inkwell.vue.473 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2014
permalink #126 of 196: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 14 Jan 14 04:56
    
I'm posting on the run because I'm having a Busy Week. I'm all about
stacking things up and getting them done lately - as many of my peers
are winding down into some sort of "retirement," I find myself charging
along like a twentysomething, but a little smarter than I was 40 years
ago, having learned, finally, from my experiences. 

Yesterday I visited Capital Factory, an incubator/co-working facility
founded and operated by my friend Josh Baer, a brilliant young guy who
founded something like six successful companies, made tons of money,
and decided to give back to the budding creative entrepreneurial
community of Austin. Austin attracts all sorts of people who can't
abide high-paying corporate tech jobs because they're so dull and
constraining. We talked to some guys like that - technically brilliant,
totally committed to building their own thing on their own terms, and
having real fun in the process. Their idea of fun is living in Austin,
going to all the area festivals, experiencing the hot and cold running
culture of music, film, and gonzo business initiatives. Watching
hundreds of these guys bustle around the huge and growing Capital
Factory turf, I realized I was sitting the big middle of the future of
business. It had a terrific vibe, I'd never seen anything quite like
it.

I find myself wondering, hopefully, what kind of world we'll have if
and when some subset of these hard-working geeks turn their attention
to politics. One of Texas' best legislators in recent years, Mark
Strama, was an example: he'd come from the tech business sector, was
clueful about technology, knew how to get things done. Like so many his
age (probably thirties or forties) and younger, he was socially and
politically ept, absent of angst, working to be of service as one of
the few progressives in the Texas lege - a thankless task, I can hardly
imagine it. He's no longer a legislator, Google hired him to help them
into Austin in a bigger way.

The stacks are moving into Austin, growing their presence here,
because it's a business-friendly environment, costs are low, creativity
is manifest everywhere: we say "keep Austin weird" and we mean it.
Google's saying "keep Austin wired," bringing its high-bandwidth fiber
into play here. The city's bustling. Someone said yesterday that he'd
gone back to his hometown, I think it was Duluth, and could hardly
imagine the economic despair of the place - because there's no such
despair in Austin. I wouldn't say that money is flowing here in a Wall
Street/Las Vegas sense of wealth, but incomes are okay, and okay is
enough for people I meet here. They're not thinking big house and car,
they're thinking shorter work weeks and and annual visits to ACLFest
and SXSW, fine dining and craft mixology, films at the Alamo Drafthouse
and massive infusions of alt culture. They're not political yet, but
just wait.
  
inkwell.vue.473 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2014
permalink #127 of 196: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 14 Jan 14 08:44
    
Quick note about the platform for this conversation, the WELL.

The WELL is a system of forums that have been ongoing now for almost
30 years - it's a seminal online community and a major influence on the
social evolution of the Internet and the web.

The WELL is still active after 30 years, and was recently purchased by
some of its members, after years of ownership by various organizations
or individuals, including Point Foundation (which published the Whole
Earth Catalog, and founded the WELL), Bruce Katz, and most recently
Salon.com. This is still a great place for the kinds of conversation
you're reading here - in depth conversation, not the drive-by kind
encouraged by shorter uncategorized forms of messaging as on Twitter
and Facebook. (The most comparable latter day platform is Reddit.)

The WELL is supported by memberships - as little as $10/month for
quality conversation (http://www.well.com/nu_reg.html). I thought we
should post this plug for the WELL, which is a great place to hang out;
Bruce and I have been members for over two decades, and we're still
here. More info at http://www.well.com/aboutwell.html.

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming, in progress...
  
inkwell.vue.473 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2014
permalink #128 of 196: bill braasch (bbraasch) Tue 14 Jan 14 10:43
    
wasn't there a tagline 'a thoughtful place in cyberspace'?

meatier than meatspace.
  
inkwell.vue.473 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2014
permalink #129 of 196: David Gans (tnf) Tue 14 Jan 14 11:36
    

"A peaceful place in Cyberspace" is a takeoff on a Grateful Dead lyric.
  
inkwell.vue.473 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2014
permalink #130 of 196: bill braasch (bbraasch) Tue 14 Jan 14 12:09
    
ahh, peaceful!  after a fashion.
  
inkwell.vue.473 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2014
permalink #131 of 196: David Gans (tnf) Tue 14 Jan 14 12:31
    

The Grateful Dead line is "A peaceful place, or so it looks from space / A
closer look reveals the human race..."

