inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #126 of 179: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Thu 14 Jan 16 02:33
    <scribbled>
  
inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #127 of 179: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Thu 14 Jan 16 02:48
    
<124> Julie, there are so many to choose from, it's almost too much.
I am working with a group trying to change that and put all the
links, resources, tools, platforms, content, and collaborative
networks together:

www.opensourcelearning.net David Preston (who coined the term 'open
source learning')

 https://twitter.com/prestonlearning

Closer to home, there's our own gentles:

(hlr) Howard Rheingold : http://rheingold.com/

(choco) Nancy White :  http://www.fullcirc.com/

(doctorow) Cory Doctorow:
https://boingboing.net/author/cory_doctorow_1

You may want to follow Bryan Alexander @bryanalexander:
http://bryanalexander.org/
  
inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #128 of 179: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 14 Jan 16 03:04
    
I'd advise easing up on the Apocalypse chatter for WELL SOTW 02016. 
We're pretty likely to be here again next year,  and most of the
large, well-established, long-term grim trends we're complaining
about in 2016 are gonna be some further percentage worse.  So, we've
gotta leave ourselves some wiggle-room for our increased
indignation.  I mean, that is strategic planning at work, okay? 
It's foresight.

What bugs me about the Apocalypse as a besetting vice of futurism is
that, after Apocalypse, nothing is ever surprising.  It's so dull. 
Surprise is the sign that you don't get it.  Admitting that you
don't have all the answers is a healthy sign of intellectual
honesty.  A willingness to ask, test, verify and learn is a sign of
vigor.    

The intellectual problem of Apocalypse arrives when you can't figure
out what will happen after situation (x), and therefore, so you
assume and proclaim that the world must end.  Nothing important ever
happens unless you yourself have it figured out.  How likely is
that?  It's a pre-scientific attitude.
  
inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #129 of 179: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 14 Jan 16 03:05
    

I learned about this issue from H G Wells.  Not his quite good
"Anticipations" material, when he had all his wits around him,  but
from his tragically ludicrous last book. "Mind at the End of Its
Tether."  In this book, the great speculator is  elderly, exhausted,
politically disillusioned, fatally ill and also the Atomic Bomb has
been detonated.   So he's like:  Welp!  That's it!  No More Future! 


For him, yes, that's true.  Personally, he's toast: no more HG
Wells.  And for Wells books, as well: yeah, it's the conclusive last
page of his literary production.  You might even say it's the end of
a historical period Wellsian worldview of Fabian Socialism and
left-wing World Brain activity and scientific labor-unionism and so
on.  

But, mostly, it's just human egotism and frustration talking.  Like:
things didn't go my way, and the threats seem dire and mounting,
and, therefore, there can be no world.  
  
inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #130 of 179: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 14 Jan 16 03:05
    

Lately, it's become a vogue to talk about "human extinction events,"
rather than rambling on in time-honored theological form about the
Creator wrapping up his Creation.  That formulation sounds 
impressive and much more up-to-date than a corny Apocalypse.  It
sounds clean and objective, but I wonder.  It still seems
self-centered to me, in the elderly Wellsian way.

There have already been alarming numbers of human extinction events.
Just look at all these dead guys here.  Lots.

http://open.jorum.ac.uk/xmlui/bitstream/handle/10949/918/Items/S182_10_section
4.html

If you're, say, a feline today, you've got all kinds of similar
cat-like cousin species around.  But not us.  Us humans seem to be
critically short of yetis, Bigfeet, hobbits, elves, dwarfs, faerie
folk, saucer-borne Space Brothers, and so forth, despite the fact
that we make them up in fables all the time.  

Chimps, apes, monkeys, lemurs, we've got.  But what happened to all
those other bipedal guys with tools, who could talk?  There used to
be lots of them around.  We've got some genetic bleed over from
them, even: Neanderthals, Denisovans.  

