inkwell.vue.373 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2010
permalink #76 of 223: Gary Greenberg (gberg) Wed 6 Jan 10 03:12
    
THere is a DARPA-funded project, multicenter study going on in which
mathematicians, physiologists, and computer scientists are trying to
digitize the hippocampus. The stated goal of the study is to create a
hippocampal prosthesis, which will replace lost memory and other
cognitive skills dependent on the hippocampus, especially learning.
They've dispensed with all the philosophizing and  figured out an
algorithm that accounts for the signal processing that takes place in
the hippocampus: given input A, what output B will the hippocampus will
produce? Turns out you can model this, with the help of a
supercomputer or two, with like 99 percent accuracy. (More accurate
than my hippocampus, that's for sure. )The algorithm, placed on
silicon, now mimics the rat hippocampus. Next trick is to get it into a
rat's de-hippocampized brain and see if it can remember its wife's
birthday. 

I'd tell yoy more but DARPA has an info embargo on this one. You can
see something for yourself at 

http://www.neural-prosthesis.com/
  
inkwell.vue.373 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2010
permalink #77 of 223: Lisa Harris (lrph) Wed 6 Jan 10 06:35
    
From off-site reader, Julian Bond:

The rapture of the nerds discussion seems to be dropping into the usual top-
down vs bottom-up problems. If we study neurons, we can't see any mind; If
we study mind, we can't see what generates it. Perhaps we should all go back
and re-read about ant-hills in Godel, Escher, Bach. Viewed purely as an
engineering problem, uploading mind is fraught with issues. Let's say we
construct something with equivalent complexity to a human brain and somehow
work out how to set the initial conditions. Our current knowledge of chaos
and complexity theory suggests we have very little idea what it will do in
the first microsecond after turning it on and simply cannot know what it
will do a few seconds after. And all of that will also depend on the nature
of the inputs and sensors attached. As Bruce points out, this really ought
to include inputs from inside the "body" as well as outside if we are to
expect continued human-like behaviour of the system, except there is no
"body". Setting the initial conditions means destructively or preferably
non-destructively taking a snapshot and reading the state of a brain and we
have essentially no idea how to do that. But, some time in the next
10-100-1000-10k years I'd expect mankind to construct such a system with
equivalent complexity. And pondering what it might do seems an interesting
exercise. However, interesting as it might be, it doesn't feel like anything
we come up with in 2010 is going to have much relevance when it actually
happens.

Discussions here about health care feel horribly US-Centric to this Brit.
The UK is also going through a re-examination of health care and the issues
surrounding automation. Quite apart from the horrendous history of IT
failures, the big issues seem to be about centralised government run
databases with insufficient privacy controls than anything about better (or
worse) informed patients.

Rather than a retrospective of the previous decade or predictions of this
one, I've been thinking about what I would like to see in the near future,
no matter how impractical. A couple of the more prosaic involve Bruce to
some extent.

1) Amazon start a print on demand service and arrange deals with publishers
to obtain and/or digitise their back catalogue. What prompted this was
trying to obtain a copy of Islands in the Net.  As far as I can tell this is
out of print, which strikes me as absurd for an award winning book from
1988. It then turns out that almost all the missing books in my library of
cyberpunk are similarly out of print and essentially unobtainable. In 2010,
this is just wrong, isn't it? So what happens to all those thoughts wrapped
up in books that have been remaindered, pulped and are now locked up in
publishers back catalogues by agreements that were struck pre-internet?
Copyright term agreements are bad enough but when they result in work being
deliberately kept off the market, they really suck.

2) Cheap, Electric-Assist Bicycle kits. Islands in the Net reminded me of
Go-Motion, solar powered, electric assist, desert buggies. Well of course, I
want one! But more realistically, I want a cheap electric-assist bicycle
conversion kit. And perhaps a cheap solar and wind powered generator on the
garage roof to charge it. So off I go to research this and all I can find is
stuff that is way over-priced and way under-engineered from places like
Seattle or Marlborough, UK. Then I look on Alibaba and find 20,000 Chinese
suppliers who can ship 1000 off quantities to anywhere in the world. WTF!
How come Alibaba never turns up in google searches but eBay does? Woah,
there's a lot of food for thought in all that. From Google's inadvertent
cultural imperialism because it's algorithms think I'm not interested in
non-US/UK/english language sites. To disdain for the bicycle in large parts
of the world but adoration in others. To the shift in small scale
manufacturing from the West to the East. To questions about Chinese design
and quality control and how fast its improving and overtaking the west and
Japan. To the state sponsored pigopolies of infrastructure suppliers that
make small scale, local, power generation hard. To?
  
inkwell.vue.373 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2010
permalink #78 of 223: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 6 Jan 10 06:38
    
Modeling some aspect of the brain with the intention of creating a
prosthesis might make sense. Not the same as transplanting
consciousness from wetware to hardware.

