inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #0 of 186: Cyborganic Host (jonl) Wed 26 Dec 12 07:21
Welcome to the 2013 edition of the Bruce Sterling/Jon Lebkowsky State
of the World conversation/rantfest. Bruce and Jon, old friends and
rambunctious digerati, have made this annual mess every year of the
21st century; this year's model should be particularly interesting,
given the current hyperactive state of the world and the abundance of
available conceptual lenses.

Bruce Sterling is a science fiction author, journalist, design
theorist and critic, public speaker, and world traveler. Currently
based in Serbia, he spends much of his time on the road, and has a
truly global perspective which you see in his novels, nonfiction
pieces, and his blog, "Beyond the Beyond." In addition to his novels,
Bruce has focused on the cutting edges of digital/hacker culture,
climate change, global politics, and contemporary design.  He founded
the Viridian Design movement, the Dead Media project, and is currently
fired up about the new aesthetic, augmented reality, and design

Jon Lebkowsky has been an Internet evangelist and expert, web
consultant/developer, social commentator, gonzo futurist, media
analyst and critic, and sometimes activist. He was a cofounder of
FringeWare, Inc., an early digital culture company/community, and has
worked with and written for bOING bOING, Mondo 2000, Whole Earth,
Plutopia Productions, Digital Convergence Initiative, Wireless Future,
the Society for Participatory Medicine, EFF and EFF-Austin, the WELL,
WorldChanging, SXSW, Social Web Strategies, et al. Lately he's part of
a web development cooperative, Polycot Associates, and cofounder (with
Amber Case, Tyger AC, and Patrick Lichty) of Reality Augmented Blog
inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #1 of 186: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 26 Dec 12 08:00
The state of the world 2013 seems incoherent, unfathomable, often
terrible, often exhilarating. 

I’ve been immersed in the Internet ecosystem for almost two decades
now, and the surge of information has been increasing exponentially
throughout that time, a real firehose of data, much of it unstructured.
I devour more new facts in a day than my ancestors ate in a lifetime.
There’s a real richness to it, but there’s also powerful existential
indigestion. And when you swallow the world’s information, there are
inevitable toxins, so many raw, wild, and often conflicting chunks. 

In the 21st century, with so much knowledge created every day, hour,
minute, second, we have many sources of confusion: new studies reverse
the findings of older studies, new interpretations of facts radically
change perspectives, there’s a real crisis of authority, a question
whether we know what we know. 

I find myself questioning everything I read, hear - even what I see
with my own eyeballs... 
inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #2 of 186: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Wed 26 Dec 12 09:28

I'm glad to be here.  I'm glad to have the WELL here, too. I'm even
properly glad that the World is still here.

So, I happen to be in Belgrade this season, a city that's dear to me,
but not exactly a burg known for its straw-hat-and-cane light-comedy
material.  When living in Belgrade, I become a somber, ponderous,
literary guy.  A bespectacled, serious-minded character, in a long gray
gentleman's overcoat and  a Russian-style fur hat.  

I just bought the new fur hat for Xmas.  To tell the truth, the hat is
Swedish and 100% polyester fake fur.  However, it looks incredibly
Russian, and the locals compliment me on my dress-sense.

My personality changes with these differences in my locale.  Belgrade
is a spiritual home for me.  Italy is where I feel most intelligent.
Texas is where the heart is.  Traipsing from one to another is like
pitchforking a compost-heap.  It aerates me, somehow.  

From here in the Balkans, the state of the world can be pretty easy to
understand.  This world is a place of tragic gravity.   Great empires
go to the Balkans to perish.   A man's victory condition is a pained
and stubborn dignity in the face of the inevitable sordid oppressions. 

Of course, you're gonna be dishing out some of this suffering yourself
-- the guy in the shaving mirror is a malefactor too -- but there's
never much pressing need to reform your own behavior.  Of such crooked
timber as mankind, no straight world was ever built!  When the world
ends, it'll end in Belgrade ten years later because they never met the
international requirements.

Now, I've noticed  over the years that these Well State of the World
encounters commonly develop into a series of eloquent complaints from
everybody concerned.  Here in the Balkans, we are second to none in
that regard.  We complain even when things are going pretty good, so as
to keep up our guard against possible acts of treachery.