And a Deadhead-owned business in upstate New York used the tag line "A pizza
place, or so it looks from space."

I'm finished now.
  
inkwell.vue.473 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2014
permalink #132 of 196: John Coate (tex) Tue 14 Jan 14 13:30
    
And now the end of just about any hope for net neutrality, not that I
held out much hope for it at this point.  The FCC never would rule that
data should be regulated as a common carrier, so a Federal Appeals
Court has ruled today that they can't then regulate data carriers as if
they are common carriers.  Thus, net neutrality is pretty officially
dead as a concept.
  
inkwell.vue.473 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2014
permalink #133 of 196: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Tue 14 Jan 14 14:15
    
The Legacy Internet was a creature of the Personal Computer.

http://www.wired.com/business/2014/01/death-pc-also-mean-end-web/
  
inkwell.vue.473 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2014
permalink #134 of 196: Robin Elliott (robinellt) Tue 14 Jan 14 19:12
    
First let me say thanks for the stimulating discussion. I liked it so
much I decided to sign up.

(jonl): you mentioned a feeling of distraction that comes after too
much time spent online. Unsurprisingly, it's the same exact thing as
happens with novels, there's a neurological component to it. Phil
Zimbardo at Stanford brought it up in a TED talk: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oVEHeY8sY5Q (he gets into it at about
2:50)

He calls it an arousal addiction, and describes it as a craving for
constantly novel stimuli that produce dopamine spikes.  The good news
is that the effects seem to wear off in short order once behaviour
changes.

It puts the Transhumanist debate in a different light, I think. Every
piece of technology we have that changes our experience of the world
reaches into our biology as well, even the non-electronic ones. Not
that I'm cheerleading for wholesale alterations to our species. Quite
the contrary, since we've been doing it for some time already, I think
it's less of a messiah than some might assume.

That said, and this is just a guess, in 2014 we'll hear a lot of
overly positive talk about integrating tech into our lives. Are the
wearables that were hot at CES this year a gateway drug to implants?
  
inkwell.vue.473 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2014
permalink #135 of 196: Brian Slesinsky (bslesins) Wed 15 Jan 14 01:11
    
Any thoughts on dogecoin? The redditors seem quite cheerful.
  
inkwell.vue.473 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2014
permalink #136 of 196: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 15 Jan 14 05:10
    
All your dogecoins are belong to us! The whimsical approach to
cryptocurrency might just be the best, and it's certainly time for a
revival of Comic sans. 
  
inkwell.vue.473 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2014
permalink #137 of 196: David Gans (tnf) Wed 15 Jan 14 07:36
    

Thank you for joining us, Robin!
  
inkwell.vue.473 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2014
permalink #138 of 196: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 15 Jan 14 09:59
    
Robin, great points in your post. However I don't think I was talking
about distraction, but fragmentation of attention. 

I do see distraction as an issue; as Mr. Gurdjieff noted, we're asleep
in a sense when we get into the complete identification that the term
"distraction" would imply. That can be an issue if you don't want to be
asleep, though many would prefer a perpetual snooze, the default
condition - no struggle to be more aware. And there's no need to be
more aware in that sense, unless that's what you really want.

But whether you're "asleep" or "awake," I think the constant dramatic
shifts in context that we experience online are destabilizing.

I'm still thinking about your question re. wearables. I'm not
personally drawn to something like Google Glass, but I might dig a
FitBit. How transformative might that be, that constant monitoring of
the body? Would that make me want something more deeply implanted?
  
inkwell.vue.473 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2014
permalink #139 of 196: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 15 Jan 14 12:59
    
We were prophetic when we discussed the end of the Internet:
http://billmoyers.com/2014/01/15/door-closes-to-open-internet-but-all-may-not-
be-lost/

Craig Aaron: "... [the] ruling means that Internet users will be
pitted against the biggest phone and cable companies — and in the
absence of any oversight, these companies can now block and
discriminate against their customers’ communications at will… They’ll
establish fast lanes for the few giant companies that can afford to pay
exorbitant tolls and reserve the slow lanes for everyone else." 