What's more interesting to me is the kind of practical cyborganics you
see in Bruce's Google example. Years ago, when Paco Nathan and I were
working FringeWare, we realized that we were cyborgs, in a sense -
technologically-enhanced humans. We didn't need implants, the
extensions could be external - like the very capable Macbook that's
extending my capabilities right now, as I tap keys and surf references.
To my right there's an iphone, a powerful multifaceted extension I
carry in my pocket wherever I go.

Bruce, there's much volatility in the climate change discussions these
days, maybe that's what we should address next. Copenhagen was a bust,
and in the U.S. (and only the U.S.), climate change deniers are
picking up steam, even as Arctic ice is melting and polar bears are
drinking warm Cokes. There's a kind of global political paralysis,
we're stalled as mean temperatures increase. Are we past the
possibility of mitigation? What do we do when we're stressed to the
point that air conditioners are exploding?

Meanwhile, for those of you who are not members of the WELL but want
to comment or ask a question, send email to inkwell@well.com. The
Inkwell team will post your messages here.

(Julian Bond's comment slipped in while I was typing this.)
  
inkwell.vue.373 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2010
permalink #79 of 223: Emily J. Gertz (emilyg) Wed 6 Jan 10 07:44
    


>If we can have better participation, and especially if we can get the real
 passions of the people pumped into the legislative process - won't that
 balance the "crimping and demeaning effect" you mention?

Jon L., I think you've described the Tea Party Movement.  And look how much
that's contributing to making our system a better one.

The ideas about the potential for "participatory medicine" strike me as an
offshoot of techno-utopianism -- a belief that if the tools and structure
change for the better, human nature will follow.  This has been disproven
time and again.  But since the tools keep getting shinier and more complex
and, let's face it, a lot more fun, it's a lesson we keep relearning, some
of us.

These ideas need to be tested beyond the cozy echo chambers of like-minded
converts.  You might find that, much as the Tea Partiers can turn the
techniques of Alinsky-style organizing against the progressives, that
they've got a lot of potential for negative impact that you don't yet
perceive.
  
inkwell.vue.373 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2010
permalink #80 of 223: for dixie southern iraq (stet) Wed 6 Jan 10 09:58
    
Wow! lots of very good posts. However, with all respect:

> If it were genuinely important there would be a Cabinet officer in
charge of Brain Immortality, and some kind of Brain Immortality
StartUp
Cluster, probably somewhere around Pittsburgh where they could hang
out with Hans Moravec.

"Genuinely important" and "possible with currently technology" aren't
remotely the same. I'm extremely familiar with the research cited by
<gberg> in <76>: the main researcher, Ted Berger,'s been decoding
hippocampus machine language for more than 30 years, which is about
state of the art. The trigger for the recently DARPA funding was him
definitiviely cracking the code, at least for rabbits: he has a chip
that can talk to hippocampuses in their own language, with startling
results. Basically, in a key experiment, when a chip was off, a rabbit
didn't display a conditioned reflect. When it is on, it did.

>The rapture of the nerds discussion seems to be dropping into the
usual top-down vs bottom-up problems. If we study neurons, we can't see
any mind; If we study mind, we can't see what generates it. 

And this is a statement of one of the oldest problems in philosophy,
the mind-body problem. We have matter and energy on the one hand; we
have minds on the other. Minds don't seem to be matter/energy in any
measurable or understandable way. But if they're something different,
how can they make matter and energy (for example, human bodies) do
things?  Philosophers have clanged their heads against this problem for
millennia. And not just philosophers: with the advent of Christianity,
the idea of soul (and the immortality of the soul) entered the
discussion - again, leading to the same mystery: what's the soul,
specifically, and how does it connect with body.