So -- before the inevitable doom that will beset this years' discourse
-- let me offer a few brief notes about some interest groups of 2013
who seem to be having a pretty good time.  They don't need to complain
much, because they're doing great.
inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #3 of 186: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Wed 26 Dec 12 09:38

#1. The  3d printer guys.  Just so interesting!  Gotta love them!  
There's a classic little tech-development boom happening in this space.
 It's very old-school desktop 1980s.  

 I rather expect to get one of these devices some day soon.    Here in
Belgrade, I just wrapped up and shelved a perfectly functional desktop
computer -- just because it was old, and I don't need it.  With
desktop computers so clunky and obsolete, I've got room for a 3d
printer now.  "I got rid of a computer for Xmas" is the new "I got a
computer for Xmas."  "I got a 3dprinter" is the new hipster
desk-ornamenting knick-knack.

Of course it's not that you own a printer, it's what you print with
it.  That's why I watch open databases like "Thingiverse" with more
interest than the printing devices themselves.

#2.  Koreans.   2012 was all about K-pop and Samsung.  Who can't
admire these two mushrooming efflorescences of Korean soft power and
Korean hard manufacturing?   They're the New 1980s Japan.

#3. Indians. Bollywood has long been a hobbyhorse of mine, but 2012
was the first year in which I formally interviewed a Bollywood star --
for a pricey Swiss magazine, no less.    In 2012, Indian cinema was
making unprecedented amounts of  money.  There's been an unheard-of
stream of Indian box-office smashes, and there are plenty more in the
hopper.  The various Bollywoodians I'm following definitely feel the
wind at their backs.  Some of the younger artistes are getting all
voice-of-a-generation about themselves.

They're not just selling the usual masala movie rubbish, either.  A
player like Aamir Khan here seems to be methodically working his way
into Ronald Reagan territory.  Aamir Khan's all backlit-patriot after
playing heroes in his movies.  Look at the extensive phone and digital
tie-ins here. Pretty snazzy.

#4  Turks.  It's easy to appreciate the Turks from the distance of
Belgrade.  Sure, Turks are pretty miserable, but just look at the truly
awful state of everybody else around them!  Syria reduced to bloody
rubble... even the Greeks, the Turkish bete noire, are in anguish.  
The Greeks had most everything the Turks ever wanted from the world,
and the Greeks were reduced to ruin by it.

The Turks can feel pretty pleased about their luck.  The Turks should
knock it off with jailing all those Turkish journalists, but at least
that means people are reading the news in Turkey.   

In 2012, a glossy new Turkish historical soap-opera, "Suleiman the
Magnificent," had women swooning from Moscow to Sarajevo, while Turkish
Airlines is flying all over the region.  It must feel pretty good to
be Turkey now: an Islamic-political NATO power, treated like
responsible grown-ups while the Israelis are sawing off their own feet
in public.

#5.  China.  Yes, they're very big and powerful.  I wish they were
more interesting.  I try, but....  While Turkey seems to have a Moslem
charm offensive going on,  everybody around China is keenly resentful
of their island-snatching behavior.  The only allies the Chinese have
are pariah states who depend on them for loose cash.   If the Chinese
were as diplomatically charming as the Brazilians, they'd have taken
over the world five years ago.  Why are they such boorish hicks?

#6 Tea Party guys.  It's always "the worse, the better" with these
Trotsky-style fanatics.  Every failure, rejection and common-sense
setback galvanizes them to new extremes of faith-based ideological

As someone who hangs out in Europe, I'm used to bizarre political
movements, but the Tea Party is truly impressively strange by anybody's
standards.   Acidheads have had more coherent thinking than these
Creationist Randite gold-bar-eating pro-coal zillionaire market fundie
people.   They lost the American election, but winning one and
governing a superpower never seemed to be on their agenda.  That hasn't
discouraged them, though.  They've got ladder notches and fallback
positions all the way to the prepper graveyard.

#7 Qataris.  The financiers of Al Jazeera, of the Arab Spring, Egypt,
Libya, Syria, etc etc.  There's only a quarter of a million of these
people, and all their real decisions are probably made by six
aristocrats,  but the effect they have on the world is incredible.  If
the War on Terror had a winner, it's the Qataris.  Nobody ever dares to
say anything mean about them.  Even Israel and the USA are afraid of
them, because the USA and Israel both instinctively kowtow to rich guys
with TV stations.  

