inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #76 of 179: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Sat 9 Jan 16 05:15
    
Any responses or comments re: the new Silk Road China is developing
with India and Malaysia? And where do think they fit in with the
BRICI's now, or even better is the BRICI's even a working model any
more?
  
inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #77 of 179: Never were the way she was (jet) Sat 9 Jan 16 09:47
    
If that profit is actually being reinvested in Chinese businesses and
doing something about the pollution, that's great.  What I see from
the states is how awful/dangerous Chinese factories are for workers
and commentary on the state of air pollution in China and the lack of
pollution control.

I try to read non-US media when possible, and it's easy to find
coverage about the toxic waste problem in China:

<http://www.spiegel.de/international/spiegel/the-world-s-toxic-waste-dump-choki
ng-on-chemicals-in-china-a-387392.html>

I live in Pittsburgh where we're still dealing with the amount of
pollution generated by the steel business, an industry that collapsed
decades ago.  When steel production went to other countries, the local
factories shut down and left pollution and buildings for someone else
to clean up. (There are similar problems with EPA superfund sites in
the bay area, but that's no longer my backyard.)  Some of the land we
have is unsafe for residential use and has been "brownscaped" into
industrial parks, other areas still have dangerous levels of
pollutants like benzene.

Looking for housing in this area also means learning about "Mine
Subsidence Insurance", sink holes, and learning if there are old coal
mines under your house.  Our house is over old Duquesne coal mines,
Duquesne is still in business as a power company and not responsible
if a sink hole caused by an abandoned coal mine sucks in our house.
  
inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #78 of 179: Tim Dedopulos (jonl) Sat 9 Jan 16 13:47
    
Via email from Tim Dedopulos

Is there anything that we -- the global populace -- can do to head
off further climate damage? Specifically, let's assume for
argument's sake that corporate and political will to mitigate
emissions won't arrive, no matter who we vote for or protest
against, and that science won't provide a sudden fix. If we all
pulled together, could we halt the damage? Or are we entirely at the
mercy of the big guys?
  
inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #79 of 179: George McKee (jonl) Sat 9 Jan 16 13:48
    
Via email from George McKee:

Here are some thoughts for Bruce & Jon.  I can't keep my own views
on these topics from leaking thru, but I'd like to hear what you
think about them.

0. Thanks for continuing this always enlightening and entertaining
series of discussions.  

1. The internet of misdesigned, broken, orphaned, and subverted
things.  I worked in the cybersecurity field, so maybe these
downsides are more visible to me than others.   In general, the
explosive growth of the twentieth century seems to be slowing down. 
Moore's Law is showing visible strain.  "Software engineering" has
been abandoned in favor of rapid development. Software isn't
warrantied to work correctly because there's no statement of what
"working correctly" means.  I try to have a pretty low-tech house
because the high-tech components never work together that well.

At a larger scale, both developed and developing countries having
trouble sustaining growth, and except for a few bright spots, when
growth occurs, it's mostly financial systems feeding on themselves. 
Is there a point of of maximum sustainable complexity for human
civilizations?  How near are we to it?

2. Dead media beat: What media had death certificates issued for
them last year?  Does "the death of long form journalism" count?

3. On the good news sci-fi frontier, I can't get over the sight of
rockets backing down to a landing pad and not tipping over or
blowing up.  Is there anything beyond joyriding and orbital launches
here?  I can't help but wonder if Jeff Bezos  has a secret vision
for Blue Origin and Amazon of "rocket freight" that is more than
logos on trucks.