It's my thought that the work of Michigan native Claude Shannon )April
30, 1916 – February 24, 2001), offers insights to the resolution of
this mystery. Many scientists put him in the league of Archimedes,
Newton, and Einstein -- but most educated people don't know his name.
His contribution was actually defining 'information,'in terms of its
opposite, disorder or noise, and proving that it could be transmitted
or preserved not just well but perfectly, regardless of noise. His
papers setting this forth, published in 1948, created computers. (His
earlier paper, in the 30s had predicted digital computing).

Is personality information? Intuitively, it seems a lot closer to
information than to matter and energy; and we see it at work in
computers. 

[more 2 come]
  
inkwell.vue.373 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2010
permalink #81 of 223: Lisa Harris (lrph) Wed 6 Jan 10 10:19
    
From offsite reader Stefan Jones:

bruces wrote: 
 
"The population *identifies* with vampires and zombies, wants to marry
them, settle down with them." 
 
Man, the *obvious* choice for a charismatic supernatural lifemate is a
werewolf, if only because he or she would be able to drag a haunch or
two of venison to your bunker when the moon is full. Although an
edge-city dweller like me would probably have to settle for an
were-urban-coyote who supplies bunnies and squirrels. 
 
* * * 
 
The Oughts were actually pretty good to me financially, but I don't
think I've felt more bummed by the apparent face of the future.
Including in the early 80s, when the whole nuclear holocaust / Mad Max
scenario seemed possible if not imminent. Outright stupidity, or at
least hard-boiled refusal to face the facts and challenges of our
times, seems utterly pervasive now a days. 
 
I find myself wondering if the best way to assure a good future for
myself is to find a way to scam the suckers, dupe the stupes, or
otherwise take advantage of fucktardery. Like a diet based on Little
Debbie snack cakes and Hot Pockets, or a multi-level marketing scheme
that sells discount carbon tax stamps to terrified SUV owners. Wrap a
flag around it and fake a plug by Glenn Beck and it's as good as gold.
 
Stefan 
  
inkwell.vue.373 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2010
permalink #82 of 223: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 6 Jan 10 11:02
    
Emily -

"Jon L., I think you've described the Tea Party Movement.  And look
how much that's contributing to making our system a better one."

Not really what I as describing. Teabaggers and protesters in general
are not participating, they're just making noise and showing how they
feel rather than what they think, often orchestrated by some top-down
organization manufacturing an appearance that is supposed to suggest
popular will. The people who orchestrate those events are working the
emotions of the crowd. And emotional response is not informed
participation.

"The ideas about the potential for "participatory medicine" strike me
as an offshoot of techno-utopianism -- a belief that if the tools and
structure change for the better, human nature will follow."

Participatory medicine is definitely related to technology -
facilitated by access via networks to more information and to other
people who are dealing with similar issues. I don't see that there's
any expectation that human nature will change, not sure where you're
getting that. What changes is the role of the patient and her
relationship to the various healthcare providers in the context of
treatment. The goal is a more robust informatin change in all
directions, and better treatment. For example, a better informed
patient might be more sensitive to implications of various sensations
or physical manifestations that they might have overlooked if they
didn't have some sense how it relates to their condition - and they can
have better communication with a physician who's dropped the wall of
expertise so that the patient can feel comfortable talking, and the
doctor's really listening. This is really more social, more human, than
technical. I'm baffled how this fits any concept of the
"technoutopian."

"This has been disproven time and again.  But since the tools keep
getting shinier and more complex and, let's face it, a lot more fun,
it's a lesson we keep relearning, some of us."

All I can say is speak for yourself. I personally am suspicious of the
shiny object and complexity for its own sake.

"These ideas need to be tested beyond the cozy echo chambers of
like-minded converts.  You might find that, much as the Tea Partiers
can turn the techniques of Alinsky-style organizing against the
progressives, that they've got a lot of potential for negative impact
that you don't yet perceive."

Oh, I'm very aware of echo chambers and of the potential down side of
various emerging technologies, including those we're discussing. I
don't dismiss a technology because it has a down side, when there's
also a clearly discernible upside. What I think I'm hearing you say,
though, is that free speech is not such a great idea, and we should
suppress even limited democratic participation because "it has a
potential for negative impact" - people we disagree with might also
have voices. I mean, I hope that's not what you're saying, but I'm
having trouble reading it any other way. Sure, those pesky global
warming deniers would go away if we didn't give them so many channels
in which to rant and spew, but we were using the same channels to make
the point about climate change.
  
inkwell.vue.373 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2010
permalink #83 of 223: for dixie southern iraq (stet) Wed 6 Jan 10 11:29
    
> Sure, those pesky global warming deniers would go away if we didn't
give them so many channels in which to rant and spew, but we were using
the same channels to make the point about climate change.

