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Shadowrunning In The Corporate Republic 303

Posted by JonKatz
from the games-and-prophesies dept.
A few years ago, the pen-and-pencil game "Shadowrun" would have seemed an especially geeky fantasy. In the Corporate Republic, it looms much larger, both a warning and a prophesy. Many of us are Shadowrunners now, many more are going to be in the 21st century. Fifth in a series. (Read More).
"It's been forty-nine years since our world changed almost beyond recognition...As a people, we innovate and create for money rather than the pure pleasure of bringing something new into the world. Rather than using technology to improve the lot of mankind, we've allowed it to separate us even further from each other." --- Shadowrun, Third Edition.

It's the dystopian future of 2026. Criminal subcultures flourish. Megacorporations have become the new world superpowers. Executives and wage slaves hole up in heavily-fortified enclaves, while beyond the gated walls, enormous throngs of outsiders fend for themselves. No longer mere flesh and bone, many people have turned to the artificial enchancments of "cyberware" to make themselves something more than human, something other than a machine.

Shadowrunners are the individualists who live on the margins, able to "slide like a whisper" through the databases of giant corporations, spiriting away the only thing of real value -- information.

No wonder so many e-mailers, in response to my series "The Corporate Republic," urged me to get the "Shadowrun" handbooks. It's jarring to come across this increasingly plausible vision of the future. In this pen-and-pencil role-playing game -- part improvisional theater, part storytelling -- science fiction once more mirrors the contemporary imagination and foreshadows what lies ahead.

Intentionally or not, Shadowrun is much more than a game. It reflects the attitudes and values of younger, technologically-centered Americans. It may also project their futures, at least of the ones who are individualistic, creative and discontented. How ironic that young gamers have sensed for years (the original Shadowrunner rules were published in l989) what journalists and politicians still keep missing -- that life for individuals gets rougher by the year here in the Corporate Republic. That a handful of megacorporations are becoming powerful beyond anyone's control. That individualism is not only growing more difficult, but one day soon may actually be dangerous. That this creeping reality has been a role-playing exercise for brainy kids for more than a decade is an amazing thing.

"Shadowrun" is as much a political manifesto as entertainment, a social and political fantasy that feels increasingly prescient. Shadowrun's creators saw the growing power of corporatism ( the forces of evil are dubbed "megacorps.") They grasped its inherently amoral nature, its wanton invasions of privacy, its embrace of technology and co-option of politics and culture; they anticipated the marginalization and isolation of individuals who don't want to go or get along.

A lot of the people reading this are already Shadowrunners, or are about to be. For Corporate Republic renegades, life is increasingly an adventure. Like the Shadowrunners, our lives are inextricably entwined with the megacorps, our personal histories a string of confrontations and close encounters with the powerful entities that dominate the world. Like the Shadowrunners, we face a lot of personal and moral decisions about how we live. We might want to make money or challenge corrupt authority. Or, once we get a few "runs" under our belts, we may wish, like the original Shadowrunners, "to find a lost love," or avenge [ourselves] upon a corporation" that did us dirty. Perhaps taking direction from wise and experienced gamemasters, our goals and expertise will become more focused and coherent over time.

The connection between individualism and Shadowrunning is irresistible, if you let your imagination sprint for a bit. Individuals already shadowrun all the time in the current Corporate Republic. They grow up, using technology few of their peers or authority-figures understand or approve of. Routinely hunted down, at least in the cultural sense, they get accused of obsession, addiction, lack of social grace, even, increasingly, of murderous tendencies.

Everywhere they go, from their first arrival in most schools to their struggles in the workplace, they are confronted with inverted values, with the corporatization of culture, the pressure to conform, to shut up.

The turning point, recounts the Shadowrun history, came during the "Apocalypse" (l999-2010) when two Supreme Court rulings "set the stage for a world in which megacorporate octopi call the shots and use shadowrunners like so many pawns in their games."

Here, too, fantasy and fact converge. The turning point for the modern real-world corporatism came in the l980s, when government decided to de-regulate many industries at almost precisely the same time as new marketing strategies and technologies were exploding, arming business with the ability to mass-market, monopolize and globalize.

With government more or less out of the picture, and technology advancing rapidly beyond the consciousness of politicians or journalists, it was open season for corporatists, many of whose companies have grown wildly beyond anyone's expectations.

What's really remarkable thing is that Shadowrun was written before Microsoft sotware was in more than 90 percent of the world's personal computers, before five companies owned virtually all the radio stations in America, before AOL/Time-Warner became the largest information entity in history, and before the Justice Department blithely approved AT&T's acquisition of the MediaOne Group, giving AT&T control of more than a third of the nation's cable networks for television, high-speed Net access and online telephone service. Those mergers, acquisitions and consolidations would fit easily within the Shadowrun narrative.

By the middle of the 21st Century, explains Shadowrun's latest edition, "multinational megacorps pull the world's puppet-strings to benefit their bottom lines ... The technology we depend on doesn't bring us together. Worldwide communications net? Great idea, but not much use when half the population is zoned out on simsense chips and the rest can't access a working data terminal in the slums where they're forced to live. The rich have gotten richer and the poor more plentiful, so the wealthy barricade themselves in armed enclaves and leave the rest of us to squat and rot."

The idea of the Shadowrunner in such a universe almost perfectly captures the worsening plight of the individual in our own era, when family farmers, small businesspeople, software designers, individuals of all sorts are losing opportunity to tell their own stories, shape their own lives and economic futures. In fact, "Shadowrunner" is a perfect term for individualistic refugees in the Corporate Realm.

Today's Shadowrunners are mobile, as individualists of the future will have to be. They can count on having more than one job, since they can never go along enough to satisfy corporate administrators. They will probably also live in more than once place. They're likely to be discarded, downsized or re-engineered as a result of "flexible" management philosophies and ever-shifting marketing goals. But even if they are allowed to remain, they are likely to grow bored and frustrated, and passed over for promotion. As for the idea of living outside guarded, walled enclaves, that's already more than a fantasy: Just visit Redmond (a name frequently invoked in "Shadowrun") for a couple of days, or Silicon Valley (the epitome of the megacorp enclave from which average folks get driven out) and the idea takes on real meaning.