4. Biotechnology: CRISPR/CAS9 technology means that every genetic
disease is potentially curable. Will regulatory bureaucracies and
healthcare payment systems be able to adapt?  Climate change and
habitat loss in general are causing extinctions faster than
evolution can generate replacements, even with human-assisted
selective breeding and reintroductions.  Will eco-engineering with
GMO's become a counterpart to geoengineering?  Or is that too much
to ask?
  
inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #80 of 179: Brian Slesinsky (jonl) Sat 9 Jan 16 13:49
    
Via email from Brian Slesinsky:

Speaking of China, here are a couple of stories I thought were
interesting:

China’s makeshift hoverboard industry is imploding after Amazon’s
safety crackdown
http://qz.com/582542/chinas-makeshift-hoverboard-industry-is-imploding-after-a
mazons-safety-crackdown/

Who's investigating fake Chinese goods? Fake investigators
http://bigstory.ap.org/article/99d87da875bc4d58af24d387a7653ba5/whos-investiga
ting-fake-chinese-goods-fake-investigators

Seems like a common industry structure these days is a corporation
lightly regulating goods and services provided by lots of small
suppliers. You can't set up an app store or a social network or an
online marketplace or a taxi service without thinking about how to
search it, rate it, and police it, either in advance or after
customers get scared. But not too much regulation because it cuts
into
profit margins.
  
inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #81 of 179: George Mokray (jonl) Sat 9 Jan 16 14:41
    
Via email from George Mokray:

Oddly enough, I have found myself optimistic for the first time in a
long time about climate change and about energy.  The reasons for
this optimism are geotherapy
(https://www.crcpress.com/Geotherapy-Innovative-Methods-of-Soil-Fertility-Resto
ration-Carbon-Sequestration/Goreau-Larson-Campe/9781466595392), zero net energy building standards, and the rise of microgrids (Solar IS Civil Defense).

Geotherapy is the idea that we can use existing ecological systems
to repair the damage we've done to the environment, that we can even
optimize such systems to make that repair happen much more quickly
than we have previously imagined.  Rattan Lal, the eminent soil
scientist, has stated publicly that using existing geotherapeutic
agricultural and forestry techniques for atmospheric carbon
sequestration into soil we may be able to reduce carbon from 400+
ppm to 270 ppm, pre-industrial levels, within two decades.  And it
will improve soil fertility and tilth at the same time.

California, the EU, and Cambridge, MA are phasing in zero net energy
building standards starting from around 2017 with full adoption by
2030.  We now know how to build even low and moderate income single
family housing all the way up to luxury skyscrapers which produce
all the energy they consume and can do this affordably.  Since the
built environment now absorbs 30-40% of all energy we produce, this
will make a seismic shift in the grid and our energy systems.

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the idea of microgrids and
specifically islanding microgrids are coming on strong.  NY, CT, MA,
CA, and other states are building microgrids and developing
standards for microgrids which can contribute as part of the grid
and operate on their own when the grid goes down, safely and
securely.  With the rapid growth of grid-scale storage, through
batteries and other technologies like pumped hydro, heat and cool,
as well as compressed air and hydrogen production, the possibility
of a decentralized and distributed grid is becoming more and more
feasible.

Since I live halfway between Harvard and MIT and publish a weekly
that looks at the Energy (and Other) Events there and in the
community (http://hubevents.blogspot.com), I know that neither
geotherapy nor zero net energy building standards are part of the
policy or science discussions that are now going on in the academic
community.  When I go to events on energy, envrionment, and climate
change, I make sure to bring them up but my voice is almost always
the only one raising these issues.

On the other hand, my political antennae over the last few months
keep reminding me that it feels more and more like the times just
before WWI.  We are almost certainly heading for a reshuffling of
world political and military power as stochastic lone wolves and
global guerrillas from all over the world and the political map ramp
up terroristic violence and global instability.

As for practical ideas, I like the answer Lech Walesa is said to
have given to the question how Solidarity started.  Walesa
supposedly said, "Solidarity started by speaking loud at the bus
stops."  That may be apocryphal but Walesa did plaster his car with
the original Polish Constitution and drive it throughout Gdansk to
spark conversations about freedom.  Speak up, organize, and find
ways to prepare yourself and your loved ones for the next shock
whatever it may be.
  
inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #82 of 179: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sat 9 Jan 16 15:22
    
I couldn't say it better than that last sentence, George. Thanks for
the post. 