#8 Stacks.  In 2012 it made less and less sense to talk about "the
Internet," "the PC business," "telephones," "Silicon Valley," or "the
media," and much more sense to just study Google, Apple, Facebook,
Amazon and Microsoft.  These big five American vertically organized
silos are re-making the world in their image.  

If you're Nokia or HP or a Japanese electronics manufacturer, they
stole all your oxygen.  There will be a whole lot happening among these
five vast entities in 2013.  They never compete head-to-head, but
they're all fascinated by "disruption."

Why these canny subversives have let idiots like the Koch Brothers buy
the American government, I just dunno.  The Stacks could buy the
Republican Party, lock stock and barrel, with their pocket change.
inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #4 of 186: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 26 Dec 12 10:18
If I was managing investments for the stacks, I would consider the
American government a bad investment at the moment, especially given
the ideological and conceptual disarray within Congress and the Senate.
We talk about the disruption of various industries by the emerging (or
post-emergent, I suppose) Internet media environment, but the
disruption/destabilization of political frameworks and institutions,
and the impact of that crisis of authority I mentioned, are somehow not
getting the same level of analysis. Lawmakers are deluged with
information like the rest of us but more so, challenged by complex and
contradictory policy tangles worse than the dreadlocks of Cthulhu,
pounded by lobbyists from more or less sinister angles of the left and
right, tempted to wade trickling streams of power feeding into pools of
money, and scrutinized by voters and their surrogates as the
inescapable light of Internet-mediated transparency derails the
protective obfuscations that was so much a part of old-media politics.
Whatever you say, whatever you do, there's a bartender, waitress, or
masseuse nearby with a phone-camera and a YouTube account. American
government is like one of those failing businesses where everyone in
the org chart is too engaged in CYA shuffling to consider, let along
protect, the company's current and future well-being. The Koch Brothers
would do better to buy shares in the stacks, but they're a century
behind in their thinking.
inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #5 of 186: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Wed 26 Dec 12 11:20
Well, the Stacks have heaps of cash, and obviously the American
government seems like a bargain to a lot of other people.  Buying it
might be a bad investment, but not buying it could be a lot worse.

If you're running investments for the Stacks, do you really want
Sheldon Adelson on line one for Washington policymakers?  The guy is a
inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #6 of 186: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 26 Dec 12 11:46
I love this, from that Wikipedia article: 

"Originally a Democrat, Adelson became a Republican as his wealth
increased. 'Why is it fair that I should be paying a higher percentage
of taxes than anyone else?' he reportedly argued to an associate."

That short paragraph gets to the source of a conflict that's shaking
the world right now. The Democrat Adelson probably believed that the
wealthy should pay a bigger share of the cost of government because
they can afford it, and because government has facilitated their
opportunity to grow rich. When you're the guy with the big bank
account, you're less inclined to part with accumulated ducats. Two
perspectives on economic justice, both with a rationale. It's a wicked
problem of polarization.

At global scale, it appears that we have more warm bodies than we can
support with available resources, and the population just keeps
growing, and in some locales, living longer. Competition's increasing,
economies are failing, what's the solution? 

I once quoted an environmental scientist in a conversation with Jamais
Cascio. The scientist said the earth's current resources can't support
universally extending a high standard of living, as we have in the
U.S. Jamais said this was a bad assumption, the issue being "... as we
have in the U.S."  Everyone could have a high standard of living by
some more moderate definition, one that doesn't assume a 2000 square
foot home on a half-acre lot in the suburbs.

Everyone could be rich, if rich is defined, not as Sheldon Adelson
would define it, but as someone like Jamais or Bill McKibben might
define it.

Greed, like polarization, is a wicked problem. Jamais' response was
reasonable, but was it practical? Can we eradicate greed? It's deeply
embedded. Even the most enlightened struggle with it (if they say they
don't, they're not enlightened).
inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #7 of 186: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Wed 26 Dec 12 12:24
The locals here in Belgrade get unnerved when I say that things are
improving here.  

I'm not gonna argue value-metaphysics, but the streets are in better
condition.  There's a handsome new bridge across the Sava River.  The
shiny high-tech Ada Bridge is on t-shirts and postcards now; it's the
beloved symbol of a new dispensation.

Belgrade store fronts no longer look like grimy ex-Communist depots. 
The local merchants have learned the dark arts of capitalist marketing,
so there are tie-ins, loss leaders, and branding.  Kiosks, which used
to be the survival islands for a stricken populace, are just
street-stalls that sell some convenience goods.  

