inkwell.vue.522 : State of the World 2023: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #26 of 332: @allartburns@mastodon.social (jet) Tue 3 Jan 23 19:14
    
Hey welperns, hey internet,

Quick intro: I'm an Army brat, spent most of my childhood in the south
by accident, went to college in Houston in the 80s (and Armadillocon
in Austin), then lived in the bay area from the early 90s to 2005,
then living near Pittsburgh (aka #pgh) ever since.

This one, this one I can relate to:

>6) We're seeing heavy weather: unstable, extreme manifestations of
>anthropocentric climate change.

Learned to ride motorcycles in Houston.  I think the purchase order
was: helmet and leather jacket for the MSF class, motorcycle, rain
suit.

Moved to the bay area in the early 90s in part because "it never
rains" so I can ride motorcycles all year long.

So here we are in 2022.

Leading in to Christmas, some of the coldest weather PGH has seen in
decades. Highs in the single digits + 40mph gusts and wind chill
*warnings* of down to -20F.

Today, 3 Jan, the high temp was 60F.  We're in our second day of heavy
rain.

Or is it really "heavy rain" and not just "normal snowfall?"

I turn on the news and see what's happening in the bay area.  So much
rain that my favorite motorcycle roads are having landslides.  Roads
that never flooded under water.  Mad power outages.

Years ago <bruces> said something to the effect of "it's not global
warming, it's global weirding".  I think he called this one.
  
inkwell.vue.522 : State of the World 2023: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #27 of 332: Alan Fletcher : Factual accounts are occluded by excess of interpretation (af) Tue 3 Jan 23 19:27
    
Global Weirding!!!
  
inkwell.vue.522 : State of the World 2023: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #28 of 332: Gary Gach (ggg) Wed 4 Jan 23 06:00
    
¿ global warning ?   ( E.G., "Listen, this is your Mother!  Mother
Earth!  I've about had it with your Anthropocene craze!  Get with it
- or move on!!"  )   

BTW, roots of "weird" mean "to control fate" 
  
inkwell.vue.522 : State of the World 2023: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #29 of 332: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Wed 4 Jan 23 07:35
    
I'd like to list some of the tech phenomena I spent a lot of time
with last decade, that this decade doesn't seem to respect much, or
to care much about.  Tech oligarchs still like to handwave about
them, but they're met with sullen public resistance. 

Metaverses -- Facebook Horizon Worlds, virtual reality, augmented
reality

There doesn't seem to be a compelling use-case for any of these. 
People mock Zuckerberg's efforts here for a lot of different
reasons, but I don't think Meta's Metaverse it would be a success in
modern cultural circumstances even if it was technically brilliant
and a sensual delight to strap on your head.

Web3, NFTs 

It seems pretty clear now that this impressive craze was not so much
"blockchain art" as "lockdown art."  It's what art people do
culturally when they're not allowed out of the house.  One of the
most entertaining cultural freakouts I ever personally witnessed,
but it was convulsive and in many ways quite sad.
  
inkwell.vue.522 : State of the World 2023: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #30 of 332: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Wed 4 Jan 23 07:37
    
Cryptocurrency, exchanges etc

There's comprehensive failure all through the "fintech ecosystem."  
Crypto's not "internet money,": it's not a hedge against inflation,
it's not digital gold or a store of value....  I wouldn't dismiss
blockchains as  mere "Ponzi schemes," but it seems to take much more
earnest effort to maintain these systems that it does to crash them
and leave them in ashes.  What epic debacles, time after time. 
Maybe the most vertiginous "Woodstock-to-Altamont slope" ever built
by mankind.

IoT

The "Internet of Things" is simply too dangerous to use.  You can't
pack a nickel's worth of use -value into an object that needs a
hundred bucks of security.  Even "Amazon Alexa,:" the only apparent
popular success in this space, never made any real money.  I
wouldn't call Alexa a "business fraud," but a lot of innocent people
were inveigled into a Bezos scheme there that was mostly
wishful-thinking and sly pretense.
  
inkwell.vue.522 : State of the World 2023: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #31 of 332: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Wed 4 Jan 23 07:37
    

Smart cities

This was a hopeful slogan to unite a scattered series of approaches
to urbanism.  There's no unifying "smartness" there. Google being
ignominously chased out of Toronto with pitchforks was probably the
Waterloo for this.

