inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #51 of 198: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 5 Jan 17 07:01
    
In the 21st century, technology is everywhere, supporting our best
and worst intentions. One salient point: technology has persistently
rushed ahead of our ability to understand its implications, and
there's a gnawing fear that tech advances will eventually be our
undoing - that intelligent computers will skewer puny humans, or
that we'll create mutant bugs that will wipe us out, or that we'll
build ultimate weapons that will scorch the planet and eradicate all
life. 

But the reality of this technology moment is the pervasiveness of
the network, and the efficiency of devices that keep us all
connected.  The Internet we knew is no longer, it's evolved into a
network that has been commercialized by some and weaponized by
others. And we're all using it. My wife, who in the 1980s worried at
my fascination with that plain-ascii monitor I was staring at so
intently, the thing I told her was a window, not a screen - is now
even more persistently screen-bound. Wherever you go, anyone you see
is likely staring at a small device, a computer we still call a
"phone," doing diverse things - reading headlines, seeing messages
from growing communities of friends and acquaintances, sharing
photos, playing Angry Birds, checking the weather... 
  
inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #52 of 198: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 5 Jan 17 07:01
    
"The stacks" are the industrial components of this new reality, and
I'm less skeptical about their current state than Bruce.  As any
organization or community grows, it scales past a manageable scope
of activity and a manageable number of people, therefore changes,
split into organized chunks that have to work well collaboratively
for the entity's continued effectiveness. The stacks are all like
that - they've become networks of smaller organizations, and the
challenge is to orchestrate all those "small pieces, loosely joined"
as part of a whole.  I've worked for large organizations like that,
and I've seen how much process evolves, how much energy is expended,
just holding the thing together. The innovation at the core of the
company's value is in this context harder to sustain. 
  
inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #53 of 198: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 5 Jan 17 07:02
    
Some people know me as a writer, thinker, sometimes activist,
sometimes amateur futurologist ... but those things are avocational,
not how I put bread on the table.  Some years ago, working with
Whole Foods Market, I was involved in early development of web-based
e-commerce. When I left Whole Foods, I became an independent web
developer, and since then, over the last two decades, I've spent
many thousands of hours running web development projects through my
own company, which in a later iteration was just me, working with a
set of preferred contractors. With a subset of those contractors, I
transformed my sole proprietorship into a worker-owned co-operative.
I'd always felt that the traditional top-down business structure was
antithetical to the supposed democratic intention within the U.S.,
and that it failed to leverage the potential creativity of within
the workforce.  So I was happy to share ownership, governance, and
profits with a smart group of developers, designers, and project
managers. This has worked well for us, though it would be more
challenging to transform a larger company into a cooperative
structure.  Some larger companies (most visibly Zappos) are
leveraging a system called Holacracy for more democratic governance,
by self-organizing teams vs management hierarchy. We've explored
that system, though it seems process-heavy.  We've also explored
some of the thinking labeled "self-management."
[http://www.self-managementinstitute.org/]

Worker co-ops and companies that practice self-management are
emerging as an alternative to traditional corporate structures, and
it will be interesting to see whether they can scale and sustain
their creativity and culture better than larger corporations,
including "the stacks." 
  
inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #54 of 198: bill braasch (bbraasch) Thu 5 Jan 17 11:21
    
Two news stories today on Mark Zuckerberg.  One talks about his political
ambitions and his plan to visit each state during 2017.  The other about a
weekly meeting in which he shares trade secrets.  Leakers are tracked down
and fired, and those firings are announced at the meetings, to the applause
of those not fired.

I suppose all social organizations in some way develop a Red Guard.
  
inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #55 of 198: John Spears (banjojohn) Thu 5 Jan 17 12:25
    
from <23>

>Extreme poverty, child mortality, illiteracy, and global inequality
>are at historic lows; vaccinations, basic education, including
girls, >and democracy are at all-time highs."

While the world seems to be growing up around the United States, it
seems to me that the United States sinks deeper and deeper into the
middle of the pack on many of these points.

-------------------------------

According to Pinker, the SOTW doesn't need a healthy USA, because
extreme poverty and inequality, education, life span, and democracy
are all tanking at home. 

I think a healty, egaliterian USA may be a good thing for the rest
of the world. I know that's a radical thought.

