December 23rd, 2010

breaking bad

Bruce Sterling on wikileaks

Here is a good article on the wikileaks crisis by Bruce Sterling. As a good SF novelist should, he manages to integrate the implications of technology with a good understanding of character.
(Assange)’s a bright, good-looking man who — let’s face it — can’t get next to women without provoking clumsy havoc and a bitter and lasting resentment. That’s half the human race that’s beyond his comprehension there.

The fitness to survive of the new movement will depend on how quickly women and those who are not hard-core hackers can feel integrated into it. Will non-national flat networking be a phase that a few people pass through - for a few years outside society - or something that you can live within permanently? I mean you personally, because if you can't live within the non-hierarchical movement, then not many people can. And if push comes to shove, your loyalty will probably be with the system you can live inside.

My feeling - my guess - is that it will mature, might mature eventually, into a system which does work, which can sustain itself, that you can if you like 'live inside'.

Sterling:
I don’t even think Assange is all that big on ego... He’s just what he is; he’s something we don't yet have words for.

Something we don't have words for yet. Agreed. This is what SF and poetry are for, to make words for concepts. The invention of printing led to things happening that were not predictable. And now this.
The US State Department ... clearly shouldn’t have been messing with computers. In setting up their SIPRnet, they were trying to grab the advantages of rapid, silo-free, networked communication while preserving the hierarchical proprieties of official confidentiality.

Yes, you can't have the advantages of the new technology, and keep everything else still. I think 90% of my old job was trying to manage (one tiny aspect of) that crack, and if you stop managing it, it's going to yawn into a chasm. People think they are in charge, or sidekicks of the people who are in charge, but really we are riding history not directing it.
breaking bad

Ye are many, they are few

And I suppose what I feel is that in a more practical immediate sense, things like the NHS and functioning schools are not a benevolence which those more powerful than us graciously bestow. They aren't a luxury that 'they' can't afford to pay for any more. In fact the people are powerful, and we consent to this system because it is better than the alternatives. And that's something they have to work to sustain, or bear the consequences. That's the job of leaders. You can't take the goodies and not do the hard work.

And if the rich have a foolish model which tells them that they need to shake us up with a bit of 'chaos' to make us take responsibility then I think they will be in for a shock. Because if you lay down the reins you use to steer a process, if managing it is too expensive or tiresome for you, then you no longer have any direction over where it goes.

I was thinking about the Maya cities in Yucatan. When the Spanish arrived there were maybe a million Maya living in the jungle, but none in the cities, which had fallen into disrepair. For some reason a couple of hundred years earlier they had just decided to stop working there, and all moved out to live a different way.