Cyberwar

This is a useful peacetime harassment method, but in actual warfare
it seems trivial.  Just blow up the power plants and the computers
will shut down as a matter of course.  I include it because it's
nice that worst-case scenarios can also fail to live up to their
expectations.
  
inkwell.vue.522 : State of the World 2023: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #32 of 332: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Wed 4 Jan 23 07:38
    

Self-driving cars

Too many edge cases.  It's impressive to watch player after
billion-dollar player just giving up, throwing in the towel here. 
They're every bit as utopian as flying cars were.

Covid greenpass hardware

Incredible amounts of digital effort, and massive emergency funding,
were wasted on trying to control and track people's movements and
their exposures to this disease.  These schemes might have worked
for a slower disease, but coronavirus is simply way too contagious. 
Also, people violently loathe the tracking systems -- they lie and
connive.  A digital debacle on a truly grand scale.

Clubhouse, Zoom

Again, it's not a digital transformation, it's merely lockdown
culture.  People may hate communting worse than they hate these
systems, but they hate both of them.
  
inkwell.vue.522 : State of the World 2023: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #33 of 332: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Wed 4 Jan 23 07:40
    

I've got colossal stacks of notes about all these phenomena.  I
enjoyed studying them, so I wouldn't claim I was wasting my own
time, but if I was a responsible government adviser rather than a
mere sci-fi writer, I'm afraid I'd be ashamed and chagrinned.  I
would have been doing the public a disservice if I'd urged them to
devote much mental, financial, or political energy on any of these
schemes.

 The human race might have been better off all around if they'd just
put the keyboards down and picked up hammers and shovels.  Forget
the Metaverse schemes, go make sure that the sewers are draining.  
Go plant trees.

These weren't cloud-cuckooland ideas, but from the perspective of
2023, they seem like imperial overstretch from an overfed tech
oligarchy.  Like an era of automobile dominance when it seems like a
swell approach to make every possible  aspect of human life into a
"drive-in."

"How will software eat this?"  Well, at least I don't work for
Andreesen-Horowitz.
  
inkwell.vue.522 : State of the World 2023: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #34 of 332: John Coate (tex) Wed 4 Jan 23 08:21
    
I agree with your assessment of each of of those.
  
inkwell.vue.522 : State of the World 2023: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #35 of 332: Mark McDonough (mcdee) Wed 4 Jan 23 08:50
    
Moi aussi.
  
inkwell.vue.522 : State of the World 2023: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #36 of 332: Paulina Borsook (loris) Wed 4 Jan 23 08:54
    
my dx has long been the prob with too much global investment $
looking for some place to park itself.
  
inkwell.vue.522 : State of the World 2023: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #37 of 332: The Year of the Rabid (jonl) Wed 4 Jan 23 09:14
    
If you can make a technology to do something, somebody's going to
try it. And somebody(s) else will write about it as the next big
thing, whether it's practical or not. 

I'm thinking of my short history as Internet guy and tech maven for
Whole Foods Market. When we were planning an online store, we
invited regional staff to talk about it. They were imagining a VR
construct where you would have graphical representations of store
shelves, and people would deploy their haptics to "pick" products
off the shelf and drop it into a graphical cart. They were rooted in
the physical, and didn't take time to think how to make the buying
process practical and efficient. If we'd built e-commerce that way,
it would have failed. VR commit's a lot of overhead to a technology
that people won't use. It makes 'em dizzy.

Many years ago, after reading Howard Rheingold on "smart mobs" where
SMS was initially deployed, it hit me that the lightest and easiest
technologies, like texting, would have an amazing future. And heavy,
often complex tech like VR would have limited adoption, and would
never get traction.
  
inkwell.vue.522 : State of the World 2023: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #38 of 332: Will Morton (macavity) Wed 4 Jan 23 09:36
    
Musk’s Twitter Debacle definitely feels like the memorial stone at
the end of an epoch, something akin to the AOL/Time Warner merger in
2000. 

To Paulina’s point: For the last decade, SF/SV has been the dumping
ground for billions of dollars of capital that was ultimately
magically-created, whether conjured by the Fed or ‘the Blockchain’..
On the (startup) ground here, it feels like that party is O-V-E-R.
This story is mostly being written as ‘the death of Silicon Valley’,
and it’s certainly terrible news if you are a venture capitalist,
‘fintech’ founder or similarly-adapted creature. 