The cyberware in "Shadowrun" even parallels recent advances in genetics -- advances which have drawn the impassioned interest of biotech corporations moving to track genes in the name of improving humanity even as they anticipate landmark profits. Cyberware consists of various technological implants, organ modifications, and structural enhancements to the "metahuman" body that can improve a character's attributes and abilities.

There are other eerie parallels in "Shadowrun." Take the way lifestyle becomes a pressing economic issue. Game players must purchase a character's opening lifestyle, which determines how comfortably the character lives. To maintain that lifestyle once the play begins, characters make monthly payments. When a character can't pay, he finds himself living a lower lifestyle. Sound familiar?

In other ways, however, Shadowrun doesn't bear much resemblance to our world. During the "Great Awakening," a turbulent period follows the corps' takeover of the world. The handbook describes it: "A long lull in the mystical energies of the universe has subsided and magic has returned to the world. Elves, dwarfs, orks and trolls have assumed their true forms, throwing off their human guises ... The many traditions of magic have come back to life ..."

But magic has become a casualty in the Corporate Republic. We already live in a world where culture itself is mass-marketed by the corps, where opinion and social agendas are set by companies like Microsoft, AOL/Time-Warner and the Walt Disney Corporation. None have a particular political agenda beyond the subjugation of competitors, and the homogenized spread of information and entertainment to the greatest possible numbers of consumers. That means safe, bland, palatable. It also means individuals either get co-opted or pushed out of the creative process, since they tend to be unsafe, colorful, offensive. Magic doesn't work in focus groups or corporate boardrooms any more than unconventional thinking. So work becomes routinized, creativity repressed and stifled.

All corporatists have a shared goal: to give stockholders maximum rewards. That outweighs any other consideration. Magic, the recourse of the idiosyncratic individual, is anathema to corporatism -- inherently illogical, unpredictable, thus unprofitable.

Unlike the planet dwellers in Shadowrun, most of this country hasn't yet awakened to the fact that it's being corporatized. We live in a distinctly unconscious civilization, where our own megacorps hae been allowed to grow so quickly, and with so little thought or restraint, that they're already almost too powerful too curb or regulate. But even some of our smartest citizens are in denial about this increasingly undeniable reality. After all, isn't unemployment still fairly low and the Nasdaq once more on the rise? Politicians and cititizens appear to have dozed right through the fact that small businesses are vanishing, that free speech is withering, that the political system is being bought, that a once-free press is nearly completely in corporate hands. Even the country's most prestigious colleges and research institutions are now dependent on corporate fund-raising.

Increasingly, technology is at the center of this conflict, as the Shadowrunners make clear. It's both the instrument by which the megacorps dominate segments of society and the primary means allowing individualism to survive, especially online.

The truth is, it's been decades since our world began changing beyond recognition. As a people, we are innovating almost beyond imagination, spawning the Net, the Human Genome Project, quantum leaps in supercomputing. But increasingly, we create for money rather than for the pure pleasure of bringing something new into the world. Our best scientific minds are developing and marketing hand-held appliances that give humanity instant access to sports scores and stock quotes. Rather than using technology to improve the lot of mankind, we are allowing it to separate us even further from each other.

This, perhaps is the real challenge and the work of the Shadowrunner, to weave in and out of our increasingly Corporate Republic, weaving through its databases, sharing technological discoveries and secrets, perhaps even waging creative guerrilla war on behalf of the individual.

The Shadowrunners, in the game and in the world, are realists. They understand the nature of the world they live in. They are what is perhaps the rarest of figures in contemporary American public life -- heretics.

Throughout history, the heretic was someone who demonstrated unforgivable intellectual arrogance by preferring his or her own faiths, values and beliefs to those -- priests and monarchs, mostly -- who were "qualified" to make pronouncements and declarations about matters of faith, morality and human values. Heresy was high treason, committed against God or King, and almost always was punishable by death or torture.

But in The Corporate Republic, high treason is an anachronism almost never invoked, mostly because it's no longer necessary. We don't need to pull people's fingernails out any more, or burn them at the stake. The heretic today is marginalized without any bloodshed. He doesn't even take the risks the Shadowrunner takes. His teacher and peers make him a joke in the classroom, and ignore or isolate him. His career is either destroyed outright, as it being fired or demoted.

A generation ago, "Shadowrun" would have seemed a particularly geeky game, the obsessive fantasy of brainy oddballs holed up in their bedrooms and basements. At the dawn of the 21st century, in the Corporate Republic, it looms much larger, both a warning and a prophesy.

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Shadowrunning In The Corporate Republic

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  • by Signal 11 (7608)
    Hey, Jon.. not to be rude or anything, but, umm, have you ever played the game?
  • Intentionally or not, Shadowrun is much more than a game. It reflects the attitudes and values of younger, technologically-centered Americans. It may also project their futures, at least of the ones who are individualistic, creative and discontented.

    And there was silly old me thinking the rest of the world had corporations and computers too. Thankyou for pointing out that it is, of course, only americans that this applies too.

  • get policenauts over to the U.S. http://www.konami.com/forums /read.php?f=12&i=348&t=348"> [konami.com]

  • more like, from the i-am-bored-so-i-am-gonna-sprout-crap-for-a-story dept.
  • by Defiler (1693)
    That's what I was wondering. :)
    EarthDawn is better anyway.
  • by carlhirsch (87880) on Thursday June 08, 2000 @04:49AM (#1016114) Homepage
    We're not living in a dystopian future - our social order is essentially the same as it has been since the 1880's.

    Multinational corporations essentially control governments - Once we had Standard Oil and United Fruit (United Fruit liked to send marines to Latin American republics when they got uppity), now we have Monsanto (destroying the agricultural viability of small farms in africa by trying to westernize their methods and force genetically engineered crops on people) or Shell (who don't flinch when governments exterminate indigenous peoples like the Ogoni of Nigeria to make room for their pipelines).