In addition to microgrids, I'm finding small nuclear reactors
interesting as part of the energy future (possibly or probably
linked to microgrids).
http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/nuclear-fuel-cycle/power-reactors/small-nucl
ear-power-reactors/
  
inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #83 of 179: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sat 9 Jan 16 15:40
    
Tim Dedopulos asked what we (citizens, ordinary people) can do to
mitigate climate change damage. The New York Times posted some
guidelines recently:
http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/12/03/upshot/what-you-can-do-about-cli
mate-change.html?_r=0, but it was a typical listicle. It's hard to make the dramatic changes we really should be considering. If giving up your private car became a thing, that might help, but it won't be enough. It has to be a societal change, an industrial-strength change, a rejiggering of our thinking at all levels of endeavor. The actions we should be taking have economic consequences that some - many - many who are powerful - find unthinkable. The force of that resistance is a swift current, swimming against it isn't that productive. It'll wear you out, you'll have your own personal extinction event. 

On my worst days, I'm certain we're not going to fix the problem in
time, but then I think how much innovation there's been in the last
century, how many wicked problems we've solved or made better, and
I"m hopeful.
  
inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #84 of 179: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sat 9 Jan 16 16:09
    
Good science friction post from George McKee, here's a few hasty
responses...

"Is there a point of of maximum sustainable complexity for human
civilizations?  How near are we to it?"

That's a good "accelerating change" question, or maybe a case of
stating (asking) the obvious. We'll know when we've exceeded the
"maximum sustainable," but can we know when we're approaching it?
Computers facilitate complexity and allow us to manage it to some
extent, but they're as imperfect as their designers, and we all know
the GIGO rule. But I'm more worried about sustainable climate than
sustainable complexity.

"Dead media beat" is a Bruce thing, but I'll say that I don't think
long form journalism is dead, though it's clearly harder to sustain
(that word again).  I think short form, short attention web writing
is so visible, and the business model for journalism so tenuous,
that it's tempting to think those longer pieces aren't being
written. But I find more of them than I can possibly read, if only
in the New Yorker. Journalists still want to write them, and they
still have an audience.

"Rockets backing down" - is what those of us raised on the
space-opera sci-fi of the 50s expected to see all along, and it was
gratifying to see... as it's been gratifying to see the
privatization and industrialization of space, and renewed interest
in space travel. I'm thinking there's a future but it'll be a long
time coming. Might be a hedge against extinction, actually. It's not
clear that we can survive long in space, or that we can truly
colonize planets, but it's a new frontier, and inevitable that we'll
make the effort.
 
"Clustered regularly-interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)"
- genetic manipulation is happening, GMOs aren't going away, but we
really should worry. Garage biotech is exciting scary shit. It could
be that fear will trump science (interesting that I used the word
"trump" there), and genetic innovation will stop cold, regulated
away by legislators who see science as a left-wing conspiracy.
  
inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #85 of 179: Julie Sherman (julieswn) Sat 9 Jan 16 20:17
    
From James Ford:

Really enjoying the conversation.

I know it is a few years old, but I recently finished David
Graeber's Debt: The First 5,000 Years. I was wondering if you have
any thoughts on his calls for imagining what a post-capitalist
society looks like? What system of government and economy (if any)
can support a world of 9 billion people living with at least the
potential for them or their children to be successful (yes, there
may be some sweat shop to Internet IPO stories but some people also
win powerball...)? Is debt forgiveness ever possible (yes I know the
GOP recently made it impossible for the IMF to bail out countries as
part of a deal to re-authorize the fund - but maybe best case
scenarios)?

Do you agree with Charlie Stross
(http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2016/01/long-range-forecast.html) that it is an angry white men problem? Do you agree this is related to the breakdown in capitalism's promise of steady growth forever?

Can you imagine any system that provides for the elderly if we are
not in a world of unlimited future growth? What kind of
economy/government if 401(k)s and pension funds can't grow to meet
the needs of the people? What will soon happen in Japan as the
elderly withdraw their savings from Japanes government debt (and
also other western countries as they also age)?
  
inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #86 of 179: Julie Sherman (julieswn) Sat 9 Jan 16 20:18
    

Via email from William Cunningham:

I look forward to these discussions every year!

