Bruce Sterling’s State of the World

Old school internet gathering place The Well has posted the ongoing discussion (email questions to inkwell [at] well.com) with Bruce Sterling on the “state of the world” 2009. The author and design critic covers a vast range of topics from economics, climate change, design, politics and networked culture. As can be expected from such an […]

Old school internet gathering place The Well has posted the ongoing discussion (email questions to inkwell [at] well.com) with Bruce Sterling on the “state of the world” 2009. The author and design critic covers a vast range of topics from economics, climate change, design, politics and networked culture. As can be expected from such an all-encompassing debate, no singular, definitive prediction or direction for the world comes about, but Sterling does see hope for the future amidst all the current challenges we face. One notable observation he has, is the way that internet natives take to the (seemingly new) notion of collective working:

I find myself impressed that young people, my students, the Internet natives, they don’t seem aware how different the digital commons is from previous ways of organization.  Google, Wikipedia, Craigslist, Facebook even, they simply think that’s how the real world works.  It’s like a HERE COMES EVERYBODY where they’re already here.

The commons offers ways out of the glum solipsist autarchy of hippie homesteads and survivalist city-states.  If you’re gonna “do it yourself” with a wireless Linux netbook, you’re not doing it Robinson Crusoe style.  You’ve got the collective labor of a couple million guys there under your arm.  This is not a “virtual community” WELL-style. It’s more like a huge, anonymous public infrastructure of aqueducts. But if you’re getting clean free water, why buy that bottled stuff they marketeers flew in Fiji?

This peer-production stuff used to look very hobbyist and geekish and rickety.  It was hotglue and strapping-tape.  It’s still not “mainstreaming,” it will likely never have commercial gloss.  Still, it’s acquiring some kind of commons-gloss.  It looks better, it works better, it performs with more functionality in wider areas of life. It has escaped its geek ghetto.  Normal people no longer apologize to their bosses for using open-source components, or for finding things out on the “unreliable” Internet.

The Well: Bruce Sterling: State of the World, 2009

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