The problem is, bad money drives out good. Something written by a hack
that sounds sort of scientific and that reinforces prejudices and what
an audience wants to believe will be believed, no matter how
unscientific and wrong. Not saying that suppression is the answer, but
the problem is rooted in human nature. In the words of one of my
favorite writers, 'truth does not do as much good in the world as the
appeearance of truth does evil.'
  
inkwell.vue.373 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2010
permalink #84 of 223: for dixie southern iraq (stet) Wed 6 Jan 10 11:55
    
<80> continued:

I think we are a long way from current brain work (like that described
in <80> & <76> to understanding brains and consciousness. The process
is a building the tools to build the tools to build the tools, in which
we are many tools away. 

But I don't see the innate impossibility of, taking human
identity/personality/memory out of a brain and embedding it in either
another brain or electronics, or (most likely first) a hybrid of
electronics and cultured nerve tissue. What am I missing?
  
inkwell.vue.373 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2010
permalink #85 of 223: Thomas Petersen (sushi101) Wed 6 Jan 10 14:31
    
Bruce

As always it's a great pleasure to read your thoughts, although I
don't agree with everything you say. Thanks for that.

I have a question that have been on my mind for a while now and would
like get get your opinion on.

Recently I wrote an essay about it called "Slaves of the feed - This
isn't the real time we've been looking for"

Here is an expert:

"...To get “signal” we need to plow through our noisy feeds to find
the gold-nuggets that are of importance to us.  Manual work by which
our lacking ability to consume more than one feed item at a time
becomes the bottleneck for how fast we can process and evaluate the
information. Something gotta give.

It’s clear that we need information because we orient ourselves more
and more through our online living. But it’s also quite obvious that
our natural ability to process the very information that we need, don’t
scale well.

The paradox we find ourselves in is that on one hand we don’t know
what we don’t know so it doesn’t really make sense to exclude any
sources of information.

On the other hand, much less than what we are forced to consume is
really of relevance but we only find out which after we have consumed
it.

In a world where time is one of the most precious resources this
doesn’t compute.

We need quality instead of quantity in our feeds. We need a better
ability to find the gold nuggets. But as some of you have probably
already asked yourself, what is quality? How can we know what is truly
of relevance? Thus we find ourselves in an unsettling scenario.
Designing for the bottleneck

In other words, the aggregators that we have are capable of harvesting
almost as much information as we want from them, but we have to
evaluate each piece of information, meaning that we have to design the
aggregators around the bottleneck. Meaning us.

There are attempts to solve this in order to create better quality
data streams. Wordburst algorithms that look for when words or
sentences suddenly start to peak within a short period of time, is one
example. Popularity of a given feed item might be a different approach.
But right now most of these algorithms don’t take the individual
interest-space into account. Instead they look at global trends and as
much as I believe that New Moon the movie is a great youth movie. I was
kind of hoping for New Moon the moon when I clicked on the tag in the
trend cloud.

We find ourselves in a situation where there is no shortage of
information in the digital space but only a very limited ability to
extract relevant information thus making us depending on so much manual
labor, one would be excused to think that slavery had in fact been
re-inserted..."

The rest can be found here 
http://000fff.org/slaves-of-the-feed-this-is-not-the-realtime-weve-been-lookin
g-for/

What I am really after is where is this addiction to information
leading us and what can we do to free ourselves of the reliance off the
feed. Perhaps these where some of the things that Stewart Brand talked
about too.

How do you see the whole subject of information and how we deal with
it? 

Not just twitter.
  
inkwell.vue.373 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2010
permalink #86 of 223: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 6 Jan 10 17:05
    
"But I don't see the innate impossibility of, taking human
identity/personality/memory out of a brain and embedding it in either
another brain or electronics, or (most likely first) a hybrid of
electronics and cultured nerve tissue. What am I missing?"

What are you moving, exactly? What are its components? Where in the
brain do you find identity/personality/memory, and how do you move it
exactly as is to some other context or platform? 
  
inkwell.vue.373 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2010
permalink #87 of 223: for dixie southern iraq (stet) Wed 6 Jan 10 17:19
    
>What are you moving, exactly? 
in words of one syllable, a soul.

>What are its components?
We have names for some: memory. sensation. cognition. 