Jon, you say "On my worst days, I'm certain we're not going to fix
the problem in
time, but then I think how much innovation there's been in the last
century, how many wicked problems we've solved or made better, and
I'm hopeful."

I don't think we are going to fix the problem, I think if we are
lucky the problem will fix us.

The change in climate could be an extinction event maybe but I think
it is more likely it will simply be ruinous. Political upheaval
caused by massive population dislocation will wreck the global
system of trade and it will simply no longer be possible to operate
the global carbon consumption machine at anything like current
rates. It will be devastating on the individual level as standard
opf living and wealth are destroyed, but people will still be around
and a smaller scale nation states will probably continue.

Or political upheaval caused by massive population dislocation will
force more effective global resource distribution and management,
and the carbon machine will wind down as alternatives replace it and
lifestyle adaptations occur to permit a still globally connected
population to live within the new climate regime the planet will
impose on us.

Either way, any way I can actually reasonably see it, we've got
p[olitical upheaval caused by massive population dislocation coming.
As Bill Gates might say, we are running that experiment.

When you hear things like "fix the problem" with relation to the
climate, what in your minds is the actual problem, and what would a
fix even look like? 
  
inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #87 of 179: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Sat 9 Jan 16 21:50
    <scribbled by tcn Sat 9 Jan 16 21:51>
  
inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #88 of 179: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Sat 9 Jan 16 21:53
    
Julie, have you read The Wealth of the Commons :

http://www.amazon.com/Wealth-Commons-World-Beyond-Market/dp/1937146146
  
inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #89 of 179: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Sun 10 Jan 16 04:38
    
*I forgot that the final English-language title of Captain Berezin's
story was "Panama Cataclysm" rather than "Panama Apocalypse."

*I am now personally distributing "Cataclysm" to various interested
parties watching this discussion, so try not to get arrested or
anything.
  
inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #90 of 179: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Sun 10 Jan 16 04:56
    
http://www.alaraby.co.uk/english/indepth/2016/1/9/hizballah-supporters-taunt-s
tarving-madaya-residents-with-food-pictures

*From "Twitter Revolution" to "Twitter Starvation Siege" with
Twitter trolls taunting the starving with jpegs of tasty food.  This
is in a few short years.  And what next.

*It's really hard to get any more 2016 than this.  It's strange to
realize that we're reached a state of technological development
where civilians can starve to death with Twitter access.  I'm
thinking this psychological warfare atrocity has rather little to do
with the actual people in Madaya and much more  to do with activist
groups on Twitter, thousands of kilometers away, trying to break
each other's morale with hashtag trolling.  

*Basically this activity is the usual taunting "cry me a handful of
tears, social justice warrior," carried to the nth degree. Still,
you really have to wonder at the corrosive effect on civil society
from this kind of demoralizing electronic distance from the facts on
the ground.

*There must be at least a few locals who actually see this wicked
stuff.  Presumably their power-lines are cut Ukraine-style and I
doubt they've got any fiber-optic left, but they must have mobiles, 
cell antennae, generators, even solar panels.  Yeah, in 2016, you
can participate in Internet Counterrevolution from the middle of a
killing field.  "Live from Srebrenica."
  
inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #91 of 179: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Sun 10 Jan 16 06:46
    
https://www.flickr.com/photos/brucesterling/23583039014/

*Wily Serbs labeling the Belgrade bus station in Arabic so as to get
Syrians out of the Balkans and into the  EU as quickly as possible.
  
inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #92 of 179: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sun 10 Jan 16 06:56
    
"When you hear things like 'fix the problem' with relation to the
climate, what in your minds is the actual problem, and what would a
fix even look like?"

To me, the problem is preventable human extinction, a terminal
Anthropocene. Extinction at some point is probable, unless we can
escape the expansion and ultimate death of the sun a few billion
years from now. The universe of stars and planets might itself have
an expiration date, in which case we extinction will be ...
ultimately universal. 

A quiet death after eighty or ninety years of life is a blessing,
but suicide at a relatively early age is tragic. Similarly,
preventable extinction of the species brought on by its own willful
action and ignorance is a tragedy at massive scale.