It seems the "stacks", like big oil and big auto before them, have
evolved to the point where their continued success is more
determined by political power than innovation. It's not innovation
for industry to follow cheap labor across the globe, yet people have
made billions at the cost of the losers.

I say the whole world loses when the US is destabilized by income
inequality, and the chickens are coming home to roost.
  
inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #56 of 198: Scott Leslie (jonl) Thu 5 Jan 17 13:34
    
Via email from Scott Leslie:

Enjoying the recap of "The Stacks" and wondering if Bruce or Jon can
add another one to comment on, Tesla. Not the same as the others,
but still maybe interesting potentially as a disruptive trojan
horse, an energy company masquerading as a car company?
  
inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #57 of 198: gmoke (jonl) Thu 5 Jan 17 15:56
    
Via email from gmoke:

"Maybe, as Rex Tillerson said of climate change, the difficult
current state of the world is 'an engineering problem, and it has
engineering solutions.’"

I’d say that viewing the world as an engineering problem is part of
the problem.  It might be good to look at it as a systems problem
for a little while. In a dynamic system, it’s a question of stocks,
sinks, and flows.  Jay Forrester died this year too.  It might be
good to put his systems dynamics glasses on for a change.

What Pinker calls conditional optimism can become Tom Sawyer
organizing, which is often a lot of fun.  For instance, at present
prices, providing entry level electricity (light, cell phone) to the
1.4 billion people, 200 million families that don’t yet have access
to it costs about $1 billion, retail. That’s also a solar civil
defense for all of us who do have access now, just in case of
emergency or disaster.  Initiate a buy one, give one program and we
could crowd fund the end of deep energy poverty in a few years,
solar production capacity willing.  There’s already one pilot
program that plans to provide a solar light for every family in the
Dominican Republic at $5 a pop and a Chinese company, Ying Li, is
selling solar lights at the $5 price point in Africa.

I too took Andrei Karlov’s assassination "personalitically.”  His
death was a human death, as mine will be.  We are all in jeopardy at
every moment and every day is, indeed, a gift.

In thinking of a world without The Donald, or Don the Con as I call
him, you forgot to mention Mike Pence, the actual Vice President and
the person who would take over if we lost the Twitterer in Chief. 
Pence is more dangerous than Don the Con if only because of his
Dominionist pedigree and associations.  The man with that great head
of white hair may be the Man on the White Horse leading onward the
Christian Soldiers, carrying the cross, wrapped in a flag.

Bruces, I first heard of Beppe Grillo in a SOTW and am interested on
your take on what is happening in Italy.  I’ve been tracking the
rise of the authoritarian nationalist Right in countries like
Hungary, Poland, Japan, the Philippines, and other countries for a
few years now and would appreciate some global perspective as well
as takes on individual nations like Italy or the presently anomalous
Austria.
  
inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #58 of 198: Stefan Jones (jonl) Thu 5 Jan 17 15:58
    
Via email from Stefan Jones:

bruces' commentary on the stacks and Jon's description of his own
career arc got me thinking of my own started-in-mid-life career
change and move to Silicon Valley. (Now, Silicon Forest.)

Man, things have changed since 1997. How . . . not fun it has all
become. How cheap and nose-to-the-grindstone. No slack time to screw
around with ideas for patents. No getting paid to go to night
school.

How specialized my work has become; with the application I work on
moving to the Cloud, there's no walking to a server room to pull
cables and drives to simulate outages, or working with a developer
designing a new file system. The shaggy-beard board layout guys, and
the mechanical engineers who designed cooling fans and chassis, are
long gone. The whole Linux / CS nerd / hack-your-own tools culture I
got grounded on at CMU has given way to a vertically integrated MS
environment.

What makes me look forward to wrapping up this gig is the prospect
of doing *something* fun with the crazy little computers coming out
of the Maker movement; Raspberry Pis and Arduinos and the like. You
can make networks of those that have nothing to do with an ISP; run
applications that don't require a Google account or Microsoft
subscription. I'm glad kids are learning on them and being
encouraged to muck about with them. A way to innovate outside of the
walled garden of the stacks.
  
inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #59 of 198: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 5 Jan 17 23:35
    
The Biggest Technological Failures of 2016.  The world needs more
tech journalism of this kind.

https://www.technologyreview.com/s/603189/the-biggest-technology-failures-of-2
016/?set=602944

People are complaining on Twitter that I'm being too mean to
Microsoft, that they've improved a lot under their new CEO.  That's
true; Microsoft used to throw their weight around actively
repressing tech developments, nowadays they either don't care to or
don't have to.