>Where in the brain do you find identity/personality/memory, and how
do you move it exactly as is to some other context or platform? 
brain mapping has moved pretty far - that's a relatively easy part.
The 'exactly' is where the digital translation comes in. No, it is not
going to be easy. But impossible? Why?
  
inkwell.vue.373 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2010
permalink #88 of 223: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 7 Jan 10 07:59
    
*So, I happen to be here in Milan for a day, so I did what I commonly
do when I want to check out Milan's moral temperature.  I went to the
Rinascente department store.

*The place is of particular interest to me because it's next to the
Duomo, right in the blast zone of the tourist trade, and yet the
Milanese themselves shop there.  So the Rinascente is a kind of
Milanese-glocal consumer paradise.  It's got what Milan offers the
world that the Milanese themselves are customarily willing to buy.

*So what's in there, you may wonder.  Fashionable clothes, mostly.
Milanese couture. Shoes, belts, raincoats, scarves, acres of incendiary
lingerie, Prada, Versace, Missoni, all the usual suspects.  If you're
into fashion-trendy, the Rinascente is kind of a one-stop
trend-spotting shop.

*So, you know: what's new for winter 2009/10? Well, shiny lightweight
quilted jackets for both men and women, oddly drapey and buttonless
gray sweaters, and weird toques that are made out of knitted tubes.

*But, you know, perhaps the genuinely new development is that I do go
to the Rinascente with great interest, and I'm keenly aware of the
seductive power of all these luxury European goods, and I very rarely
buy *anything.*  It doesn't even occur to me, frankly.  I paw over the
stuff, sometimes I even take notes.  I don't purchase anything.

*I'm like some kind of pest who goes to the racetrack to admire the
horses and never places a bet.  It's like being the Open Source guy at
the Apple store.  Sure, one appreciates the genius of Jobs and Ive,
but... pay money for that?  It's all smoke and mirrors; I gotta see
what's out on Sourceforge.

*I don't have the time for it.  I don't know where I'd put it.  So I
ogle it and I don't get any.  Maybe a notebook, a pen.  Sometimes I
have a coffee while I peoplewatch.

*The basement of the Rinascente is full of domestic industrial-design
product.  Huge. Beautifully packaged and displayed.  Totally
fascinating.  There's like Alessi and Droog and Moooi and Starck, guys
who are arch postmodernist designers doing design that's way out of the
box...  I'm like hefting this stuff, checking out the price points and
the manufacturing processes, looking at the labels on the bottom... Do
I take any of it home, the anthropomorphic salt-shakers, the
translucent plastic Louis XIV chairs? Nope.  Wouldn't dream of it.  I'm
down there occupying valuable floor space and sucking up oxygen.  From
the point of view of the Rinascente staff, I must be a drag on
business, but since I look pretty much like the paying foreign
customers, they can't grab me by the ear and throw me out.

*Rem Koolhaas said some time ago that, in the future, museums would
open stores while stores would curate their products.  I wonder if he
meant that people would go to stores, stare at things on the walls and
shelves, and never buy the stuff.  Retail stores are dying all over the
place; the USA has dead, weed-grown malls from coast to coast.

*Some of that is surely because the population is broke.  But at least
some of that has to be because some people in 2010 just aren't
consumers any more.  They're not dropouts or the Amish or thrifty on
principle, they just look at things that they should have grabbed
reflexively, used a week and stuffed in their garage, and the romance
is gone for them.  They just don't do it, they don't respond. 
Consumption is a lost art for them, like penmanship, square-dancing or
hog-hollerin'.
  
inkwell.vue.373 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2010
permalink #89 of 223: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 7 Jan 10 08:11
    

One of the first things one notices about Milan is that they have a
dress code.  Actually, they have several different dress codes -- every
Milanese caste or class has a dress code.  But they all dress, and
they've been doing it for five hundred years.

I wish I understood how that started.  Presumably, there must have
been some hairy-eyed, half-barbarian, medieval Lombard guy, wrapped in 
the customary functional rags of the Dark Ages, and he must have put
down his axe or halberd or whatever, and figured:  "This just won't do.
 Instead of these Rome-smashing combat garments, I need something of
fine linen that's been tailored on the bias cut."  There doesn't seem
to be any compelling *reason or motive* for the Milanese to dress up so
hard.  But they do it; every foreigner who drops by can see it; they
even do it when they are being starved and bombed, and it's been that
way for centuries.