@TomWheelerFCC responded with a statement that suggests he doesn't see
a problem: 

“The D.C. Circuit has correctly held that ‘Section 706 . . . vests
[the Commission] with affirmative  authority to enact measures
encouraging the deployment of broadband infrastructure’ and therefore
may  ‘promulgate rules governing broadband providers’ treatment of
Internet traffic.’ I am committed to maintaining our networks as
engines for economic growth, test beds for innovative services and
products, and channels for all forms of speech protected by the First
Amendment. We will consider all available options, including those for
appeal, to ensure that these networks on which the Internet depends
continue to provide a free and open platform for innovation and
expression, and operate in the interest of all Americans.” 
  
inkwell.vue.473 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2014
permalink #140 of 196: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 15 Jan 14 13:00
    
That Craig Aaron quote is not from the article linked, but from this
HuffPo piece:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/craig-aaron/net-neutrality-is-dead-he_b_4596355.
html
  
inkwell.vue.473 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2014
permalink #141 of 196: David Swedlow (dswedlow) Wed 15 Jan 14 14:21
    
Chris, Jon posted my thoughts which included distraction and
transhumanism. Inspired by you and Jon, and in shoring up the free (as
in speech) web, I am now a member as WELL.

Wearables and interfaces. Following one of the Wired articles above, I
saw the one about future interfaces possibly being more inspired by
"Her" than "Minority Report"
(http://www.wired.com/design/2014/01/will-influential-ui-design-minority-report
/),
and also watched the Tiffany Shlain video
(http://letitripple.org/brainpower/) which is right in line with your
thought about how we are modifying the species and thus the planet.

I think a lot about what I want in terms of service and intention
fulfillment, and how I increasingly am presented with influence and
coercion, especially the subtle, can-hardly-detect-it variety. I can
see that awareness of this is growing more wide-spread. A very good
thing. 
  
inkwell.vue.473 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2014
permalink #142 of 196: Brian Slesinsky (bslesins) Wed 15 Jan 14 21:44
    
I'm not sure coercion is quite the right word. Nobody makes you
obsessively check your Facebook/Twitter/G+ account. It's more like
aggressive nudging.
  
inkwell.vue.473 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2014
permalink #143 of 196: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 16 Jan 14 00:53
    
*So, I wonder if some other nation is going to *insist* on net
neutrality, and then go whizzing straight into libertarian ecstasies of
free, wealth-creating, technical innovation.  I mean, surely that
approach oughta work…  unless you think that the dot com boom was just
a lucky historical accident.

*Meanwhile, with the incipient FoxNewsification of the American
Internet service providers, well, that ought to play right into the
hands of alternative entities like the WELL.   Under these new
conditions, with the fast-lane wholly-owned by opaque, ultra-rich
corporate malefactors, somebody's gonna WANT to be in slow lane.  

*You can get things done, in the slow lane.  Yessirree.  Why, I can
remember when one used to log on to the WELL BBS, and those arcane,
slow-lane, little-known techno-hippies were just about the only public
entities who knew anything about how phone networks functioned.  

*Maybe you could get one of these snazzy, haywire, mostly
design-fiction "blackphones" in 2014, and then be among the lucky,
early-adapter few who owns a phone that behaves like all phones used to
behave.

http://vimeo.com/84167384

*And you know what else might be great nowadays?  A "personal"
computer!  Just for you!  No broadband, no wiretaps, no involuntary
upgrades to your operating system…  No sociality…  Just like, a
*general-purpose" computing device, but created for the independent
individual!  

*Maybe you guys could get some kind of Californian club of enthusiasts
together, and make one of those gizmos out of wood!  It's 2014 now,
don't let me stop you!
  
inkwell.vue.473 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2014
permalink #144 of 196: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 16 Jan 14 01:13
    

*So, I'm off to Berlin presently, where the locals will be glumly
celebrating our ensuing digital Dark Age under the iron heel of
American terror-spook oppression.  It's me and cheery ol' Evgeny
Morozov, over in the Rosa Luxemburg Platz, in the rapidly gathering
shadows of the cyber-Götterdämmerung.  Be sure to bring popcorn and
glowsticks.


http://www.kulturstiftung-des-bundes.de/cms/en/sparten/wort_und_wissen/einbruc
h_der_dunkelheit.html


*In celebration of this Berlin trip, I went to the trouble to whip up
some brief profiles of the Berlin-centric, writerly organizers of the
"Petition Against Mass Surveillance."  They really seem like a nice set
of people.  Charming people, even, although they may be a tad
slow-lane, still picking the lint off the ribbons of their manual
typewriters.