I'm sure that all the Stacks would like to be dynamic and
innovative.  It's their gospel, it's what they say all the time. 
It's the ideology.  But, you know, the ideology of spaceflight is
all about dynamic and innovative, too, yet the International Space
Station is set for decommissioning at the end of the decade.  It
makes you wonder about all these hobby rockets that Musk and Bezos
and such are so into; even if they've got 'em working, where are
they supposed to go?

There's plenty to do in outer space, communication, sensors,
astronomy and all that, but none of it has eye-popping wow-factor. 
I get it that the Stacks really want eye-popping wow-factor, they're
into the Insanely Great for deep cultural reasons, but in 2017
they're like wallowing 300 pound rich guys in alcoholic denial who
still want to be treated like high school star sprinters.
  
inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #60 of 198: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Fri 6 Jan 17 00:44
    
*I see that those Russian diplomats scrambling out of the USA are
gonna have plenty of company from American diplomats forced to
scramble back in to the USA.

http://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/05/us/politics/trump-ambassadors.html
  
inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #61 of 198: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Fri 6 Jan 17 04:36
    
We like to say, here on the WELL, that we own our own words. But out
in the "Stacks" that is no longer true...like the EULA's all gamers
dread, we have given away our content to our Social Media overlords.


As we watch Net Neutrality go down the drain, are we watching
privacy go with it? Can we own our own digital identity and content
anymore? Bruce, I know you protect your Tweets, we all have blogs. I
am about to get my own server and cloud and run my own network; but
it's almost like trying to carve my own Luddite asteroid in
cyberspace. 

Where is this all going? 
  
inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #62 of 198: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Fri 6 Jan 17 05:01
    
And the Singularity and Ray Kurzweil's tribe??? They've been silent
for a while...with all the developments in AI, getting any closer,
ever gonna happen? 
  
inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #63 of 198: Mark McDonough (mcdee) Fri 6 Jan 17 06:08
    
I saw a recent panel discussion at "Singularity University."

And no, I'm not making that up:  https://su.org/

There was a lot of the expected rah rah, and then they asked one
panelist what he thought of all this.

He said he'd been working in Silicon Valley for decades and "for the
most part, the history of change is a history of sorrow."

Way not to be invited back for next year's panel!
  
inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #64 of 198: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 6 Jan 17 07:45
    
Unsurprisingly (because how could he not?), Barack Obama signed the
National Defense Authorization Act into law just before Christmas,
on December 23. It included the bipartisan "Countering Foreign
Propaganda and Disinformation Act," which among other things is
supposed to "counter foreign propaganda and disinformation directed
against United States national security interests and proactively
advance fact-based narratives that support United States allies and
interests." 

Note this in Wikipedia: "Supporters of the resolution inside the
Defense Department have publicly expressed their desire to weaken
the interpretation of domestic propaganda protections, laws which
prevent the US State Department from gathering information necessary
to develop targeted propaganda messaging and prevent them from
explicitly attempting to influence opinions. In these public
comments it is argued that the internet and social media is not the
American homeland, and therefore not subject to the protections
afforded inside the United States. Similarly, laws and legal
interpretations such as the Smith-Mundt Revision Act have allowed
government generated news media to be distributed to the American
public over television, radio and other media. The cited opinions
make clear that targeting Americans who are 'fans' of foreign
supplied media are problematic for United States narrative efforts
is an important aspect of social media propaganda programming
performed by the Department of Defense, where it is argued that the
State Department could benefit by adopting similar interpretations
of the law."
[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Countering_Foreign_Propaganda_and_Disinformation_Act]

I'm seeing posts and reports citing this bill, and interpreting its
passage as "legalizing propaganda" and the spreading of "fake news."
This in response to concerns about fake news being distributed by in
the U.S. from various sources, from crass commercial news generation
schemes to internal partisan propaganda sources.  