Personally, I'm making the uncharitable guess that the most agile
human species going at the moment disrupted any rival-model humans
and, well, cannibalized them, basically.  I could be wrong, but that
kinda suits our modus operandi.
  
inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #131 of 179: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 14 Jan 16 03:06
    

We never express much public grief about these other "human
extinction events." Not even.  We're not upset about it.  It's like:
they're gone, hahaha, not like us.  You never hear any hand-wringing
or sobbing about the blighted promise of the Neanderthals.  

If the Neanderthals been left alone till now, wouldn't they have
incompetent jetpacks, fast food and financial crises, much like we
do?  I mean, maybe not so good as ours -- their business suits might
need more tailoring -- but the Neanderthals were never mute beasts
of the field.  They weren't static animals stuck in a stable niche
awaiting the inevitable end, they were human planetary wanderers. 
The Neanderthals had weapons, control of fire,  cosmetics, burial
practices, language,  clothing of a sort, some artwork, probably
music, dancing, trail lore, herbal lore, a lot of  advanced
non-animal behaviors.   

So the Neanderthals are a "human extinction event" and we never fret
about that event's supposed importance much.  Seems like a moral
lacuna there, doesn't it?  Shouldn't we hold ourselves up to the
same standards we apply to those other humans, and shrug at the
prospect of our own annihilation, too, and say, "Oh well, we modern
humans just weren't up to the challenge of survival, like those 16
or 17 other extinct primate guys with opposable thumbs"?  

Well, no. Obviously we don't. Because we're HG Wells here.   We're
not all that fretful about "human extinctions" -- what really bugs
is is the ego-centric premise of OUR OWN extinction.
  
inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #132 of 179: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 14 Jan 16 03:07
    


I don’t think that the current version of human beings are at all
likely to go suddenly extinct. The numbers don't add up.  There are
just too many of us to kill all at once.  Unlike Neanderthals, we're
in every biome, we're spread across the planet's surface more
copiously than dandelions and crabgrass.  We've survived at least
one supervolcano event, which are huge disasters probably worse than
the worst plausible nuclear exchange.  Epidemics couldn't kill all
of us because we have some severely isolated human populations, some
of them still in the Stone Age.  

It's plausible that we could suffer a massive population crash and
be plunged into a general Dark Age.  I accept those scenarios as
realistic prospects, but for our huge species to be physically
liquidated to the last man and woman,  I don't see that.  It's
sci-fi melodrama.  It's entertaining to shudder about, but doesn't
make much sense.
  
inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #133 of 179: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 14 Jan 16 03:08
    

One could mournfully counter: oh well it's not over-dramatic "human
extinction" we really worry about, it’s the fall of civilization. 
But, well, other people's civilizations collapse rather a lot.  Here
again I'm  concerned about the Wells amour-propre issue.  

We cherish an exaggerated fear of our own civilization vanishing,
when we don't  shed many crocodile tears about the many others
vanished or vanishing.  For instance, human languages, with all
their deep cultural freight, are vanishing at a staggering clip
right now, but we don't invest a lot of our moral energy trying to
maintain minority language classes.  

What if the Parsees (my favorite ethnic group for 2016) should just
vanish?  Some day there might not be any Parsees.  They were an
entire Persian Zoroastrian "civilization" once.  If we're genuinely
worried about "civilizations" then we ought to be, I dunno, offering
the Parsees free childcare to keep them out of their funereal Tower
of Silence.  Tax breaks, emigration policy, some strokes of the pen
would do it. 