    There have always been people on the fringes of society outside of easy control, be they the Hobo radicals of the IWW back in the day speading sarcastic activism or haX0rs today making things tough for AT&T or Earth First!ers utterly humiliating the IMF and World Bank when they assume they have everyone's tacit approval in industrialized nations because they're "creating markets".

    Again, things have changed precious little in the past one hundred years - the technology has just changed. Instead of a dull, meanial job in front of a factory machine, we're given a dull, meanial job in a cubicle in a call center.

    Just because the foot at your neck is clad in a penny loafer instead of a boot doesn't mean that it's not holding you down.

    -carl
  • How ironic that young gamers have sensed for years (the original Shadowrunner rules were published in l989) what journalists and politicians still keep missing -- that life for individuals gets rougher by the year here in the Corporate Republic. That a handful of megacorporations are becoming powerful beyond anyone's control. That individualism is not only growing more difficult, but one day soon may actually be dangerous. That this creeping reality has been a role-playing exercise for brainy kids for more than a decade is an amazing thing.

    ...but it's not exactly a radical idea, is it? The notion that the future will be dominated by monolithic corporations? I mean, those William Gibson books predate Shadowrun, don't they? And heck, you could devote a whole website to the great evil companies of science fiction's past. Weyland-Yutani, Tyrell, Soylent...

  • by sawb (187496)
    The link below is not valid: urged me to get the "Shadowrun" handbooks.
    • Try here:
    • www.FASA.com [fasa.com]
      (Hopefully the HTML worked .... :-))
  • was the little map you got included in the game that showed the developement of the countries of Quebec and Texas. That always gave me a chuckle.
  • (stupid return button) One thing that should be noticed is that while corporations are largely amoral entities whose only goal is their profitability, people make up those corporations. and while most of those people will be unwilling to bite the hand that feeds them, there will be those that will. and these people will be the ones who will hopefully keep society from devolving into some dystopian nightmare.
  • by Alarmist (180744) on Thursday June 08, 2000 @04:53AM (#1016120) Homepage
    Katz is partially correct. After all, the growth of corporate power means that a company beholden to no one but its stockholders can dictate policy to a government. It used to be that governments were stronger entities than any other in the land; after all, the purpose of a good government is to maintain order and protect its citizens.

    That time has passed. Governments everywhere are rapidly becoming parasitic monsters, good only for fleecing the populace while allowing them to be further robbed by other interests. Money talks, but money isn't the only currency in high places. Beyond a certain point, money is not what is important--power is what matters.

    That is what many corporations are after: power. After all, when your closest five competitors all make billions per year in revenues, you can all agree that money isn't the only indicator of success (it's practically a necessity for competition); mindshare is.

    Mindshare is a slightly disturbing idea: train the consumers so that whenever they think of a particular product, they think of your company. In the U.S. southern states, for instance, the word "Coke" is practically a synonym for "carbonated beverage." That's the power of mindshare.

    So what happens when someone says (for instance) "Microsoft" and you think "George W. Bush"?

    Katz is right in that corporations have slowly grown to be major influences in our lives. Where he falls short is realizing that there are other influences at work, that the government is not a monolithic entity that dances to the tune of the corporations with the most money. What he misses is that there are always other organizations, some working behind the scenes and some not, and that those organizations are just as powerful and influential in your lives.

    Keep your eyes open. Think for yourself.

  • I played a decker for a while in my (albeit somewhat short-lived) Shadowrun career. It was pretty cool to realize that the possibility of having a data port (I hope it's not 10/100!) built into your skull was getting closer to life.

    Shadowrun would be the ideal starting point for a MMRP. If people could get behind the Worldforge project [worldforge.org], and use the Shadowrun series of books for the code base (being careful to not make the universes too close together, for obvious copyright reasons), it just might be the sort of project that would snowball into something wicked.

    The real question is, will the Open Source model work for a large gaming project? Or is the budget constraint just too huge in comparison to the $oftware companie$?

    Anyway, I'd love to see the Shadowrun universe online, in an immersive RPG.

    Stupid article though.

  • All the principles explained in the above article are equally present (or perhaps more so) in Cyberpunk 2020. When I first played Shadowrun, I couldn't help thinking how it was just Cyberpunk with added magic. Of course, I don't know which came first, and I've enjoyed playing both, but for me, Cyberpunk gives a stronger impression of the all powerful global corporation opressing the individual. Sadly, they're both right. The future is going to look far more like a Philip K. Dick novel than an Isaac Asimov one. In many ways, I'm glad I'm not younger than I am. I don't want to be part of that future.
  • by Badgerman (19207) on Thursday June 08, 2000 @04:56AM (#1016125)
    To paraphrase Hagbard Celine in the "Illuminatus Trillogy," I wonder if the "Megacorps" and "Shadowrunners" need each other. After all, you can't crusade against something heroically without an opponent, and are thus stuck to needing an opponent.

    I'll take the route of The Invisibles, and use a little Open-Handed resistance. Barbelith.

  • by Necromncr (35589) on Thursday June 08, 2000 @04:57AM (#1016126) Homepage
    Jon, as someone who has played Shadowrun since about 1993, you should really know better than to start using Shadowrun as a primary source. Shadowrun is drawn from cyberpunk literature like _Neuromancer_ and movies like _Alien_ and _Blade Runner_, where this was a hallmark. I'm pretty sure RTG's Cyberpunk 2020 game was already out when Shadowrun debuted too.

    I like Shadowrun, but to be honest, most of the setting makes no sense to someone who knows politics, history, and economics. I had to rewrite most of it when I created my No Carrier setting simply because it was not believable, although admittedly most of this did not have to do with the megacorporate aspect.

    Shadowrun may have Ares and Saeder-Krupp, but before them, Gibson had Tessier-Ashpool, _Blade Runner_ had the Tyrell Corporation, and Cyberpunk 2020 had Arasaka. Please don't forget to give credit where credit is due. I am pretty sure Tom Dowd would want it that way.

    --
  • Jon,

    ShadowRun came straight from the pages of the cyberpunk wave of sf. Try reading Gibson's Neuromancer trilogy, the first of which was in paperback in '84, or Walter Jon William's Hardwired ('86).