From the cultural/metropolitan point of view however, this is great.
“Big Tech” has not been kind to SF. A transitioning to something
else will be most welcome around here. 

My suggestion for #11 on Jon’s list is the Impending Arrival of
Legal Psychedelics. This is happening much faster than I ever
imagined, and I can’t much talk about it without lapsing into
hyperbole. I would love to hear other wellbeings’ thoughts…
  
inkwell.vue.522 : State of the World 2023: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #39 of 332: Will Morton (macavity) Wed 4 Jan 23 09:43
    
(Sorry, I missed that it's already on his list! In that case,
hyperbole it is...)

I think the impending arrival of MDMA and Psilocybin as
readily-available therapies is going to be the most radical driver
of culture since the arrival of the Internet, though in very
different ways, and without the same creation of centralized wealth.
  
inkwell.vue.522 : State of the World 2023: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #40 of 332: Ian Scattergood (scatts) Wed 4 Jan 23 09:46
    
I'd like 2023 to be the year we learn from the lessons we have had,
and start to do something about it. I have very little confidence
that we will.

Just a few that come to mind..

Global warming is real and this is still the only planet we have.

The truth is important and nowadays, very hard to find.

Leaders are (mostly) only interested in improving their own lives,
not yours, definitely not your grandchildren's.

Not all tech is good. In fact a lot of it is unhealthy, dangerous,
destabilising and sucks up trillions of hours that could be spent in
considerably better ways.

People don't want to work five days a week with 2-3 weeks holiday a
year. Most of them don't want to work in an office, at least not
more than 2-3 days a week. Work-life balance is out of whack.

Over-dependence on globalised "stuff" has its downsides. 

Countries can change quite dramatically in short periods of time so,
for the time being, be careful who you partner with and maintain a
larger degree of self-sufficiency.

In many respects we are employing a scorched-earth policy against
our youth. As they are our future, this may not prove to be a good
idea.

Some inequality is inevitable but the level it is at today, and its
direction of travel, is ridiculous. 

We still think war can improve things.

We spend far, far, too much time and resources on things that don't
matter (either at the time, ultimately, or both) at the expense of
what does matter.

Mental health is in serious decline and should be taken seriously.

Basic human rights are being increasingly abused to varying degrees
across the globe. 

The more we let people get away with these things, the more they
carry on doing them. In fact, they get worse.

We are worshiping all the wrong gods.

Polite "tut-tutting" and peaceful banner-waving are, today,
extremely ineffective forms of resistance that will be ignored, even
laughed at.
 
  
inkwell.vue.522 : State of the World 2023: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #41 of 332: John Coate (tex) Wed 4 Jan 23 09:53
    
One tech that was only mildly splashy but succeeded big has been
"collaborative filtering" which is what they called it at the MIT
Media Lab, where it was invented. "If you like this, and others who
like it also like these other things, then odds are that you too
will like them."  I was there when it was demonstrated to Jeff Bezos
who saw right away its potential.  It's been bedrock to how Amazon
functions for decades now.  It will likely never go away.
  
inkwell.vue.522 : State of the World 2023: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #42 of 332: Paul Belserene (paulbel) Wed 4 Jan 23 10:02
    
"People who bought these zip-ties also bought..."
  
inkwell.vue.522 : State of the World 2023: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #43 of 332: Brian Slesinsky (bslesins) Wed 4 Jan 23 11:35
    
While driverless cars have been a very tough slog and many companies
have given up, I'm not quite ready to write off Waymo since they're
(very slowly) expanding coverage. It seems they managed to connect
the Phoenix airport with downtown in 2022. It's like watching a
tortoise race, but maybe they'll outlast their competitors? (Or
maybe they'll finally get shut down like Loon.)

Certainly there's a lot of overreach in Musk's various companies;
that's pretty much what he does. I wonder about SpaceX's Starship.
If they do manage to get it to orbit, are they going to be able to
sell that much launch capacity? Maybe it will end up like the
Antonov AN-225, where having one is (was) plenty.

Meanwhile, Starlink has made itself useful in Ukraine and that seems
like enough of a demonstration that the US Military will spend the
money to keep it operational regardless of how eccentric Musk gets.
A similar thing happened when Iridium went bankrupt.