Those who are excited about the bill color their reports by tying
the legislation to Barack Obama: he signed the Defense
Authorization, as any president would, but his failure to veto the
bill is said to be part of an agenda tied to whatever evil Obama is
supposed to represent - the elite political establishment, the
socialist cause, whatever.  As if the bill wasn't in fact a product
of Congress,  supported by both Republicans and Democrats - not
something Obama created as part of the conspiracy to, er, govern.

Very meta, this: fake news about fake news, propaganda about
propaganda. 

And the Internet is, unfortunately, a powerful platform for
propaganda from all sources. It's been interesting to see its
effective use over the years to undermine the Obama administration
and characterize Obama, a centrist, as a socialist, an elitist, a
dork, or worse.  

Propaganda and fake news are indeed pervasive within our information
ecosystem. We have a perfect storm of information failure in the
U.S., especially, and probably globally.  It's partly that the
Internet has evolved as a plethora of new information channels,
public and (semi)private, that are beyond the ability of cooler
heads to track, vet, and refute. There's just too much noise. The
growing competition for mindshare has thrown traditional journalism
against the ropes, hard. News organizations are scrambling for ad
dollars and having a hard time resisting the persistent temptation
to sensationalize, to produce clickbait instead of news.  Critical
thinking's not in vogue. The best journalists are struggling to do
what their best work against market resistance.  I have to wonder
how Ed Murrow would have fared in the 21st century - we could use
another Murrow right now. 

I studied journalism, and I've done some journalistic writing over
the years, though I've never supported myself as a professional
journalist.  Every year I attend the International Symposium on
Online Journalism [https://online.journalism.utexas.edu/], where I
can hear the best new (and some old) journalists discuss advances in
technologies for news reporting.  

I know that serious journalism is still a thing - journalists are
working hard, often without expectation of decent salaries, because
they get, and they love, the profession. 

And we're entering an era where sophisticated, carefully vetted
journalism and support for critical thinking will be essential to
avoid a complete meltdown into a bog of corruption and vice. 
  
inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #65 of 198: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Fri 6 Jan 17 09:03
    
The feedback/endorphin loop of click/warm fuzzy, click/warm fuzzy as
exemplified by FB likes, reposts, comments, etc. moves at the "speed
of byte". Who cares about the truth? Just give me my fix...and on to
the next click; more please! 3/8ths of a second at a time, all day
long.

That seems to be par for the course during a digital day. And we are
raising a generation of kids who don't know anything else and use
three screens at a time for "relaxation". It's already a recognized
disorder in psychiatry and we haven't even gotten to Virtual yet.
And it's all looking a lot like the Matrix.
  
inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #66 of 198: Paulina Borsook (loris) Fri 6 Jan 17 10:45
    
re # 63, who made that remark about sorrow and change?
  
inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #67 of 198: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Fri 6 Jan 17 10:54
    
https://foreignpolicy.com/2017/01/05/10-conflicts-to-watch-in-2017/ 


*Syria/Iraq, Turkey, Yemen,  Mali/BokoHaram/Chad, Congo, Sudan,
Afghanistan, Myanmar, Ukraine, sort-of Mexico and other world
regions that will plausibly have  hell to pay in 2017.  

Venezuela didn't even make the cut.  Neither did Pakistan,
Philippines, or Korea.  It wouldn't surprise me if the biggest
military upheavals of 2017 are in regions previously untroubled. 
There  must be some Muslim areas of this world where  drone-wearied
jihadis can still get easy pickings.  
  
inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #68 of 198: John Coate (tex) Fri 6 Jan 17 11:02
    
Indonesia could be ripe for that.  they just broke off mutual
defense from Australia for the Aussies "insulting" them by
disapproving of a state religion.  Bali is mostly Hindu and full of
western tourists.
  
inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #69 of 198: Paul Harrison (jonl) Fri 6 Jan 17 13:53
    
Via email from Paul Harrison:

As every year I am finding your discussion of the State of the World
insightful.