    Yes, they're a very unpleasant world, for the majority of us...and I'd place a *lot* of the blame on the corporate-funded GOP, esp.

    However, government ain't quite out of the picture, yet (can you say, "Judge Jackson"?), and a good thing, too, since we've allowed the unions to become marginalized, leaving us with no other protection against the multinationals other than the gov't...and *lots* of antigov't propoganda by the same corps.

    And yes, I agree - 20 years of "he who dies with the most toys, wins", and "money is a way of keeping score", has left us with slackers, and a lot of younger folks who can't see *anything* worth doing.

    We can only hope for the backlash....

    mark
  • by jd (1658) <{moc.oohay} {ta} {kapimi}> on Thursday June 08, 2000 @05:02AM (#1016128) Homepage Journal
    Shadowrun was neither the first, nor the only Dark Future ever to find it's way into the real world.

    (One of HG Wells' books was thrown out, for being too unrealistic and too dark, although everything described in it has since occured.)

    However, I do agree that it is something that is very appropriate to be concerned over. Corporations, unlike countries, aren't restricted by laws or boundaries, and therefore are far more vulnerable to turning into mini-dictatorships.

    However, Jon Katz -did- miss the most fundamental point of all. Such corrupt, power-hungry evil can only exist in a world that values abuse and shame over and above co-existance. The evil is not in the companies, but in the minds. Change the minds and the evil can no longer exist.

    (For any physicists out there, this is similar to the Casmir Effect, whereby changing the environment can prohibit certain quantum states, and that a sufficient change can create an area devoid of any valid state.)

    Lastly, Quantum Leaps are the =smallest= leaps possible.

  • They grasped its inherently amoral nature, its wanton invasions of privacy, its embrace of technology and co-option of politics and culture; they anticipated the marginalization and isolation of individuals who don't want to go or get along.

    I think it's not realistic to portray the creators of the game as visionaries or social/political prophets. The whole concept the world of Shadowrun is based on doesn't have anything to do with Microsoft, Doubleclick and AOL, but more importantly: it was also no prediction.

    Actually, Shadowrun doesn't really bring anything new to the roleplaying game - worlds like these have always been very common in roleplaying and I have devised several myself in different settings (even in AD&D) Apart from that it is a very good game :)

    I think this feature is way over the top...

  • by Billings (87611) on Thursday June 08, 2000 @05:04AM (#1016131)
    Alright alright alright.

    Everybody seems to think that Dungeons and Dragons is just a game, but if you think about it for a moment, it's almost prophetic. Just forget all that "magic" jazz, but keep in the *idea* that we have magical, little understood powers as computer gurus. Then, take it that all those corporations are *dungeons*.

    Then it all pops into place. We're not people who go to work and earn money every day - we're magical computer warriors who get up every morning to go raid the corporate dungeon for money with our magical skills!

    And Bill Gates is a big dragon, and the Justice Dept. has a huge magical sword of legislation used to mightily cleave evil kingdoms in twain.

  • Yes, the move toward all-powerful megacorps is rather disturbing. Corporations are great tools for pooling resources and achieving economies of scale... up to a point. Become too large and powerful (ultimately monopolizing a market) and these advantages break down, and the public is left with the short end.

    This is why I try to always shop at small, independently owned businesses. I never eat at fast food joints. As a small business owner myself, I try to support other small businesses, and I urge everyone else to do the same. It is all about choice and about quality... motivations that should be nothing new to the open source crowd.

    Peace,

    Thad

  • Technology is dividing people in to classes, m'kay? Down with republicans and libertarians, up with liberals-- government funded cooky-cutter computers for everybody to stupify the people into being the same!
    Then we can all be stupid and happy together without any class distinction: and we'll have this nifty roll playing game to play!

    YAY!

    -AP
  • If you want a 'better' dystopian future, ie darker, bleaker, more corporate, try looking at SLA Industries by . [nightfall....tfallgames]

    But, really, I think the 'post-Gibson' era has passed. Shadowrun was a munge together of shamanistic magic, Neuromancer, and D&D creatures. Its a pretty damn shabby connection to make, and I can't help but think the only reason Mr Katz chose Shadowrun is because he really would have got laughed at if he'd used the c-word (Cyberpunk). Christ, rather than make an analogy to Shadowrun, why not the Wizard of Oz? Its such a forced comparison. The shoe dont fit.

    'Megacorps' are not making my life more difficult. They're just trying to sell me more stuff. Hassle in the workplace doesnt make me a 'rebel Shadowrunner', it just pisses me off until I get distracted elsewhere. When Katz writes In other ways, however, Shadowrun doesn't bear much resemblance to our world. in reference to the existence of magic and trolls, he kind of misses the point. It doesnt bare any resemblance. The analogy sucks.

    Uninformed. Naive. Tortured logic.

    D- must try harder.

    Pax,

    White Rabbit +++ Divide by Cucumber Error ++

  • by softsign (120322) on Thursday June 08, 2000 @05:05AM (#1016136)

    I have to admit, I would have filtered out Jon's ramblings a long time ago if I didn't get immense amusement out of them.

    But lately, I've been cultivating a theory: that JonKatz is not actually a human being, but in fact software that takes some random topic and turns it into a long, redundant, rambling essay on the dangers of globalization, media, capitalism, corporatism, ageism, intellectualism, polymorphism, foodism and the Geo Prizm.

    I wonder if we could develop an open source version of JonKatz? GnuKatz?

    Maybe, with enough work, we could finally get him to say something useful for once.

  • by thesparkle (174382) on Thursday June 08, 2000 @05:07AM (#1016142) Homepage
    But it sure sounds like the sentiments of so many of the posters on /.

    And Katz commenting on it? Makes sense. I wanted to rip up the whole article, but why bother, I will limit myself to this one piece..

    "Politicians and cititizens appear to have dozed
    right through the fact that small businesses are vanishing, that free speech is withering, that the political system is being bought, that a once-free press is nearly completely in corporate hands.."

    * Small businesses are being created and growing faster than nearly any other segment of the private sector. Because of the marketing and infomation resources available through the Internet, just about anyone can start a virtual business with minimal capital.