The forged and counterfeited products -- there used to be every kind
of those, in heaps -- are fading away.  The running shoes are authentic
shoes, the batteries actually work, and the fake DVDs have been
trumped by fast, efficient broadband piracy. 

Belgrade women are wearing Desigual coats these days.  Nobody who is
flaunting the notoriously eccentric Desigual is in any "Transition
Economy."  They're not the women of Vienna, but they're certainly
out-dressing the women of Zagreb, who are doing their level best but
just don't get it with that Belgrade intensity.

The shopkeepers and restauranteurs are attentive and cordial to
customers, even to the Germans and Japanese.  They've internalized that
 social relationship now. Nobody remembers what Communism once was. 
They've forgotten how to do Communism, what it felt like, what it
meant, why it mattered.  Younger people don't know what Yugoslavia was.
 For them, a national border is an annoyance that keeps you away from
your Facebook friends.

There are new bookstores in Belgrade. There seems to be more regional
publishing, too.  It's odd that ink-and-paper media should be a big
local deal, but local TV and radio, which used be very lively, are
almost inert now, mostly because nobody is screaming in anguish.  

Serbs are still exceedingly keen on being more Serbian than thou.  Yet
they're also showing a revived and healthy interest  in the nearby
Turks and Croats.  As a nation, Serbia is a small republic -- but
Belgrade is a metropolitan city.   It cramps people's imaginations to
be stuck inside a tight little Ruritania.   The city's too big for the

Belgrade has never been Paris, but it's traditionally been a regional
attraction, where Eastern Europe's truly benighted and miserable can
find a pretty good neon-lights party.   Belgrade never did much top-end
champagne, brandy and caviar, but they generally had a good solid
blue-collar line in yogurt, brandy and sausage.  To become a  party
town again, they don't have to outdo Paris.  They only have to outdo
Zagreb, Ljublana and Bucharest.  

I hear some rumors -- and I believe them -- that Greeks are fleeing
the EU and starting businesses in Belgrade.  Turks are investing, too. 

When the Radical Party took power in the recent elections, every sane
person chewed their nails to the elbow in fear.  Once in power, the
Radicals did the opposite of what the "Western-oriented market
reformers" wanted them to do.  That's turned out to be a rather popular
set of policies.  They won that first election fair and square, and if
things go on at this rate, the Radikalni are gonna get re-elected.  

The Balkans are, by their nature, a region of turmoil.  One terror
car-bombing or a political assassination could restore the normal
discord in 24 hours.  Plus, climate change is hitting this part of the
planet just like everywhere else; it's the solstice pit of dark
December and I've got my window open -- global warming brought
shirt-sleeve weather for Christmas.  

However, to complain about Belgrade under these conditions is just a
temperamental habit.  The Yugoslav wars are fading into the past with
all due speed; those were some stately, 20th-century, old-fashioned
wars, with their front-lines, TV, and state-controlled radio.  Not a
drone in sight, not one handheld smartphone.  Not even one suicide

Sometimes you've got to take the good wherever you find it.
inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #8 of 186: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 26 Dec 12 17:15
Austin, on the other hand, is booming, and then some. We now have
Circuit of the Americas, an advanced 3.4 mile Formula One racing
circuit that's already hosted the U.S. Grand Prix as its inaugural
race. Some Austinites were freaked out at the prospect of huge global
crowds filling the highways, 'copters buzzing overhead, more potential
growth, more potential taxes, etc. The first race went pretty well,
infrastructure was managed effectively; traffic ran smoothly; there
were boisterous, friendly ambient parties and events; Austin glowed
even more brightly on various geographical and concept maps. There were
loud and persistent ka-chings.

You'd never know there were wars, famines, hurricanes, earthquakes,
climate change, fiscal cliffs and global financial mayhem, deranged
serial killers, jackbooted thugs, drug cartels, or other forms of evil
in the world. All concerns set aside for the duration of the Great Race
featuring the highest of high tech automobiles.
inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #9 of 186: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 27 Dec 12 00:54
It only makes sense that Austin would have the classed-up, Cosmic
Cowboy version of NASCAR.
inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #10 of 186: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 27 Dec 12 01:08
Here's a swell, extensive, grindingly detailed article on the Chinese
"princeling" class and their capitalist clan machinations.

There's an undercurrent in this article about how much trouble these
Stanford-educated, English-speaking technocrats are in, for being so
rich and conspicuously successful in pokey old China.  