Although remote work is definitely work, there's still a lot of
empty office space, and some people are committed to it since
they've moved away. Video calls have been used badly but they're not
going away.
  
inkwell.vue.522 : State of the World 2023: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #44 of 332: Virtual Sea Monkey (karish) Wed 4 Jan 23 11:52
    
While crypto-"currency" isn't really a Ponzi scheme, it's been
obvious from the beginning that it's a tulip phenomenon. Without the
pretty flowers. It's a wet dream for the libertarians who complain
about the governmental power that produces "fiat money".

Before the US applied governmental power to stabilize the money
supply by creating the Federal Reserve in 1913 and by moving to fiat
money with the Gold Reserve Act in 1934 the US economy was subject
to frequent financial panics because there wasn't a way to make sure
there was enough money to keep up with volatility in investment
markets. Blockchains provide a substitute for the banks' role in
ensuring the validity of transactions, but they do nothing to
replace the central banks' role in stabilizing the value and the
supply of money. Cryptocurrency is traded as a commodity; it's
useless as an actual currency other than as a medium for money
laundering.
  
inkwell.vue.522 : State of the World 2023: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #45 of 332: Brian Slesinsky (bslesins) Wed 4 Jan 23 12:15
    
Here's a part of the "Internet of things" that I think will survive:
Internet-connected cameras. Too many people have remote valuables
that they want to look at for reassurance: landlords, parents (baby
monitors), pet owners. Having actually-secure security cameras would
be nice.

Over the holidays my wife and I stayed at what we thought would be a
"boutique" hotel in Philadelphia and never saw any staff. The
reservation process was a bit weird; they have you take a photo of
your ID and yourself. They send you codes to get into the lobby,
access the stairs and elevator, and get into your room. (Also, they
had a mobile app that didn't work, se we had to punch in the codes
each time.) I didn't think to look for cameras in the common areas,
but I assume they're there.

So maybe Airbnb will turn out to be a fad, but it seems to be having
some effect on actual hotels? As did the pandemic; daily room
cleaning turned out to be something we can skip.
  
inkwell.vue.522 : State of the World 2023: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #46 of 332: Brian Slesinsky (bslesins) Wed 4 Jan 23 12:24
    
re: <44> I expect more stablecoin crashes, but perhaps one will
survive?

"Pump and dump" seems like a distributed Ponzi scheme that can be
done with any security with a floating, market-set price, as we saw
with the meme stock fad. Often the participants are very aware of
which gambling game they're playing, but hope to get out first.
  
inkwell.vue.522 : State of the World 2023: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #47 of 332: The Year of the Rabid (jonl) Wed 4 Jan 23 19:01
    
Cryptocurrency had a weird trajectory. Quickly enough it ceased
being used much as currency, and became a speculative investment.
And in some ways it was like investing in nothing - a delusion of
value.
  
inkwell.vue.522 : State of the World 2023: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #48 of 332: John Coate (tex) Wed 4 Jan 23 19:49
    
Anything that eats that much electricity in this day and age is just
not going to be viable.
  
inkwell.vue.522 : State of the World 2023: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #49 of 332: Patrick Lichty (plichty) Wed 4 Jan 23 19:50
    
Hi everyone/Salam/Gunaydin/Kheyf Falik, etc.

I'm about to fire an existential/experiential shotgun in the room. 
It's going to be messy and possibly confusing.  I mean it to be.
It's the times.

Two years ago, I was corresponding from Dubai, and I'm still waiting
for my wife to get to Minnesota from Tehran, and that's all I'll say
about that.

These are the operative words - two years ago, Dubai. Was offered a
Tenure track academic gig back home, the Muslim Ban was lifted; I
thought it was all home free.  I landed on January 14, 2020, and the
supply chain crashed (6 weeks for much furniture, apartment gear got
caught in the Suez for a couple of weeks, got in sometime in May);
these GenZ students of mine were all in lockdown, and looked a
little feral.

Extrapolate two years.

This isn't self-pity; it's an existential tale of how fast things
went lateral in the 21st Century.  The person in the story is just
me, but I was one of billions running their scenarios, be it in the
USA, Asia, Africa; I wonder how the Sentinelese are faring these
days.

Who in the hell would have known.