    * Free speech is actually stronger than ever before. How many websites have you seen which deal with white supremecy, sexual abuse, conspiracy theories, revolution, pirated copywrite material, illegal home agriculture and manufacturing, etc? Why? Because of the Internet. How many "Free Speech" outlets, newspapers, TV, radio, magazines, were producing this stuff before the Internet was delivered to the average Joe's hands?

    * The political system had been and will be bought several times over, but not just by private corporations. Politicians are swayed and courted by special interest groups like the NRA and Handgun Control, Inc. They are bought by foreign governments such as the allegations against VP Gore and the Chinese. And they are bought by other politicians through political favor, "You vote for the dam project in my state and I will vote your bill to buy jet fighters made in your home district". Why do we limit ourselves to "Evil Corporations" and not deal with the whole truth?

    * The press has been privately controlled for centuries, kids. They are owned and operated by private companies and individuals. Sure, there was a time when the cost of running a newspaper or radio station was possible for an individual or a small group of persons - in fact, it still happens throughout the US today. The problem is the cost of running such operations has skyrocketed due to fuel costs, licensing fees, affiliate rights and worse of all, liability insurance. Regardless the press is even more free today than it was 50 years ago. How many papers would not print the truth about Babe Ruth's drinking or would film FDR in his wheelchair for fear it would "demoralize" people? And what is the opposite? Government controlled press? Um yeah, that's good. Maybe government rules to ensure a free press?

    The problem with all of this started, as near as I can tell, in the past 30 or 40 years. TV programs and movies began casting villians as business people and heros were nearly always public employees (teachers, policemen, public lawyers or public hospital doctors). Business people were about stealing, killing and lying. It was ironic because all TV and movie companies are privately owned business operations. Maybe some writer or director had it out for his boss who told him to quit going over budget? Who knows and who cares?

    Those of you who fall for this blind "All corporations are bad" are as dumb as those who completely believe the opposite. Quit being rubes.
  • Insofar as RPGs are categorizable, "pencil-and-paper" is not a particularly apt category for SR. Rather, "dice, dice, and more 6-sided dice" are the defining feature of SR's gameplay. One of my GMs actually found it useful to buy a hundred dice at a time and sort them according to their entropy.

    The SR games I've been in and run are generally the most violent, bloody, gore-filled high-casualty adventures in my fairly wide roleplaying experience. It's wonderful stress relief, you know...
  • by felis_panthera (160944) <felis,panthera&gmail,com> on Thursday June 08, 2000 @05:10AM (#1016146) Homepage
    ...well, after a fashion at least.

    First off, Jon, you should go out and play the game, you have some good points, but the mystique is still beyond you. If you were from around where I was, I'd be glad to GM a one-shot game for you...

    However, you have stated that magic doesn't fit into the corporate structure of the world these days. I will give you points for that, management doesn't realize what magic actually is, or how to use it, but don't say it doesn't exist. Mages and shamans still exist today, but their medium is different.

    In the good old days, Hermetic mages read books and combined chemicals to make their "magic". Today's hermetic mages combine algorithms and syntax to weave their spells within the realm of the electron. Shamans dealt with spirits and totems to cause fantastical things to happen. How different, speaking of the most basic part of it, is using a TCP/IP packet or a SMB file share to cause amazing things to happen in the dark world inside the box?

    Just because methods have changed doesn't mean magic doesn't exist, it just exists in a different form. Now your wizards and wisemen have put on new robes. Instead of hooded cloaks it's jeans and golf shirts, instead of staffs and sandals it's power supplies and penny loafers. Magic today is performed on the computer, by those who can be called Technomancers.
  • "Change the minds and the evil can no longer exist."

    Yes, but how do you change minds? With money. And who has the money? *Ahhh*....
  • by Golias (176380) on Thursday June 08, 2000 @05:12AM (#1016151)
    It's jarring to come across this increasingly plausible vision of the future.

    Coffee | Nose > Keyboard

    What is really jarring is seeing a professional journalist have the same epiphany that most of us had when we were twelve... and outgrew when we were thirteen.

    Shadowrun was a derivative work, and a crappy one at that, which attempted to merge the two most popular role-playing genres, cyperpunk and magical fantasy. It reminds me of a review that Ben Johnson once gave a play he didn't like: "I found it good and original, but what was good was not original, and what was original was not good."

    By the way, does anybody else find it amusing that this article is coming out two days after a Federal judge ordered the break-up of what was the world's biggest and richest corporation as recently as last year? I mean, if not even MSFT is above the law, who is?

    Something tells me he wrote this entire rant^H^H^H^Hpuff piece in one sitting a couple months ago, and has been releasing it in chunks.

    By the way, if Shadowrun is really the future, I wanna be a street shaman. Heh heh. That would be cool.

  • Ooops and oh bugger. Who swapped 'Submit' and 'Preview'.

    Apologies, all.

    Pax,

    White Rabbit +++ Divide by Cucumber Error ++

  • by remande (31154) <remande.bigfoot@com> on Thursday June 08, 2000 @05:15AM (#1016158) Homepage
    Speaking as a former player, there are some serious problems here.

    It's the dystopian future of 2026. . I thought that it was the dystopian future of 2050 or so.

    Shadowrunners are the individualists who live on the margins, able to "slide like a whisper" through the databases of giant corporations, spiriting away the only thing of real value -- information.

    You describe "deckers", a subcategory of shadowrunners. A shadowrunner is an elite freelance agent, a black operative with no allegience. For non-players, think of the old "Mission: Impossible" TV show (not the movies) for reference. You get in, do a job (sabotage, defend, steal, kill, kidnap), and get out before anybody knows you're there. You work for one authority at a time, and spend your run avoiding the other authorities.

    While a lot of us feel like characters in a Shadowrun world (IMHO, more of a CyberPunk 2.0.2.0. [talsorian.com] world), but not as Shadowrunners ourselves.

    A lot of the people reading this are already Shadowrunners, or are about to be. You're telling me that most Slashdotters are freelance criminals working their crimes for a corporate clientele? Wow, I've been missing the boat--I should hang out in bars more often, waiting for Mr. Johnson from AT&T...