The truth is we're actually keenly worried about our own cozy
situation, and scarcely at all about "civilizations" in general.  
  
inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #134 of 179: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 14 Jan 16 03:09
    

You'd think that intellectual honesty would demand a more objective
approach.  If our particular civilization is so frail and haywire
that it's subject to potentially fatal threats every other
Wednesday, maybe we should bend some effort toward phasing it out
and designing a better, more stable civilization.  Of course, that
would require some  heavy sweat-equity, as opposed to glib Doomer
hand-wringing.  But talk is cheap, while genuine efforts at general
reform of a civilization are like the French Revolution, Maoism,
installing the metric system in American schools, and similar
severe, convulsive efforts.  Might not end well!  Might be
tyrannical, even! Why bother?
  
inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #135 of 179: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 14 Jan 16 03:10
    

Talk is cheap, and "Apocalypse" is  talk.  The concept has never
been found in nature. It comes direct from theological speculation
in sacred texts, where you start at the beginning of the text, and
the book says (in its stately MacLuhanesque text-media fashion), 
"Hence it was in the Beginning," and eventually after a lot of human
generations and various local histories, the book ends.  At the end
the linear text states: "hence it will be in the End."   That's
Apocalypse. It's literary.

Books and texts do have strict beginnings and ends, but the book is
never the world.  The map is not the territory, and cannot be.  The
actual world is radically pre-verbal.  The Earth was spinning around
for 4.5 billion years before any words were invented on Earth.  

"In the Beginning was the Word," but that really means that in the
beginning of the BOOK was the Word.   It's a literary device, a
catchy poetic declaration.  The actual beginning of the world
involves many mute aeons of green goo and stromatolites, the
occasional polyp and worm.  They weren't turning pages.
  
inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #136 of 179: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 14 Jan 16 03:10
    

The genuine, non-textual course of world events involves five major
extinctions.  Very severe.  We may be well provoking the sixth one,
an Anthropocene catastrophe.  But  in Wells fashion, we don't really
fret much about those five other catastrophes.  No one cries at the
fate of the dinosaurs at the Cretaceous-Tertiary Boundary Event.  
  
inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #137 of 179: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 14 Jan 16 03:11
    

Let me conclude in mentally open-ended fashion by waxing all early
Wells here (all TIME MACHINE, WAR OF THE WORLDS, the awesome
mind-blowing stuff he used to dash out to make the rent, before he
got all geo-strategic).  

Consider  the Anthropocene, very 02016, right?  Posit this.  What if
we discovered that there was another, different Anthropocene, say, a
distant Cretaceous Anthropocene?  Like, a very brief, maybe just 2
or 3 hundred year moment within world geology, where some
intelligent dinosaur civilization burned up all their fuels (yeah,
they had fossil fuels, probably not as much as ours though), and
left some kind of very thin artifact splatter-zone with some molten
plastic conglomerate rocks and the occasional fossilized transistor
radio?

Would we be, like, amazingly shocked by that discovery?  A rival
Anthropocene (maybe a better, bigger Anthropocene than ours)?  I
mean, yeah, they'd surely be our long-lost brothers and sisters
(assuming they reproduced sexually, and that technique was around). 
But would we really take that discovery to our heart?  Would that
revelation cause us to reform any of our contemporary behavior?  
Would it break us out of the self-pitying Wellsian fatal trance of
the 2010s, and open our eyes to the cosmic vistas that used to
dynamize the earlier, more healthy Wells, at a different cultural
period?

For instance: would one single guy shouting Allahu Akbar  in 2016
stop shouting Allahu Akbar if you showed him a fossilized dinosaur
radio?  Would they lay down their arms in East Ukraine, on that
news?  Would the utterly stunning news of an annihilated Earth
civilization  affect the stock market, even?   It would be an
inconvenient truth of major proportions, sure, but I dunno; we've
got our methods for those.
  
inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #138 of 179: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 14 Jan 16 03:13
    

It would be Copernican, basically.  The Copernican discovery was
really, really surprising.  The Apocalypse, never surprising in that
way.   Reality is starkly surprising.  The Apocalypse is dramatic
and emotionally moving, like literature must be.  It's like: game
over, close the book, dust to dust.  