*They're not a rude people, although they're a big-city people with a
no-nonsense attitude, so it takes you a while, maybe a couple of weeks,
for you to realize you're hurting their feelings.  There you are, your
clothing is clean, properly zipped, considered acceptable in most
other places, international airports, whatever... but you're Not Okay. 
Mostly it's the shoes, which for the Milanese are almost never Okay,
but it's really the whole affect.  You're an alien; you haven't caught
on.  It's not exactly offensive, but you're outside the game.
  
inkwell.vue.373 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2010
permalink #90 of 223: Harmless drudge (ckridge) Thu 7 Jan 10 08:23
    
>some people in 2010 just aren't consumers any more.  They're not
dropouts or the Amish or thrifty on principle, they just look at things
that they should have grabbed reflexively, used a week and stuffed in
their garage, and the romance is gone for them.  They just don't do it,
they don't respond. Consumption is a lost art for them, like
penmanship, square-dancing or hog-hollerin'.<


Avarice doesn't go away, at least not for any significant number of
people. If avarice has come detached from medium-sized objects you can
carry home and leave around the house, to what has it attached itself?
  
inkwell.vue.373 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2010
permalink #91 of 223: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 7 Jan 10 08:24
    
As a non-Milanese, there at first seems to be little you can do about
this situation.  As a non-Milanese alien, you cannot really gain any
personal benefit from being fashionably dressed; it's a no-win
situation for you. They best you can hope for is that you stop hurting
the Milanese, stop throwing sand in their social gears and provoking
their inner anxiety, which never seems far from the surface.

*You can maneuver around within the caste system a little.

Stage 0. Hobo, backpacker, tourist slob:  subhuman
Stage 1. Properly dressed alien: subhuman
Stage 1-B.  Freak-scene alien: goth, metal dude, Krishna worshipper,
techno DJ, etc: freak
Stage 2. Actually wearing the same clothes as a normal Milanese,
because you went out and bought them: fraud, ringer
Stage 3. Dressing as a posh SuperMilanese because you are a model,
actress, foreign millionaire, etc: vaguely irritating.  May be formally
encouraged because it's good for business.

*So, given this reality, what to do?
  
inkwell.vue.373 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2010
permalink #92 of 223: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 7 Jan 10 08:50
    
*You can't win, but sometimes you can lose in an interesting way.

*Ramp up the semiotics.  This means dressing in garments that might
conceivably be fashionable in Milan, but, in fact, aren't.  You have to
make the attentive gestures toward your appearance that the Milanese
customarily do, while purging any elements of your wardrobe that
identify you as a hick.  Because they can't place you instantly, the
Milanese will stare for three or four seconds... because they're
sensing, and properly fearing, that something has appeared on the
fashion radar that they haven't yet seen.

*Then they realize that you're just an alien.  But you're an alien
who's fronting.  That seems to be Okay.  In some sense, you're actually
dressed in Code Alien.  There are Japanese Gothic-Lolita types, mostly
18-25 demographic, who are in Milan and superb at this -- supremely
alien but somehow honorary Milanese, thanks to the extra fuss with the
pastel silk bows and the crimpy ankle-socks or whatever.  

*The rich Arabs, the Russians, the German housewives from Bremen, they
all get the eyeroll, but those Nipponese Code Alien girls... they get,
like, preferential seating on buses.

*In theory, it might be possible to push this further.  It would be
cruel and ungentlemanly, but a clever man or woman with bad intent
could hack the Milanese couture system.  I'd be guessing the most
effective method would be some kind of Milanese steampunk schtick --
attacking the modern-day Milanese by dressing in the garb of Milanese
from another time period.  

*For instance, kitting yourself out in full-scale Futuristi couture
from 1911, with the jagged, heart-stopping "abstract-dynamic" graphics.
 It's antique and futuristic at the same time.   Most Milanese
wouldn't recognize this century-old Futurist gear, but there's no way
they'd laugh at it, or find it funny or weird.  They'd know it was
Milanese all right, but they'd have to go into some kind of conceptual
overdrive in the effort to place it and respond properly... This might
take too many processing cycles and the whole system might crash.