    All corporatists have a shared goal: to give stockholders maximum rewards. That outweighs any other consideration. Magic, the recourse of the idiosyncratic individual, is anathema to corporatism -- inherently illogical, unpredictable, thus unprofitable. You missed a trick here--a big trick. Note the Shadowrun corp called Aztechnology. They live on magic.

    The Shadowrunners, in the game and in the world, are realists. They understand the nature of the world they live in. They are what is perhaps the rarest of figures in contemporary American public life -- heretics. More often than not, they also tend to be cold-blooded murderers. I'm not. Are you?

    One more big trick. The generic plot of a Shadowrun game is that you and your buddies (freelance black ops all) get hired for a job by a "Mr. Johnson" (shadowspeak for "anonymous employer") to do a job that will usually take no more than a week. Mr. Johnson almost invariably works for a megacorporation or government, and is hiring you to do a run against another megacorporation or government. After all this individualism and rebellion against the megacorps, they're the ones footing the bill for you.

    If I were you, I would check out R. Talsorian's Cyberpunk 2.0.2.0. The magic and elves are gone, the feel is grittier (more Blade Runner and Neuromancer than the anime feel of Shadowrun), and the game is much more open-ended. That is, characters are sometimes shadowrun-type freelancers, sometimes work for a corp, sometimes are a corp, whatever.

  • by FreeUser (11483) on Thursday June 08, 2000 @05:15AM (#1016159)
    And there was silly old me thinking the rest of the world had corporations and computers too. Thankyou for pointing out that it is, of course, only americans that this applies too.

    Yes, you are silly.

    Jon Katz is an American, discussing a game developed in America and how it mirrors developments in American politics. If you feel so slighted that he didn't discuss European, African, Asian, or Australian politics, why don't you add something of substance to the conversation from that point of view, rather than bitching and whining about an American website posting an article by an American Author discussing developments in American politics and how they are reflected (or predicted by) an American roleplaying game?

    If Jon Katz had generalized his statements to include the rest of the world (not unreasonable when one considers the "globalization" of the marketplace and the corporate powergrab that is the WTO) you or someone else would have bitched and moaned about an American having the audacity to apply their outlook to the rest of the world.

    Why don't you write a well reasoned and insightful article about similar trends in whatever part of the world you come from, rather than bitching and moaning because people in America haven't given your particular region the attention you so obviously think it deserves?
  • by dsplat (73054) on Thursday June 08, 2000 @05:16AM (#1016160)
    One of the reasons that I use open source software is because it is a declaration of personal ownership and control of my computer and my data. There is nothing on my computer with a license that would permit anyone to revoke my use of the tools that access my data. The licenses state that I have all the rights that I associate with owning a copy of the software, and more. Furthermore, the open source community isn't building back doors into its software to aggressively hunt down copyright pirates that violate the privacy and security of every user.

    I just wonder how far off we are from a law that will effectively outlaw open source software in its current state. When will we have a law that mandates back doors for law enforcement? That law will undoubtedly prohibit removal of the back door. From there, how many more steps are there to Stallman's dystopia in The Right to Read [gnu.org]?

    Our philosophies play a greater role in a greater number of our everyday decisions than most people realize. Simson Garfinkel argues at the end of his book Database Nation: The Death of Privacy at the End of the 21st Century [slashdot.org] that technology is not ethically neutral. It is easier to ignore concerns of privacy, or to waive them aside in favor of particular narrow interests than it is to consistently favor privacy and security.

    Remember, any code you write can and will be used against you.
  • I entirely agree with Jon on almost everything, although why he needs to make such grandiose analogies to get his point across I will never understand. Dollars have become votes, and will even more so as this corporatism progresses. I don't feel good about it at all. I vote with my dollar, not to the extent of only shopping at small businesses, but at the very least to the extent of buying from Corel rather than Microsoft (for the obvious reasons), or to not buying Nikes anymore because I don't agree with their hiring ethics (not that I was ever much of a runner). We can't expect the corporate world to change unless we tell it to. They are here to satisfy our needs and could be made to do it properly, they just ened to be slapped in the face and told what our needs truly are. If you want the lowest possible price on an item, be my guest to buy it from the cheapest provider, just remember that you are also responsible for why that item is so cheap. You become responsible for child labour, unsafe workplaces, corporate shuffles, and all the other evils of many corporations. Pick the lesser of evils long enough and the evil will lessen.
  • by ashultz (141393) on Thursday June 08, 2000 @05:22AM (#1016165)
    I think the trend of self-aggrandizement that has started amoung a lot of the slashdot crowd is pretty sickening, and Katz, who often exemplifies it, has outdone himself here. We are not the heroes of our own little sagas. We're regular people. Some of us pretty exceptional regular people. Some of us damn exceptional regular people. But comparing oneself to the heroes of a game - so cool! so daring! so fasionable! - is a level of arrogance from which it's hard to recover. Just try to do the right things and stop pretending to be superheroes.
  • by orpheus (14534) on Thursday June 08, 2000 @05:22AM (#1016166)
    "I have to admit, I would have filtered out Jon's ramblings a long time ago if I didn't get immense amusement out of them.

    "But lately, I've been cultivating a theory: that JonKatz is not actually a human being, but in fact software that takes some random topic and turns it into a long, redundant, rambling essay on the dangers of globalization, media, capitalism, corporatism, ageism, intellectualism, polymorphism, foodism and the Geo Prizm. "


    (Waltham, MA) As the sun sets on the seige of SlashDot fans wandering outside the Exodus Communications electrified fence, looking for a laptop LAN hook-up Rob Malda wonders where he went wrong.

    "I guess it was the third Napster article in a row," he decides. "Not three days in a row, three articles in a row."

    "It's a perfectly legitimate SlashDot topic," he insists. "It's Linux. And open source... in a closed-source, proprietary format, not available for Linux or any *nix sort of way. I mean, I thought it was cool. And I'm a geek, so that makes steal... -er- sharing music 'News for Nerds', right? I mean, it's not like non-nerds listen to music."