And this is published in BLOOMBERG.  Have they ever heard of Mr.
Bloomberg?  Are they entirely devoid of self-awareness?
inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #11 of 186: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 27 Dec 12 01:09
inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #12 of 186: Adiministrivia (jonl) Thu 27 Dec 12 06:11
The short link for the 2013 State of the World conversation:

If you're reading this and you're not a member of the WELL, you can
submit commits or questions that hosts from the WELL will dutifully
post here. To do so, click the link at the bottom of the page, where it
says "Non-members: Submit a comment or question."
inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #13 of 186: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 27 Dec 12 07:29
I met with a South Asian delegation a couple of weeks ago -
representatives from Afghanistan, Kyrgyz Republic, Nepal, India, Sri
Lanka, and Bangladesh. Their program was called "Strengthening Civil
Society"; my subject was the role of the Internet and digital media. I
realized that, through television and later the Internet, they'd been
exposed to a persistent feed of impressions about the U.S.A. That
persistent media exposure has carried something more than facts -
there's a vibe, a sense beyond knowledge, a kind of charisma. It's not
about political beliefs or economic systems or business acumen. Beyond
that, there's a vitality and a moral tone that resonates deeply. And
there's the fact that we really do have a civil society. Even polarized
as we are today, even with greed and corruption and occasional
psychosis disturbing social and cultural stability, there's still a
general widespread respect for the rule of law, for doing the right
thing. When you fall down in the USA, chances are somebody will come
along and lift you up. It's kind of amazing, when you think of it, this
idea of sustained civility, relative safety, even given the
exceptional crimal breaches and psychotic breaks. I wonder if we're
drawn to fantasies of the zombie apocalypse, where civility is strained
to the point of breaking among the few remaining humans, as a contrast
that reminds us how well our social structures hold together, how
relatively safe we are in our various cubbies and homes, well-fed, warm
when it's cold and cool when it's blindingly hot.
inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #14 of 186: Ed Ward (captward) Thu 27 Dec 12 07:32
Just a minor point here, but I really don't think that "the
government" helped Sheldon Adelson build a gambling empire with
tentacles deep into Macao. At least I hope not.
inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #15 of 186: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 27 Dec 12 08:36
I'm sure you're right, but he grew his fortune in the U.S., via
Comdex, and the Sands and the Venetian in Las Vegas. If he'd gone from
Macao penniless, and tried to build an empire from scratch, I don't
suspect he would've got anywhere. 
inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #16 of 186: Ed Ward (captward) Thu 27 Dec 12 09:55
no, he went to Macao *after* all of that. Sorry for the interruption.
inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #17 of 186: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 27 Dec 12 11:03
I love those "civil society" guys.  There's a group here in Belgrade
called the "Center for Cultural Decontamination" that's been civilly
decontaminating for, gosh, must be twenty years now.  Things never feel
any less contaminated for them.  One gets the impression that,
although they don't exactly love the contamination, they'd be at a loss
for what to do without it.

There's a kind of "civil society" which is mostly about the soft power
of public opinion on the actions of government, and then there's
something else that I guess one might call "social capital," which is
why people don't just go cut the throat of the neighbor and run off
with his microwave.  It's been my experience that they're not the same
thing, and the one can actually get in the way of the other. 

 The Balkans has always been pretty low on "civil society," because
most political decisions are made in smoke-filled rooms by angry drunk
guys.  But in terms of "social capital" they're quite keen on looking
after one another. The populace is very polite and considerate, by
American standards.  Hold-ups, muggings, drive-bys, gang rapes,
maniacal outbursts by guys with automatic weapons, they're all
practically unheard-of.

The feeling on the streets of Belgrade is vastly calmer and cozier
than, say, Los Angeles.  By the standards of Belgrade, you'd think that
LA was a para-militarized civil war zone, even though LA has got
"civil society" like nobody's business.
inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #18 of 186: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 27 Dec 12 11:11
The Italians are second-to-none with the "social capital," which is a
major reason why their government is so dysfunctional.  Italy really
isn't a "nation" with a "government," it's a bunch of extremely
civilized city-states where a nationalist lifestyle was imposed during
the 1860s.  If the local predators in France and Austria hadn't
invented national government, I don't think the Italians would have
ever gotten around to it.