*I'd like to get to know them better, in 2014.  I'm thinking there
might even be a potential science fiction anthology here, given that
some of them are known to write science fiction.  Somebody's got to
cash in on all this eager literary activism, so why can't it be, um,
Amazon?  They like books!

*I'm a little surprised that some with-it social network didn't pick
all these activists out of the background noise, and offer them to me
on a platter.  Because I'd never heard of most of 'em, until the NSA's
scandals rustled 'em up.  Could it be that those efficient, well-heeled
social-networks are not really in the business of finding your friends
for you?



http://www.wired.com/beyond_the_beyond/2014/01/organizers-of-the-petition-agai
nst-mass-surveillance-josef-haslinger/

http://www.wired.com/beyond_the_beyond/2014/01/organizers-of-the-petition-agai
nst-mass-surveillance-priya-basil/

http://www.wired.com/beyond_the_beyond/2014/01/organizers-of-the-petition-agai
nst-mass-surveillance-janne-teller/

http://www.wired.com/beyond_the_beyond/2014/01/organizers-of-the-petition-agai
nst-mass-surveillance-eva-menasse/

http://www.wired.com/beyond_the_beyond/2014/01/organizers-of-the-petition-agai
nst-mass-surveillance-juli-zeh/

http://www.wired.com/beyond_the_beyond/2014/01/petition-against-mass-surveilla
nce-organizers-iliya-trojanow/

http://www.wired.com/beyond_the_beyond/2014/01/american-translator-isabel-farg
o-cole-writes-about-her-role-in-the-petition-against-mass-surveillance/
  
inkwell.vue.473 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2014
permalink #145 of 196: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 16 Jan 14 06:14
    
We haven't talked much in this year's SOTW about war, plague, or
famine. I suspect that's because those are such rare conditions lately.
Sure, we have terrorists and pockets of war globally all the time, but
nothing like the great wars of the 20th century (knock on wood). The
world's about as peaceful and civilized as it gets. We've learned to
abstract and virtualize our wars, limiting loss of life, limb, and
whole cities. We do have soldiers fighting, limbs blown off by IEDs in
the Middle East, but they're tragic exceptions, at least for now.

We hear persistent rumors that global pandemic is inevitable. This
morning I read that the ninth victim of this year's flu season had died
in Austin, but all nine of those who've died had "underlying
conditions" that compromised their resistance... and the numbers of
cases of flu each year, while higher than they should be given
availability of flu vaccines, haven't been epidemic (i.e. haven't been
outside statistical prediction). 

It's meaningful that the greatest health anxiety some of us in Texas
have experienced was over mosquito-borne West Nile virus summer before
last, and West Nile isn't even symptomatic 80% of the time. In 2012
Texas had 1868 cases with 89 deaths; we were dodging mosquitoes as
though they were demons arrived to hauls us all down to hell - but
those numbers, while by definition epidemic, were mercifully low
relative to the population.

In the USA and I suspect in much of the world, we humans are healthy
and resilient, and well-cared-for despite the volume of complaints
about the medical establishment. We do have real problems, e.g. growing
instances of hospital-acquired infections and antibiotic resistance.
Are we done with antibiotics? If you take a close look, you'll find
that the lack of effective antibiotics is linked to market realities
for pharmaceutical companies. Antibiotics are not as profitable as
drugs that treat nagging but nonfatal issues (like erectile
dysfunction), so antibiotic research isn't prevalent as it should be.
But there is some research, and promising new antibiotics are in
development. (e.g.
http://cid.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2013/04/16/cid.cit152.full)

Last night at the gym, as I watched the ruddy good health of the
dozens of Austinites running in place on various ellipticals and
treadmills, pandemic seemed unlikely. Perhaps some level of health
anxiety is the best prevention - as long as we're thinking about it,
talking about it, preparing for it
(http://www.flu.gov/pandemic/about/), it's less likely to happen. 
  
inkwell.vue.473 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2014
permalink #146 of 196: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 16 Jan 14 07:12
    
David Swedlow mentions "...influence and coercion, especially the
subtle, can-hardly-detect-it variety."

Marketing is ever more sophisticated and subtle, often ambient,
subliminal, "sneaky." As you say, we're more aware that this is
happening - but we need empowering approaches and technologies, e.g.
http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/projectvrm/Main_Page - VRM = "vendor
relationship management"

VRM goals:

1) Provide tools for individuals to manage relationships with
organizations. These tools are personal. That is, they belong to the
individual in the sense that they are under the individual's control.
They can also be social, in the sense that they can connect with others
and support group formation and action. But they need to be personal
first.