    The lights dim as if some massive rationalizing mechanism was overloading. "Damn," Malda muttered, "Some guy put up a page on powering laptops from the electrified fence, and now I start to pray at sunset every night. I narc'ed the /. account info to the FBI, and Andover subpoenaed Geocitie's records, but after three layers of anonymizing we lost him. The next day the text file showed up on FreeNet! I tell you, this privacy stuff is getting out of hand." He calms himself before continuing, "Even the link to the fake potato power page didn't fool enough of them into unhooking from the fence to let us power up the missiles. Dang, geeks don't trust anyone anymore!"

    He looks out the eight-inch armored glass porthole, at the hundreds of small campfires fueled by sheaves of source code. "It's pretty. Ever stop to think how many watts even a small abandoned app puts out when burned? That's what I call the power of open source!" For a moment he seems like a senile old man, "Imagine a Beowulf cluster of them!

    Malda chuckles, despite his obvious strain, "Actually, I guess I'm a lucky man. Before they learned to tap the concrete-and-steel OC-24 conduits for bandwidth they used the fences as a low-frequency antenna -- kind of a mini HAARP. We all had Don King hairdos that week."

    He snaps back to the subject at hand. "Looking back, the downhill slide started when we installed a K.A.T.Z AI that didn't come anywhere near passing the Turing test. I mean even the elementary school focus groups weren't fooled! But when it came up with the Hellsmouth thread, enough of the geeks fell into line to moderate down anyone who didn't. I guess we got cocky. We should never have let the AI do our article selection too."

    "You see, there was a glitch in the code." He laughs again, bitterly this time, "Ironically, it was due to Napster. Pudge believed us when we said everyone used MP3 to discover obscure new groups, and share their own artistic work. He used the Napster traffic on the nearest backbone as a random number generator for K.A.T.Z." A small tear forms on the corner of his eye, "But of course, everyone really uses Napster to rip off the same old commercial songs, just like he does. Suddenly 90% of the threads were retreads of the Same Old Stuff. Maybe we should have suspected something when Napster started getting its own thread every day... but frankly, we don't read SlashDot, you know?"

    "Roblimo mentioned it at the last board meeting, but it was in haiku, and anyway I couldn't hear him over Hemo's new Swedish masseuse. The last one did Rolfing or something --much quieter -- but this new one! Wowza! You can hear her though the armored vault."

    "My biggest regret is putting the K.A.T.Z. in charge of supplies in the final week. We're rationing the emergency supplies we ordered before, but the last shipment... eighteen tons of instant breakfast packets. Grits, to be exact. Just add water. And not a pat of butter in the entire building."

    When asked his view of the future he simply said "I'm petrified."


  • by bob dobalina (40544) on Thursday June 08, 2000 @05:24AM (#1016167)

    step 1: define the following words(or at least know what parts of a sentence they go in):

    multinational, social awareness, activism, greed, power, oppression, oligarchy, indigenous, alienated, dictatorship, elite, culture, people, sit-in, social order, social welfare, social , corporatism, diversity, censorship, rally, third world, progressive, society, demonstration, people, sexist, human rights, destruction, proletariat, regime, patriarchy, environmentalism, gender, control, aristocrat, resist, protest, fascist, democracy, stratification, poverty, privilege, ...

    step 1b: use these words in everyday conversation, i.e.:

    andrew: hi, betty, how are you?

    betty: your sexist patriarchal gender oppression will be smashed by the progressive social awareness of the people resisting the privileged power elite!

    step 2: read (or at least pose with book in public) one or more of the following authors:

    Karl Marx, Howard Zinn, Mumia Abu-Jamal, Abbie Hoffman, Freidrich Engels, Mario Savio, Bob Avakian, V.I. Lenin, Mao Zedong, Noam Chomsky (good source for more big, intelligent sounding words. stump your friends!)

    step 3: know the following organizations, and whether they are good or bad

    IMF, greenpeace, IWW, WTO, US government, Earth First!, NOW, World Bank, Monsanto, Shell Oil Corporation, Free Speech Movement, Food not Bombs, Monsanto, Amnesty International, Monsanto.

    step 4: attend rally, sit-in, protest, demonstration of your choice in one or more of the following causes: environmentalism, workers' rights, women's rights, animal rights, human rights, welfare rights, anti-WTO, anti-IMF, anti-bad group (see step 3).

    congratulations! You are now a fully tuned in social activist, hip to what's going on! The fascist oppressors can't pull the wool over your eyes!

  • Unfortunately, unlike a game, corporate abuse is all too real for most of us. I've been able to find a niche in a mid sized company that I feel really appreciates my skills and talents, but I've worked my way through a Govt. subcontractor and an unnamed large overnight delivery company to get here =P Those 2 were some of the best and worst experiences I've had professionally. Underpaid and overworked, surrounded by manager/puppet types with all kinds of bizarre value systems and perversions, our shining moments as programmers were when we got that one piece of code to run right, or were able to claim victory over the evil router bank (hehe). I disagree Jon, magic does exist in minds of the folks that do the job. Our perception of the network is as visual and vivid as most people's reality is. We don't watch TV, we don't like the Spice Girls, we recognize corporatism and Marketing for what it is, and most of all we stick together. It's a kind of unspoken battle line between an ignorant, but abusive, executive class who refuses to accept technology as anything other than a tool, and an obsessive technical staff in today's would be mega-corporations. When you eliminate the creative elements from programming, you wind up with crap, and nobody wants that right? The bloated, controlling, bulky type of thinking that creates the market for garbage like ERP's is destined to be the downfall of these guys, at least we can hope.
  • The scary thing is really not that there are big evil corporations. The really scary thing is that those same big evil nameless faceless corporations can and might and do quietly shape the consciousness and worldview of people. Perhaps to the point that we don't FNORD see them anymore.

    That, as a whole, we are being lulled into an unconscious slumber, that powerful unaccountable forces are subtley, but greatly, shaping our perception is very scary.