Early action could have reduced the impact of climate change; I
suspect we're too far along now to do more than adapt. That
reactionary politics and overriding greed prevented us from taking
action two decades ago is tragic. That we're committed, as a
species, to self-destructive behavior, is tragic. 

A fix would have been timely coordinated human action to control
emissions. A fix now might be action and innovation to control
emissions as best we can, but also to adapt to potentially
catastrophic climate changes that now seem inevitable. Many of us
promoted a culture of sustainability for years to no avail, but
sustainability thinking is still churning along, and that culture
may still emerge, especially as the results of our actions and
inactions become more evident. A sequence of catastrophes could be
sobering.
  
inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #93 of 179: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sun 10 Jan 16 07:03
    
These people in Kyrgyzstan know how to deal with tragedy... go
shopping and flash opera:

https://globalvoices.org/2016/01/09/kyrgyzstan-staged-its-first-opera-flash-mo
b-in-a-bishkek-supermarket-it-was-magical/
  
inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #94 of 179: R.U. Sirius (rusirius) Sun 10 Jan 16 13:25
    
There’s a narrative that’s popular particularly among economic
conservatives, but also among mainstream politicos in general, that
contrary to popular sentiments, things are going pretty great
because the poorest of the worlds’ poor people are doing better …
there has been a global reduction in poverty. They point to UN
statistical reports and so forth. We’re supposed to conclude that
neoliberal globalized markets are pretty awesome.  I wonder if Bruce
has explored this arguments and what his thoughts are about them.
  
inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #95 of 179: Never were the way she was (jet) Sun 10 Jan 16 16:58
    
> A quiet death after eighty or ninety years of life is a blessing, but
> suicide at a relatively early age is tragic.

Is it suicide if you don't know what's killing you?  I'm thinking of
the problems the Romans had with lead (ex
<http://penelope.uchicago.edu/~grout/encyclopaedia_romana/wine/leadpoisoning.ht
ml>)
and the possible link between leaded gasoline and violent crime in the
20th century
<http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2013/01/lead-crime-link-gasoline>.

Not to say that global warming *isn't* a problem, but is it the most
likely method of suicide by the human race or just the easiest one to
point out?
  
inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #96 of 179: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Mon 11 Jan 16 02:22
    

http://www.wired.com/?p=1958250

*Why doesn't some rich ex-punk in San Francisco give V. Vale $20K
and get it over with?  I'm one of the only financial supporters of
this legendary voice of Bay Area Bohemia, which is visibly dwindling
away, just like Kerouac drowning his sorrows, as posh Googlers climb
the Special Bus with their pants pockets bursting with cash!  Why am
I, some Texo-Serbian-Italian gypsy scholar, pay-palling this
faithfully every goddamn year just so I can watch his own town
methodically prune his scene to pieces?  It seems absurd.
  
inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #97 of 179: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 11 Jan 16 05:05
    
That link doesn't seem to work, is this the right one?
http://www.wired.com/beyond-the-beyond/2016/01/v-vales-research-newsletter-146
/
  
inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #98 of 179: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Mon 11 Jan 16 07:05
    
*It embarrasses me I should ever trust Conde Nast's wonky bot
link-shorteners, as opposed to the time-honored human skills of Jon
Lebkowsky.
  
inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #99 of 179: Julie Sherman (julieswn) Mon 11 Jan 16 13:33
    
From Grant Henninger, via email:


On the topic of "rockets backing down to a landing pad," there is
something that has been bothering me with the whole commercial space
endeavor. What can be produced in space that requires humans, that
can be sold on Earth? Even with less expensive spaceflight, I'm
unsure how it leads to a human-centric economy in cislunar space.
Without at least a plausible promise for the development of a
space-based economy, how do we become a multi-planetary species able
to survive the almost inevitable collapse of our home ecosystem?
(i.e. How do we achieve Elon's dream without relying upon the
billionaires to throw their money away?)
  
inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #100 of 179: (fom) Mon 11 Jan 16 21:06
    
Everyone should subscribe to Vale's newsletter. It's important.
  

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