I am struck in the listicle that Bruce has linked to by a common
theme of people who say the unthinkable -- unthinkable to the
existing establishment, or to some government, or the consensus
reality of the news, or to us. Outside of the bounds of reasonable
discussion. Simply labelling something unthinkable, placing it on a
list, seems like weak argument. I would be interested in your and
Bruce's thoughts on ways to respond to the unthinkable.
  
inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #70 of 198: Brian Slesinsky (jonl) Fri 6 Jan 17 13:54
    
Via email from Brian Slesinsky:

Computer security breaches were some of the biggest stories of 2016.
Are we at peak hacker yet? How bad can it get before it starts
turning
around?
  
inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #71 of 198: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 6 Jan 17 13:56
    <scribbled by jonl Fri 6 Jan 17 13:57>
  
inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #72 of 198: Jamais Cascio (jonl) Fri 6 Jan 17 13:57
    
Via email from Jamais Cascio:

Awhile ago it struck me that Trump is the real-world version of The
Mule from the Foundation novels. A disruption to any and all
scenarios and forecasts. How can you plan against Brownian Motion
Policymaking? He’s an agent of chaos, Loki in spray-tan.

Where this frustrates me most is regarding climate disruption. We’re
now seeing so many red flag indicators that things are beyond any
easy fixes that I’m trying really hard not to feel like giving up. I
gave a talk in China in mid-November, just a week or so after the
election, and I told the audience (combination of tech guys,
mid-level government guys, and students) that China needs to be the
hero now. The US isn’t going to be able to lead the world out of
this mess, and may well be antagonistic to any efforts to do so.
China has to take on a global role that they haven’t shown
themselves yet to be ready for.

Geoengineering is shifting more and more into mainstream scientific
and political discussions, much to my abject horror, and even the
big geoengineering scientists are starting to get into a “well, wait
a minute…” posture about how eagerly and desperately some groups are
looking at geophysical system hacking.

So, at this point, what’s your sense of where we’ll be going with
regards to climate?
  
inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #73 of 198: Mark McDonough (mcdee) Fri 6 Jan 17 16:35
    
<63> Not sure, but if I get sufficiently motivated this weekend I'll
try to find out.
  
inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #74 of 198: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 6 Jan 17 16:49
    
I'd like to respond on three recent posts received via email...

> Respond to the unthinkable
Consider the assassin's creed and Naked Lunch-time motto, "Nothing
is true; everything is permitted." Who knows what's possible? Who
can track what's happening, infinitely in every direction? 
"Unthinkable" suggests a closet system and a closed mind, but we
have to be open, and that's true on more than one level. 

"Are we at peak hacker yet?"
I'm guessing we're into a persistent arms race, so the answer is
probably no. Security is evolving fast, so we'll doubtless see more,
and more effective, hardening of systems. It may be that the
technology is harder to break than we think - I'm always hearing
that so-called hackers have to resort to social
engineering/spearphishing to get the goods.

It's a sad thing, really, that "hacker" is a pejorative - the
original sense of the term, "digital explorer," was a great
white-hat/grey-hat characterization, but I suppose it was naïve to
assume there wouldn't be bad, sometimes very bad, actors writing
code and breaking locks. 

As Bruce said in the afterword to _The Hacker Crackdown_, "The
electronic landscape changes with astounding speed. We are living
through the fastest technological transformation in human history." 
And it ain't over yet... and "peak hacker" is probably much farther
down the path.

"Where we'll be going with regard to climate?"
I hang out occasionally with Michael Tobis (http://planet3.org/),
who's been sounding the climate alarm for many years now. He
recently posted from the American Geophysical Union meeting about
evidence that the world will warm more slowly than we'd thought
(http://planet3.org/2016/12/13/today-i-learned-day-2-of-agu-some-good-news/). If this is true, maybe we have more time to work on adaptation, assuming it's too late for mitigation.

I'm avoiding the assumption that the Trump administration will
undermine responses to climate change, but agree with the concern
about geo-engineering, especially given Tillerson's perspective ("we
can engineer our way out of it"). Trump is unpredictable, he
promised an open mind but that might not mean anything. But the
reality of climate change is increasingly hard to deny, and I'm
sorta thinking scientists and professionals will ignore an
ineffective government and work to do what's obviously necessary, if
the brains that be can come to common agreement about that...

Bruce will no doubt have smarting things than I to say in response
to these questions.
  
inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #75 of 198: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Sat 7 Jan 17 00:47
    
*China might be the hero.  After all, they've been the top villain.

http://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/05/world/asia/china-renewable-energy-investment
.html
  

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