By the way, the gang in the UAE have had to tighten their belts "a
little", but the Emiratis are still rolling off the momentum of the
Expo, and the Saudis are planning to invest their future in the
nation of ZeroOne, I mean the City of Neom, which I get samizdats
from.  And their part of the City, "The Line", 150 KM long but 100m
wide by 500m tall (or thereabouts. 

They're living the life, but they see the writing on the wall. 
1: The Anthropocene is here.
2: Oil is becoming obsolete.
3: The middle East might have 50-200 years in it.

Who in the hell would have known. (except Rachel Carson, Paul
Ehrlich and the petrol companies, but I digress.)

Who the Hell.


OK.

It's easy to fall down the rabbit hole of despair. it's easy.  But
Greta Thunberg is still out there, and you still hear from my old
comrades, The Yes Men, here and there - All is not lost, but Eris is
certainly paying a visit. Reality now looks like a mix between a
Rubik's Cube and an Anyklythera Device, and there's no instruction
manual.

As Adam Curtis said (and others like Critical Art Ensemkble) said,
we live in an age where shit's so complex, it's indeteminate - too
complex for us to understand (book mark AI here)

And it's maybe fitting that Musk is getting hit by his own hubris in
buying Twitter and hemorrhaging billions - it might not destroy him,
but he might have a Kanye-esque drop in net worth after all is said
and done.

The Trumpettes didn't totally take over, but they sure are trying to
take the House with the Speaker elections.

FDX crashed - 2008 redux with a different flavor.

And David Cronenberg has a role on Star Trek.

I was talking to a guy who was working on developing a Web3 app for
the upcoming Apple AR glasses, and I asked him who it was for. 
He said, "Everybody."
I told him that I know a guy about 40 km south of Dhaka (Bangladesh)
with a fish farm, Can her get on board? And I kmet this person at a
Brides' Market in Kyrgyzstan. How about them?

Silence.

Things have gotten really damned weird. The point here is that Bruce
is right - the technolgically-enabled Modern Era is at least
suffering under its own weight, if not collapsing. I think
Cronenberg on Star Trek is a great metaphor - the Pandemic triggered
the next era.  Bruce is also right that there ain't a normal anymore
(and what if we thought there was one, ok.)


This may seem like a scattershot of chaotic factoids that create a
gestalt, and I hope you get that.  It's a metaphor of the times.



Oh, by the way, I guess I'm an artist. In the tech area, New Media.
If that ain't a can of worms right now...
At Art Basel Miami, there were the NFT galas, the glittery screens
for the PFPs (ProFile Pictures, or Today's Flavor of Pixelated
Monkey in NFT-speek), and a pal of mine who was in the Christie's
NFT auctions just told me that the NFT market is anything but good,
and they're just trying to make bank on the momentum before the NFT
market collapses.

And if you didn't get what NFTs were,  it was a way for the
CryptoWhales to liquidate some of their billions without tanking the
market too early or get the traditional rich to give them their
money by playing on their greed so they could cash out.  

Cue: Ray of Hope Dept (after Mort Zucker, Mad Magazine)
I think we're getting that tech isn't going to get us out of this,
and there are a lot of people who still believe and I hope that
things like the 30x30 accord (30% wild guaranteed by 2030) kick in.

Again; Zuck and Musk seem to have limits. Hopeful.

Legalization of Psylocybin? I'm on that like a junebug. All for it. 
Just don't drive when your field of sight looks like a fractal.

I'm throwing darts; lobbing mind grenades in a state of chaos,
because I'm simultaneously in touch with Tblisi, Baku, Berlin,
Tehran, Dubai, Lagos, Johannesburg, Saigon and more on a weekly
basis, and what I get is that there isn't a world narrative anymore,
and this is the purpose behind this disjointed missive.

I don't think we're doomed; I think we're in for a world of pain
before it gets better, and that's where we are for this year's SotW.

Cue - missive on AI next.
Thanks for having me, and I hope this makes its fractal,
kaleidoscopic point.
  
inkwell.vue.522 : State of the World 2023: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #50 of 332: @allartburns@mastodon.social (jet) Wed 4 Jan 23 20:31
    
Welcome!

At Art Basel did you meet my pal Addie?  It would be so wonderful if
that is a plate-o-shrimp connection.
  

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