But the world is not a book.  "Who are you gonna believe: this
awesome text, or your lying eyes?"  I'm in the camp of the
experimental philosophy.  Take nothing on mere assertion, and
instead use your senses, and maybe some instruments.  Test the
results, confirm them, spread the news. A lot of stark surprises
there.  It really feels like living.
  
inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #139 of 179: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Thu 14 Jan 16 03:43
    
"In fact it's the only thing that ever has" Ms. Mead.

#138 It really feels like living.

It does indeed Bruce, as probably is the only thing that is. Long
life to you and thanks for all the virtual beers here at the pub we
call Inkwell.vue

Long life, long now to you, Jon and all participating in this SOTW.
  
inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #140 of 179: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Thu 14 Jan 16 03:47
    
Administrivia:

Only 5 days left, and we are both asychronous and suffering a rather
large time difference between Bruce's European location and Jon's
Texas location...Add to that, that Jon has narrow bandwidth at the
moment.

All to say, please get your questions in TODAY!!! So that Bruce,
Jon, and others have a chance to think them over and respond.

We will keep this topic open for two weeks after it 'officially'
ends, but they tend to taper off quick....so as the quick brown fox
says:

Now is the time for all good people to come to the aid of the SOTW.

The conversation itself will go into the "Archive" and will always
be viewable by anyone, on and off WELL.
  
inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #141 of 179: Peter Feltham (oink) Thu 14 Jan 16 04:43
    
Thanks for the interesting discussions - as ever.

Here's a question, or possibly one to throw at the Climate Deniers -
would their heads explode?

Could it actually turn out that the Anthropocene has some benefits?

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jan/13/fossil-fuel-burning-postpon
ing-next-ice-age
  
inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #142 of 179: Paulina Borsook (loris) Thu 14 Jan 16 11:40
    

not a question really nor as grand an observation as most of what has been
recorded here --- but does seem state of the world, 2016 (and maybe touches
tangentially about current notions about art, cultural creation, and the
value place on them):

- front page of the financial times the day after david bowie died was about
his pioneering bowie bonds, which were originally a clever way for an artist
to get $ now for future projects. however, by the 2000s, piracy had driven
the status of the bonds into junk status.

- yet who is doing well, with a different way of trading in performance +
sexuality, in 2016? the kardashians.

apocalyptic in its way...
  
inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #143 of 179: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 14 Jan 16 12:12
    
I'm offline quite a bit the next couple of days, but here's a quick
one...

Sure, apocalypse is metaphor, much of what we imagine is
poorly-outlined shadow of reality anyway. 

I suppose we don't moan about the extinction of neanderthals because
we don't assume they became extinct; rather, through some chain of
missing links, they evolved into contemporary homo sapiens. Humans,
all species, are still evolving, just as some species are at
terminal points. I suppose evolution is a form of extinction, an end
is also a beginning.

I admit to being "keenly worried about our own cozy situation," but
impermanence is the rule. Ask the Buddha: when we suffer, it's
because we don't have a clear relationship with the impermanence of
all things. We suffer was we resist inevitable change.

"If our particular civilization is so frail and haywire that it's
subject to potentially fatal threats every other Wednesday, maybe we
should bend some effort toward phasing it out and designing a
better, more stable civilization."

Now you're talking!  Let's evolve past our imperfections, become
imperfect in new and better ways. 

The anthropocene doesn't have to be dark, we have plenty of halogen,
LED, fluorescent, incandescent light bulbs to burn away the gloom.
  
inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #144 of 179: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 14 Jan 16 15:26
    
<loris>: ++
  
inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #145 of 179: Paulina Borsook (loris) Thu 14 Jan 16 16:05
    
is ++ = Like (tm)
  
inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #146 of 179: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 14 Jan 16 20:52
    
Yes, indeed!

From Wikipedia, re. Bowie Bonds:

"Bowie's combined catalog of albums covered by this agreement sold
more than 1 million copies annually at the time of the agreement.
However, by March 2004, Moody's Investors Service lowered the bonds
from an A3 rating (the seventh highest rating) to Baa3, one notch
above junk status. The downgrade was prompted by lower-than-expected
revenue "due to weakness in sales for recorded music" and that an
unnamed company guaranteed the issue.