2) Make individuals the collection centers for their own data, so that
transaction histories, health records, membership details, service
contracts, and other forms of personal data are no longer scattered
throughout a forest of silos.

3) Give individuals the ability to share data selectively, without
disclosing more personal information than the individual allows.

4) Give individuals the ability to control how their data is used by
others, and for how long. At the individual's discretion, this may
include agreements requiring others to delete the individual's data
when the relationship ends.

5) Give individuals the ability to assert their own terms of service,
reducing or eliminating the need for organization-written terms of
service that nobody reads and everybody has to "accept" anyway.

6) Give individuals means for expressing demand in the open market,
outside any organizational silo, without disclosing any unnecessary
personal information.

7) Make individuals platforms for business by opening the market to
many kinds of third party services that serve buyers as well as
sellers.

8) Base relationship-managing tools on open standards and open APIs
(application program interfaces). This will support a rising tide of
activity that will lift an infinite variety of business boats plus
other social goods.
  
inkwell.vue.473 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2014
permalink #147 of 196: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Fri 17 Jan 14 00:23
    
*So, Netflix managed to rig the Internet's software in order to favor
its intellectual-property interests…  Only to see its business model
promptly wrecked by the annihilation of net-neutrality?  What a tough
life they have!

*What is that like?  I hate to get all poetic and authorly here, but
it's rather like watching a dung beetle fly into a lovely dew-soaked
spiderweb, wrecking the web utterly, and then dying slowly and
piteously of starvation, as it's suspended in mid-air by its filthy
legs, twisting, twisting slowly on one long, gooey cable.
  
inkwell.vue.473 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2014
permalink #148 of 196: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Fri 17 Jan 14 00:50
    
*People who have persisted this long within the WELL SOTW 2014
probably think I do nothing all year but darkly obsess about the arcane
implications of current events.

*That is only partially true, though.  When I'm left to my own
creative devices, I quite like to write about the State of the World
during *radicallly different time periods.*

*For instance, this is my most recently published work of fiction:
it's called "Pilgrims of the Round World."  "Pilgrms of the Round
World" is entirely about the 'state of the world' -- there's
globalization at work on most ever interminable page.  However, it's
all about the State of the World in the year 1463 AD.

*And it's set here in Turin, of course, because where else.

http://subterraneanpress.com/magazine/winter_2014/pilgrims_of_the_round_world_
by_bruce_sterling

*"Pilgrims of the Round World"  is one of those peculiar fits of
world-building erudition endemic to the science fiction genre.  I look
at material like this, created by other, similar science fiction
writers, and I'm like:  "What possible reader could find any pleasure
in this stuff?  This story is  all about the Pope of the elves and the
elves of the Pope!  You'd need a spreadsheet just to name and number
the characters!  This is not even 'literature,' it's like 'World of
Warcraft,' only desiccated into black and white!"

*But I wrote this novella anyway, and I'm kind of glad it's been
published… because that means I'm FREE of it, somehow.  One has to love
the world in order to appreciate its change of states.  It's  an act
of "amor mundi" really… though it's an abstract and platonic love,
because no modern will ever  embrace the world of 1463 AD.  About all
one can do is to express that love…  just admit it publicly, find some
way to declare one's overwrought feelings, like some sleazebag
troubadour addressing a remote lady in a tumbledown castle.  Then,
somehow, one is liberated.

*Until you feel the need to write another one, that is.
  
inkwell.vue.473 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2014
permalink #149 of 196: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Fri 17 Jan 14 06:28
    
*What rich guys fret about in Davos.  Those seem particularly lame
this year.  Aren't 1, 4, 7, 9 and 10 basically the same thing with five
different names?


Ten Global Risks of Highest Concern in 2014 (World Economic Forum)
1 Fiscal crises in key economies
2 Structurally high unemployment/underemployment
3 Water crises
4 Severe income disparity
5 Failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation
6 Greater incidence of extreme weather events (e.g. floods, storms,
fires)
7 Global governance failure
8 Food crises
9 Failure of a major financial mechanism/institution
10 Profound political and social instability
  
inkwell.vue.473 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2014
permalink #150 of 196: Morgan Rowe-Morris (rowemorris) Fri 17 Jan 14 06:41
    <scribbled>
  

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