Shapeways interviews Bruce Sterling  

Posted by Big Gav in

Shapeways has an chat with Bruce Sterling, talking about all sorts of random topics - Shapeways interviews Bruce Sterling.

Bruce Sterling is a noted sci fi author, futurologist & speaker. As well as being an award winning author and one of the founders of the cyberpunk movement he is an early and constant booster of Augmented Reality technology and coined the word Spime. Spimes are pieces of technology that know where they are and can reveal their entire history to you. He is also behind a project that hopes to document dead media, founded a green design movement, loves Bollywood movies, is a hacker in the original sense and you really should read his Wired blog Beyond the Beyond.

Joris Peels: I was wondering if at one point you would be interested in doing an interview about 3D printing/the future?

Bruce Sterling: Well, man, all I can tell you is that I'm hanging out at a monster science event with labs-on-a-chip and 3d biofactories. ...

I should have pointed to Bruce's annual "state of the world" fest on the Well at the start of the year, but it kind of got lost in the link bucket - Bruce Sterling: State of the World 2010. He seems to have a bit of a bee in his bonnet about global warming inspired genocide, going all Herman Kahn on the subject.
On the subject of geo-engineering, I think it's a crock. We'll never
get there. They're all techie fantasies, far-out sci-fi notions, Star
Wars physics-style. The cheapest and most effective method of
geo-engineering is to cut the world's population in half.

Just a tremendous massacre. That's the genuinely effective
geo-engineering: it's fast, it commonly works, it's been proven
effective for centuries by lebensraum exponents everywhere, and if you
chose the right tactics and weaponry it might even look like a big

You don't have to put on a fascist armband and start ranting for the
public's blood; an effort like that could be quite subtle and covert,
the very opposite of showboat geo-engineering. "Mysterious deadly flu
in the Congo? We'd better keep all our health workers right here,
they're badly needed in New York!"

Nobody's gonna sit around watching Copenhagen delegates debating giant
phony orbital solar mirrors if the windmills in Copenhagen harbor are
blowing over When and if it becomes obvious that we truly need
massive, ultra-costly geo-engineering interventions, that we have no
other choice, then somebody -- likely some traumatized veterans of
weather havoc who are full of Al Qaeda self-righteousness -- they're
gonna cut emissions in half by cutting people in half. Mankind
wouldn't lack for means, motive, opportunity and eager volunteers.

Genocide has much more proven shelf-appeal than any of these hokum
Rube Goldberg geo-schemes. It's by no means easy to kill off half of
everybody, but we've already invented a wide variety of ingenious ways
to attempt that, and almost all of 'em are much simpler, more rugged
and more plausible than putting the North Pole under a tinfoil hat.

You don't see these Gothic issues raised in public discourse much, but
you go hang out with some Beltway thinktank asymmetric-warfare types,
and man, they talk this kinda stuff all the time. Kind of a Herman
Kahn think-the-unthinkable industry. "Should the Center for Disease
Control be scanning flu-strains for signs of designed interventions?"
"Gee uh, maybe not, could cause panic... but if we had some
off-the-books funding for that, that capacity could be pretty handy."

*Today, people look at our crazy, broken, self-absorbed finance
system, which we used to frankly worship like a pagan god, and they're
so full of bitterness and skepticism... "How could they ever let
things get into such a parlous state! What benefit did they ever bring
us? They're all crooks and charlatans!"

I don't think that modern Internet zealots are crooks and charlatans,
but I see no reason why a weird system of small-pieces-loosely-joined
couldn't drift into fungal lunacy just like the financial system did.
Maybe harder, faster, and less retrievably. They're children of the
same era. They're built with the same logic.

*After all -- who's minding the store there? To what end? It's all
about whatever seemed to work -- moguls, monopolies, offshoring...
Works great technically (sometimes), might create utter social mayhem
(somebody else's problem). All the broadband you can eat and you're
left with a mouthful of ashes.

*If that happened, who would we blame for that? Wouldn't we be
staring at each other with that same shocked, shocked look that Alan
Greenspan had in Congress? "Gosh, I can't believe that they would
irrationally do such bad things to themselves." Markets are not
inherently rational, and the Internet isn't rational either. Not a bit
of it.

*Some day this too will pass. "What comes after network culture?"
We're so enmeshed in network culture that it's hard for us to envision
anything outside it now. That's dangerous. It's like believing in
contemporary finance to the point that alternatives become unthinkable.

Stewart Brand, years ago: "And the larger fear looms: we are in the
process of building one vast global computer, which could easily become
The Legacy System from Hell that holds civilization hostage -- the
system doesn’t really work; it can’t be fixed; no one understands it;
no one is in charge of it; it can’t be lived without; and it gets worse
every year." Does that sound familiar? It's sounds plenty familiar
if you're talking about the global economy now, but that's not what
Stewart was talking about.

"Today’s bleeding-edge technology is tomorrow’s broken legacy system.
Commercial software is almost always written in enormous haste, at
ever- accelerating market velocity; it can foresee an 'upgrade path' to
next year’s version, but decades are outside its scope. And societies
live by decades, civilizations by centuries..."

Speaking of genocide, Peter Costello is looking to profit from the Cambodian one by investing in still depopulated rural regions - Costello’s $600 million Cambodian crusade.
Peter Costello’s first major private sector venture is a $US600m investment fund aiming to bring agricultural technology to Cambodia, one of the world’s most corrupt countries. ...

In a video interview with the paper, Costello said he would “bringing in major multinational agro-technology firms and investors in a bid to add value to the Kingdom’s farming sector”, as well as teak and palm oil.

The massive investment will be greater than the total foreign investment Cambodia attracted in 2009, and will far exceed any previous investment in agriculture in one of the world’s poorest nations. Cambodian Government approval will be required both for the investment fund and its projects, which, according to BKK chairman Alistair Walton (who is also chair of chair of Indochina Gateway Capital) will be over 100,000 hectares in size. ...

Anderson cited record commodity prices and Cambodia’s swathes of unoccupied land wiped out by the Khmer Rouge as a major incentive behind the project.

“Commodity prices spiked in 2008 and in many developing countries there’s limited land available, limited water. In Cambodia there’s an abundance of land and water because the Khmer Rouge wiped out 40% of the people. Thailand and Vietnam are the largest agricultural hubs in South East Asia, while Cambodia exports next to nothing…,” said Anderson.


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