Bruce Sterling on Web 2.0, and more

From his recent speech in New Zealand, he’s a futurist as well as sf author, and can synthesize seemingly disparate trends and ideas, looking at them from unusual vantage points. Plus, he’s witty, funny, and makes considerable sense. Read the whole thing.

This particular speech honked off some geeks because they thought he was bashing Web 2.0, but he’s not. Well, maybe tweaking its nose a bit.

I just wonder what kind of rattletrap duct-taped mayhem is disguised under a smooth oxymoron like “collective intelligence.”

This stuff we call “collective intelligence” has tremendous potential, but it’s not our friend — any more than the invisible hand of the narcotics market is our friend.

Markets look like your friend when they’re spreading prosperity your way. If they get some bug in their ear from their innate Black Swan instability, man, markets will starve you! The Invisible Hand of the market will jerk you around like a cat of nine tails.

We’ve got a web built on top of a collapsed economy. THAT’s the black hole at the center of the solar system now. There’s gonna be a Transition Web. Your economic system collapses: Eastern Europe, Russia, the Transition Economy, that bracing experience is for everybody now. Except it’s not Communism transitioning toward capitalism. It’s the whole world into transition toward something we don’t even have proper words for.

I’ve never seen so much panic around me, but panic is the last thing on my mind. My mood is eager impatience. I want to see our best, most creative, best-intentioned people in world society directly attacking our worst problems. I’m bored with the deceit. I’m tired of obscurantism and cover-ups. I’m disgusted with cynical spin and the culture war for profit. I’m up to here with phony baloney market fundamentalism. I despise a prostituted society where we put a dollar sign in front of our eyes so we could run straight into the ditch.

The cure for panic is action. Coherent action is great; for a scatterbrained web society, that may be a bit much to ask. Well, any action is better than whining. We can do better.

You bet. we can. Let’s start.


  • UJ

    OK so I withdraw my original criticisms calling him out of touch and so forth, but I still maintain that folks like Pulver and Brogan have been saying the same things for years. And not in front of an audience of college kids, but rather broadcast from their cellphones in a moving vehicle.

    I’m glad that Sterling likes Flickr and all but…yawn.

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