*That would be a pity.  When I first saw the Milanese, many years ago,
I saw them as the Milanese, but nowadays I see them as people behaving
as Milanese.  I guess that's a subtle distinction, but somehow it
makes them endearing.  You end up really rooting for them somehow; you
want 'em to pick up the ol' soccer ball and run off with it into the
stands.
  
inkwell.vue.373 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2010
permalink #93 of 223: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 7 Jan 10 08:58
    
Tomorrow morning I have to fly over to the Balkans, and it's snowing
on the European transport system.  If I don't show up for a couple of
days, send the Saint Bernards.

I see that the Eurostar is claustrophobically stuck in the bottom of
the Channel Tunnel again.  If I never encounter that particular travel
experience, I'll be a happy man.
  
inkwell.vue.373 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2010
permalink #94 of 223: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 7 Jan 10 09:01
    
If you're low on hand-wringing, brow-wrinkling pundits, I suggest
chewing on this for a while. This piece is supposed to be coming across
all resilient and perky, but boy is it glum.   

http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/print/201001/american-decline

Rather a lot of stuff in there about California.
  
inkwell.vue.373 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2010
permalink #95 of 223: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 7 Jan 10 09:17
    
*Uh-oh.  Send a LOT of Saint Bernards:


http://www.dailykos.com/story/2010/1/6/822520/-Freak-Current-Takes-Gulf-Stream
-to-Greenland
  
inkwell.vue.373 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2010
permalink #96 of 223: for dixie southern iraq (stet) Thu 7 Jan 10 10:11
    
That Gulf Stream to Greenland thing could be really bad news. Besides
cold Europe, melting Greenland icecap....
  
inkwell.vue.373 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2010
permalink #97 of 223: for dixie southern iraq (stet) Thu 7 Jan 10 10:15
    
There's a short version of the Fallows gloom to much the same effect
as an op-ed in today's LA Times by the always-cogent Orville Schell.

A ... tipping point has also been on my mind lately, and it's left me
no less melancholy. In this case, the threat is to my own country, the
United States. We Americans too seem to have passed a tipping point.
Like the glaciers of the high Himalaya, long-familiar aspects of our
nation are beginning to seem as if they are, in a sense, melting away.

<http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oe-schell7-2010jan07,0,7458460.story>
  
inkwell.vue.373 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2010
permalink #98 of 223: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 7 Jan 10 16:20
    
Interesting about the Milanese. While they're trying on shoes,
sniffing the fresh leather, Austin's Alan Graham of Mobile Loaves and
Fishes is buying blankets for the homeless who're living on the streets
in a historic cold snap. (http://twitter.com/mlfnow) You can text a
blanket to a homeless person in Austin from anywhere in the world.

Last night I was rereading parts of "Shibuya Epiphany" in Howard
Rheingold's book _Smart Mobs_, written as SMS was just emerging as its
own kind of virtual world-builder. Cellular reality is a complex
evolving dimension of the emerging noosphere. Teilhard de Chardin would
be elated.

Tonight the cold, cold streets of Austin will be slow and quiet as
everyone watches football, the University of Texas vs Alabama, the BCS
championship game. I didn't know what the hell BCS was, not being a
persistent and attentive football fan. It stands for Bowl Championship 
Series, a selection process that I won't take time to get my head
around (because it's already too full). In matters of football, I'm
very Andy Griffith (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oNxLxTZHKM8), but
I'll be watching this game, caught up in the local enthusiasm.

However screwy the world may seem, we get on with our lives, shopping
and buying shoes, watching championship football games, posting short
bursts on Twitter and longer diatribes on our blogs, having meetings to
schedule more meetings, pondering the past, speculating about the
future, avoiding the present, arguing politics, flipping television
channels, dancing, shouting, bouncing, trying to carry a tune... We
just keep on.

Here on the WELL, Emily Gertz has been talking about her experience
covering the COP15 Copenhagen Summit. It's frustrating - we have a
critical problem that scientists generally understand... they know what
 we (as in everybody, globally) should be doing about it, but we can't
muster the political will to take comprehensive action. Copenhagen
produced a weak, non-binding,unenforceable agreement. Where do we go
from here?
  
inkwell.vue.373 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2010
permalink #99 of 223: Mark McDonough (mcdee) Thu 7 Jan 10 18:08
    
That Fallows piece is interesting.  He keeps saying "We're doing
great," but by the end the overall message is "stick a fork in us,
we're done."
  
inkwell.vue.373 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2010
permalink #100 of 223: for dixie southern iraq (stet) Thu 7 Jan 10 19:23
    
Milan's a great place to buy stuff but beyond that...
  

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