SXSW Dispatch: The Geek Triumphant  

Posted by Big Gav in ,

Mother Jones has a brief article on the SXSW festival and Bruce Sterling's traditional closing rant - SXSW Dispatch: The Geek Triumphant.

For the first time since it was added to the festival's line-up in 1994, SXSW Interactive has outsold Music in paid passes. It's further proof of geek ascendancy in media, as well further proof that Interactive's tagline—The Future is Now—might not be an idle boast. As Bruce Sterling ranted in his annual address at a packed Convention Center ballroom last night, the momentum of the scientific innovation has slipped into hyperdrive, for better or for worse.

In Sterling's eye, of course, it's for worse. We're making a mess of things, with all the tweet-ups and meet-ups and downloads and bootlegs and status updates and blithe disregard for the impact on the world outside our sleekly designed bubble. Our combination of self-absorption and apathy in the face of war, recession and environmental collapse is going to earn us the disgust of the next generation, and we aren't doing enough, and even if we were, there's not much we could do anyway, and it's all going to hell, chaos, technofascism and waste. He's seen the future, baby, and it is Juarez.

Brian Fitzgerald has a rough transcript of the rant - SXSW: Eclectic rough notes, Bruce Sterling closing speech..
Growing old is pleasant in many ways, and beats the alternatives.

“Kids these days” is where I jump the shark. This is probably the best behaved generation in history. Depression, two land wars, zero in the way of predictable future and they’re still confident and cheerful, and kindly. By the standards to the 20th century we shouldn’t be surprised if they were settting fire to the core of every city on the planet.

Now to the complaints. Two big problems. A Finance crisis, and this long lasting greenhouse effect. We are networking while Rome Burns. ...

I was pleased and touched by the reception that the internet critics got. But they do a disservice to Kevin Kelley, to Tim O’Reilley when they calls them internet-promoting idealogues. They’re not. They’re deep thinkers and much more comples.

Your fate will be to be attacked by the digital natives who never knew the pre-digital times but become pre-digital nostalgists. The buzz words of today will be used as the whips and scorpions of their critique. Why did your “social media” rob us of the right to watch Gunsmoke?

Take Juarez. People talk about the extinction of the press, the demonetizing of reportage. In Juarez people are being shot. Twice the people we lost in 9/11. Why? Because the anti-terrorist anti-insurgency troops switched sides and decided to become a narco-terroritst regime. And something they were told was to ice the media. What conceivable moral leap is there between spectacular beheadings in Mexico and you guys? Because they are in the business of keeping Austin stoned. And this is because of American policy to criminalize drug use with a malfunctioning drug enforcement policy that has festered for a generation and become really severe. And that’s the situation that the internet will be in a couple generations down the pike. The problems that we see today, that we have not dealt with, are going to fester and we’re going to get excoriated for them.

You are going to have to find it in your heart to help these people. It will be your greatest moral test. Things that you didn’t plan, that you meant to plan, the tendency to treat everything as censorship and route around it, the rubber band and scotch tape mashup kluge of putting it together is going to come back to haunt you. But you have to put aside the inate conservativism about the things you did to overturn the existing order. You will say you didn’t intend it. You will say it wasn’t forseen. And that will be true. And it won’t matter. You have to be kind to your critics, and you have to help them. ...

If we had it to do over the first thing we would have demonitized food and shelter. Imagine if the world had open source food, and shelter. check it out. It’s Socialist media. Why is there not a single startup whose business model is communist? From each according to their ability to each according to their need, Vanguard of the revolution… how much could it hurt?

It’s obvious what happens in a depression. Poverty! But still I hear pundits ask ”Gee what would an extended depression where the means of production collapsed look like?” Well it looks like Detroit.

Or “What would an envrionmental crisis in which extreme weather events were ravishing our cities due to global warming?” It looks like New Orleans!

Why is there so much febrile resignation about giving up? It’s arrogant to despair. We’ve multiplied so many options we can’t even name them. Anything is possible, and that’s what gets me out of bed. Telling the truth about the future is not hard. But why would people listen, and how would they respond?


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