of 177: Emily J. Gertz (emilyg) Sun 11 Jan 09 12:53
    


> *I can't leave black entirely behind, but yeah, I can go for gray.


Hear hear!  I sometimes venture off to run an errand in Manhattan not
wearing a stitch of black clothing...I started phasing it out during the
dot-bust.

The thing to do on expensive sweaters is stop buying cheap ones once you've
laid out for the fabulous one.  Eventually, assuming you take care of it
and your design eye was smart, it amortizes out to cost a lot less per wear
than the one you would have sold at a yard sale after a year or two.

Bargain hunting for the truly good stuff is a sport unto itself, of course,
which I enjoy.  But sometimes the truly sustainable decision lies in making
the big outlay up front, against incurring lower costs well into the
future.  If it works for solar power, it works for sweaters.
  
inkwell.vue.343 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World, 2009
permalink #143 of 177: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Mon 12 Jan 09 01:12
    
*I frankly don't care whether my solar power ever gets "amortized." 
And the same goes double for my sweaters.

*When I perish, I hope they don't chisel on my tombstone, "His
activities made sound economic sense."  I just frankly rebel at that
kind of niggling tyranny over my existence.  I don't care who scolds me
about it.  Since when am I supposed to mutilate myself over the
Protestant work ethic?  I'm not even a Protestant.

*And if it's about the environmental load of my sweaters, I've
got a brainstorm for you. My grandfather's got a much lighter
carbon-footprint for his sweaters than any of us here.
Why?  Because he'S DEAD.  

*They buried him under the Earth.  He's being
recycled.  The same fate awaits all of us.  So if I
like colorful sweaters, I'm gonna wear 'em NOW.

*I'm not squandering that much money. Even if I do squander it, as
long as I'm not mainlining heroin, whose business is it?  

*Is the Secretary of the Treasury making "sound economic sense?"  Does
the Congress soberly amortize all of its pork-barrels?  Are the
Communist Chinese the idols of intelligent long-term investment?  Do
the Swiss have clean hands as they stack their gold coins in some
fallout shelter?  Who's our moral idol of tidy thrift here?  They're
like Sisyphus heaving boulders through a glass house.

*And I'm supposed to worry if my &^$@#^& sweaters pay off?  If
Jhane Barnes shows up in this WELL conversation, I'll freakin' GIVE
the woman two hundred and fifty dollars.  I promise.  

*Jhane Barnes is a gifted, serious, contemporary, even avantgarde
designer.  I'm proud to share the world with her.  If Jhane's 
gonna stop her daily yoga routine and drop by to explicate
contemporary fabric design, throwing some bucks out the window to hear
her log in would be a small price to pay.  
  
inkwell.vue.343 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World, 2009
permalink #144 of 177: Teneo, Ergo Spero (robertflink) Mon 12 Jan 09 06:55
    
Great rant, Bruce.
  
inkwell.vue.343 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World, 2009
permalink #145 of 177: John Payne (satyr) Mon 12 Jan 09 07:04
    
> niggling tyranny

I'll be turning that one over in my mind for quite a while.
  
inkwell.vue.343 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World, 2009
permalink #146 of 177: I'm Really Jhane Barnes (s-macfarlane) Mon 12 Jan 09 09:04
    
It really IS green this year, dahling Bruce! 
  
inkwell.vue.343 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World, 2009
permalink #147 of 177: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 12 Jan 09 11:35
    
Nobody I can see, looking back through the posts here, was scolding
you or casting slime at your personal choice of threads or questioning
your economic sense... my own question was whether Jhane Barnes et al
can sustain at the high end of retail fashion. We could ask the same
question of a Neiman Marcus or Ann Taylor, even Whole Foods Market,
food not fashion. 

(My fashion consultant is telling me Neiman Marcus will just fine
because they're so well-established, and maybe the same's true of Jhane
Barnes and others like her.)

Meanwhile that faint creaky distant rumble you're hearing is
government printing presses firing up to print more dollars... 
  
inkwell.vue.343 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World, 2009
permalink #148 of 177: Linda Castellani (castle) Mon 12 Jan 09 19:29
    
In Chapter Three of this episode of Nova, called "Hunting the Hidden
Dimension, Jhane Barnes discovers she's using The Mandelbrot Set for
fabric design:

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/fractals/program.html
  
inkwell.vue.343 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World, 2009
permalink #149 of 177: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 12 Jan 09 21:40
    
Jhane Barnes is God!
http://www.jhanebarnesisgod.com/

Another potential trend: Kevin Kelly has been quantifying himself:
http://www.kk.org/quantifiedself/2008/12/quantifying-myself.php

It's a cyborganic approach to health and wellness: track sleep,
weight, mood, exercise, sex, etc. Kevin's also working on the
CureTogether project - "open source health research." (Note also the
Health Commons project -
http://sciencecommons.org/projects/healthcommons/ - so much medical
research is proprietary, locked away.)

I'm part of e-patients (http://e-patients.net/), which was formed by
the late Tom Ferguson, MD, with a handful of colleagues, mostly
physicians, focusing on technology and patient empowerment. Many
patients learn more about their conditions than the physicians who are
treating them. They hang out online, swap stories, build knowledge,
which is potentially valuable. Many physicians are catching on, opening
to participatory medicine - learning from their patients.
  
inkwell.vue.343 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World, 2009
permalink #150 of 177: Painted Paisley (s-macfarlane) Mon 12 Jan 09 22:05
    
If Jhane Barnes is God, then why did she ruin the paisley print, and,
with this design, leach all the vitality from the Sixties? No Gaian
Goddess would resort to such miss-appropriation.



http://www.jhanebarnes.com/online-item/cPath=4&products_id=979
  

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