Now we've got social networking entering the mix, and I really wonder.
 It isn't government, or civil society, or social capital... people
adore it, obviously, but you have to wonder what the upshot will be in
the long run.  What will people say about it in 20 years, or 40 years?
inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #19 of 186: Emily Gertz (emilyg) Thu 27 Dec 12 11:14
Welcome, Bruce! I appreciate how you've opened this year's  How about that Psy: Who'd have thought a K-popster
would be the first guy to hit a billion views on YouTube? And if you
add in all the affectionate rip-offs, probably moving in on two
billion. (Loved the MIT homage: "Opa Chomsky style" indeed.)

Gangnam Style's world domination gives me more hope than just any
political event of 2012.

We're over 20 years out from the founding the WELL, which was among
the first generation of what's now being called social networking. Does
that suggest any answers to what people will say about the current
social media, in 20 or 30 years?
inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #20 of 186: David Gans (tnf) Thu 27 Dec 12 11:17
I walk around this world feeling both deeply rooted in the societies I am
part of and hopelessly out of touch with the thousands of cultures that
exists all around me.  All this media, all these social networks, all these
inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #21 of 186: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 27 Dec 12 11:56
<captward>, sorry for the confusing typo. I meant to type "if he'd
gone TO Macao penniless." My point was that Adelson built his fortune
in the U.S. - though I suppose it's arguable whether the U.S.
government helped or hindered. Probably more a matter of infrastructure
than policy.

Back to our regularly-scheduled program... 
inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #22 of 186: those Andropovian bongs (rik) Thu 27 Dec 12 12:06
Seems to me that a major trend worth watching will be the attempts of both 
governments and corporations to control conversation on the internet.  Any 
thoughts, gentlemen?
inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #23 of 186: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 27 Dec 12 12:16
<tnf>: I'm not sure we're built to handle that firehose of information
choice. I ran across a Ted talk by Gary Wilson called "The Great Porn
Experiment" and a related website, "Your Brain on Porn"
( Wilson talks about the impact of
Internet porn, which is a subset of all the stuff flooding through the
firehose. We've never been able to consumer information like this
before, to be so exposed to so many different signals and perspectives
and lifestreams. Where porn's concerned, we've never been able to
consume so much of so many different blobs of pornographic content, and
he argues that our brains and bodies aren't equipped to handle it,
that there's a resulting addiction, desensitization, depression, and
sexual dysfunction.

I'm still processing this, not thinking so much about the issue of
porn as the broader effects of knowing too much about too many things.
I find myself taking more breaks from the streams of information by and
about my friends, reading more books and fewer activity streams. When
I'm surfing online in hyperdrive mode, I feel an anxiety about all
that's happening and how to track it. Every day I get notices about so
many events that are happening at once, and for every event I make, I
feel I'm missing a dozen others. Is it better not to know?

I suppose I've been information-greedy, and greed is destructive.
inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #24 of 186: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Thu 27 Dec 12 12:47
I still don't have a good grasp on history and the great ideas of past
thinkers! Now data is doubling on the NET about every two years
(granted most of it is crap). Beginning to wonder if the 'past' is
going to vanish, or collapse to a ten year horizon, and the impact of
all that. Existentially, we're all surviving in the 'now' and creating
our own futures; really appreciate both your updates on life as it
actually is in both your 'urbs - there's a comforting resiliency there.
But I've always found some comfort and wisdom in looking back to see
how others did it and what they thought about.  
inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #25 of 186: (Jeff Kramer) O o . o O (jeffk) Thu 27 Dec 12 13:00
At SXSW this year a reporter from the Denver Post asked me what I thought
the next big thing would be. I felt kind of foolish when I responded with
'personalization', but the more I think about it, the only hope for dealing
with that information firehose is some better filtering. It's nice to have
subject matter experts like <jonl> and <bruces> around to be human filters,
but I suppose that's what journalists and critics have always been for.

A lot of us globally aware, internet native, early adopter types are hitting
our mid-30's, complete with careers and kids and the responsibility for
leading our family groups for the next generation. We read stuff about the
mind-boggling amount of debt rolling around the financial system, experience
a record breaking weather event every few months, and see places like Greece
take the expressway from excess to austerity in less time than it takes to
age tequila. Our parents generation would have bought bigger houses, put
down roots and settled in for the long haul, but my lizard brain keeps
whispering to stay light and keep the options open.

So what do we do? Do we double down on where we're at, or do we stay
location-light, burrow our roots into the net, and go where the wind takes


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