Bruce Sterling: "Make No Decision Out of Fear!"

WC Ally#1, Bruce Sterling, just gave two major talks back to back and both should be of immediate interest to worldchangers.

The first, delivered at the O'Reilly Emerging Technologies conference, is all about spimes. the emerging Internet of Things and why people keep making up terms like "spime" and phrases like "the Internet of Things"

"A neologism, a completely made-up word like 'spime,' is a verbal framing device. It's an attention pointer. I call them "spimes," not because I necessarily expect that coinage to stick, but because I need a single-syllable noun to call attention to the shocking prospect of things that are plannable, trackable, findable, recyclable, uniquely identified and that generate histories.

I also wanted the word to be Google-able. If you Google the word 'spime,' you find a small company called Spime, and a song by a rock star, but most of the online commentary about spimes necessarily centers around this new idea, because it's a new word and also a new tag. It's turning into what Julian Bleecker calls a 'Theory Object,' which is an idea which is not just a mental idea or a word, but a cloud of associated commentary and data, that can be passed around from mouse to mouse, and linked-to. Every time I go to an event like this, the word "spime" grows as a Theory Object. A Theory Object is a concept that's accreting attention, and generating visible, searchable, rankable, trackable trails of attention."

The second, his keynote speech at South by Southwest, which you can listen to here, is an entirely different beast altogether. While Bruce throws the crowd some juicy technical tidbits here as well, primarily the SxSW speech is about the future we're building, and what we ought to do about it:

"When you actually ignore reality for years on end, the payback is a bitch brother! ... We're seeing just frantic collisions of fundamentalist delusion with objective reality... We're on a kind of slider bar between the unthinkable and the unimaginable now, bteween the grim meathook future and the bright green future. There are ways out of this situation; there are actual ways to move the slider bar from one side to the other, except that we haven't invented the words for them yet."

The challenge, Bruce says, is that the worst people in the world -- genocidal ethnic mafiosos, fundamentalist fanatics, Washington lobbyists -- are running the show, American government has become the new Soviet Union (ossified, corrupt and widely perceived as illigitimate by the rest of the planet) and things are not good in much of the world. That said, if you look honestly at the world, you see a new story emerging, with millions of smart, dedicated people locked in a struggle to steer us towards a better future using every tool in their power, and that "that's a big story!" Finally, he reminds those of us who are part of that story of the motto of the old Soviet-era Eastern European dissidents: "Make no decision out of fear."

That's damn good advice. These are damn fine speeches. Bruce, well done.

PS: the photo is one someone sent me after last year's SxSW. I don't remember who, I'm afraid -- if it's you, ping me and I'll give you due credit. Better yet, if anyone has a digital shot from the actual speech, send it along.

(Posted by Alex Steffen in The Means of Expression - Media, Creativity and Experience at 04:15 AM)