"The Bowie bonds liquidated in 2007 as originally planned, without
default, and the rights to the income from the songs reverted to
Bowie."

That whole Wikipedia articlel is interesting:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Celebrity_bond
  
inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #147 of 179: Alex Tarkowski (jonl) Fri 15 Jan 16 05:07
    
Via email from Alex Tarkowski:

The landscape of the Internet Counterrevolution is indeed quite
bleak. Do you see any reason to still see hope regarding the
positive, transformative power of the internet? Is there anything
that’s a counterbalance to trolls, cyberwarfare, surveillance and
corporate domination?

And on a related note, what do you make of blockchain? Quite a lot
of people in tech (including activist) circles seem to be excited
about it, due to its distributed nature. At the same time, the
technology itself seems to be shaped by a heavily libertarian
mindset.
  
inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #148 of 179: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Fri 15 Jan 16 06:33
    
I'm not a major blockchain fan, not because it doesn't work, but
because  ultra-libertarian hackers can't solve a nest of
institutions like finance with plug-and-play crypto solutionism. 
Bitcoin plummeted from the mathematical noosphere into an
all-too-human snake-pit of fraud, trolling, censorship, palace
intrigue and Chinese nationalist fire-walling.

The Bitcoin veteran here may not be entirely, mathematically
accurate in his glum analysis of what went on with Bitcoin in real
life.  He may well be lying, special-pleading, backstabbing his many
enemies and also deceiving himself.  However, that behavior is not
"part of the problem."   The human element actually is the Bitcoin
problem.  

https://medium.com/@octskyward/the-resolution-of-the-bitcoin-experiment-dabb30
201f7#.8fhy0mabx
  
inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #149 of 179: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Fri 15 Jan 16 06:51
    
Via email from Alex Tarkowski:

The landscape of the Internet Counterrevolution is indeed quite
bleak. Do you see any reason to still see hope regarding the
positive, transformative power of the internet? Is there anything
that’s a counterbalance to trolls, cyberwarfare, surveillance and
corporate domination?

*It's not all bleak.  The Internet had a pretty good run as major
technologies go.  It had and still has plenty of transformative
power, it's just than no form of technical power can be entirely
"positive" or permanently "positive." I would rank Internet with
major advents like electrification, national highways, mass
production, aviation and so on.  They're important but they're not
the be-all and end-all.

*If you were to ask, "is there a reason to still see hope in the
positive, transformative power of electrification," well, it would
just sound odd.  "Hope?"  What about?  It's a fact on the ground.

*Very few of us want to give up our light switches, but the coal
plants that fire up those electrical nets are very dangerous. 
Nuclear power, no picnic either.  But it's not that electricity is
bleak of hopeless.  Change continues, there is LED, solar, wind,
smart thermostats, giant Elon Musk batteries in the basement, all
kinds of activity in electrification.  The only change is one of
historical experience; we're used to electricity now, and we don't
demand utopia from it.
  
inkwell.vue.487 : Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016
permalink #150 of 179: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Fri 15 Jan 16 06:54
    

*Trolls, cyberwarfare, surveillance and corporate domination are all
just as subject to the passage of times more "positive" aspects of
modernity.  Trolls are loathed already.  Cyberwarfare will evolve in
the tricky ways that other forms of operations-other-than-war will
evolve. Surveillance doesn't solve the problems that spies think it
will solve, and creates periodic crises; for instance, the American
fondness for the NSA may have cost the US global control of the
Internet. For what actual strategic benefit?  Where is the payoff
for all that spying?
  

More...



Members: Enter the conference to participate

Subscribe to an RSS 2.0 feed of new responses in this topic RSS feed of new responses

 
   Join Us
 
Home | Learn About | Conferences | Member Pages | Mail | Store | Services & Help | Password | Join Us

Twitter G+ Facebook