    I mute commercials, and generally try to avoid advertising at all costs. But it is simply *impossible* to not get those goddamn jingles stuck in your head...the thought pollution is *immense*. Sometimes I think communists may have gotten it partly right (well, besides the tyranny stuff) in wiping this capitalist crud out. Some of the best cultural, literatary, and artistic work, and cultural progress in general, has been accomplished under non-capitalist systems. The problem is that capitalism measures everything by market value, by how much an *individual* values something, not by what a *society* values. But that is another rant.

    The Leaden Eyed


    Let not young minds be smothered out before
    They do quaint deeds and fully flaunt their pride
    It is the world's one crime its babes grow dull
    Its poor are ox-like, limp, and leaden-eyed.

    Not that they starve, but that they starve so dreamlessly.
    Not that they sow, but that they seldom reap.
    Not that they serve, but that they have no gods to serve.
    Not that they die, but that they die like sheep.

    Vachel Lindsay

    "and if I die before I learn to speak/

    Can money pay for all the days I lived awake/
    but half asleep?"

    Primitive Radio Gods, "Standing Outside A Broken Phone Booth With Money In My Hand"

  • In the US, pants = trousers, so your post could be mistaken for referring to the 2nd Wallace & Gromit film, at least by those who've watched it. :)
  • by Golias (176380) on Thursday June 08, 2000 @05:30AM (#1016177)
    How dare you combat hyperbole with facts!

    :)

  • I tned to disagree with this sort of synopsis. Gone are the days where you owed loyalty to a company or product. Today's king-of-the-hill is tomorrow's street sweeper. IMHO people that beleieve this need to get a life. Go camping. Go for a bicycle ride down to the nearest park. Business is the same sharkpit it ever was and those who stand tall shall be lain low. In the real world there are only people. Everything else is made-up.
  • by DanMcS (68838) on Thursday June 08, 2000 @05:30AM (#1016179)
    Yeah! My life is a lot like Shadowrun, now that you mention it. Just today, while dodging orange barrels on the freeway, this mutant guy on a motorcycle came up and tried to jack me with a shotgun. Luckily I had those mods done to my car last month, or he might have got me!

    After taking care of that, I slinked into my corporate job, adopting my work persona: that of a short-on-sleep, perl hacking college student. That's just a cover. I do my real work at night, and it's much more exciting. I'll let you in on a little secret: they don't call them daemons for nothing, baby!

    Tonight, I may catch a concert, or I may have to take some time and deal with this pig-snouted guy with a bulge in the small of his back, under his trenchcoat, who's been following me around. I should check out the polls, too, there's a dragon running for president this year. That's life, here in the future.
  • by Mark Gordon (14545) on Thursday June 08, 2000 @05:32AM (#1016181) Homepage
    trolls have assumed their true forms, throwing off their human guises

    Sounds like Slashdot to me...

  • At its core, Shadowrun isn't about the megacorps, and being discarded, downsized or re-engineered as a result of "flexible" management philosophies and ever-shifting marketing goals; it's about guns, more guns [html.com], hand razors, explosives, and all the other goodies that make for violent conflict.

    Katz does fine when he uses Shadowrun's backstory as a "prophecy" of the future, but comparing the amoral, armed-to-the teeth Shadowrunner to today's mildly rebellious, dissatisfied corporate peon is quite a stretch.
  • While I'm at it its time to dispell this entire top down power myth. I work for the second largest (private) employer in my state. I work on computers and at anytime a handfull of us could bring this company to its knees. The same is true of our engineers and accountants. Any business is made up of people and if enough of them think the environment needs changing then things change. The same has been true everywhere I have worked.
  • by thunderbee (92099) on Thursday June 08, 2000 @05:41AM (#1016194) Homepage
    Everyone talked about 'Neuromancer' and Cyberpunk RPG, so I'll just add 'HardWired' by Walter Jon Williams (less cyber, more punk); and "The Shockwave Rider" an absolute must read from John Brunner. I believe this is a very early form of what later got to be known as the Cyberpunk genre.

    I'm quite surprised by this article. Quality seems to be going down here. I could have read this in a newspaper: I learned nothing and almost died of shock reading the more un-informed parts.

    I do not believe this is news for nerds. They already know. If they don't, they aren't nerds. But then of course maybe one needs to target more people? News for wannabee nerds? Huh...

    And how come real RPGs aren't discussed here? I was under the impression that most nerds were Role players too.
    A poll idea here?
  • by Old Man Kensey (5209) on Thursday June 08, 2000 @05:42AM (#1016197) Homepage
    That's so much like what I realized after the WTO protests: A lot of the protest sympathizers I talked to didn't actually know what they were protesting against.

    "Big corporations are bad!"

    "Why?"

    "Ummm... cause they do bad things!"

    "Like what?"

    "Ummm... like... umm..."

    To my mind there's a couple of very large, very bad generalizations going on. We've gone from "These big corporations sometimes do bad things" gradually to "These big corporations are bad" and then rapidly from there to "All big corporations are bad!" And that reduces to a snappy slogan like "Down with Corporatism!" that you can chant like the idiot savant activist so many seem to be. Let's face it, "stop [big corporation] from [doing evil thing]" just doesn't spread as well in a crowd and individual companies don't make nearly as enticing targets as a single big "corporatist" organization.

    The worst thing you can do to a movement is join it (or found it) and then unthinkingly parrot the party line, ignoring all criticism or open discussion of your motives and ideals. If you do, you're not a protester or part of a movement. You're a cult member.

    All that said, there are big companies that do bad things; we all know the backstory of Erin Brockovich or A Civil Action. They do need to be stopped. But what we don't need is people unthinkingly slamming some vaguely-defined concept of evil while they chow down on their McDonald's slop and then go outside to use the AT&T pay phone to call Mom and remind her to go down the street to the (Royal Dutch) Shell station and fill up their car with gas so it'll be ready to go out and watch the latest Hollywood offerings that night.

    (If you're serious enough to protest, at least be serious enough to boycott.)

  • Oh, PLEASE!

    Using Shadowrun as allegory for the actual world? Give me a break.

    What is so appealing about the "corporatist" / dark future worldview anyway? Is it the hacker equivalent of survivalist fantasies about Soviet invasions and nukular holocausts . . . A paranoid fantasy where the disenfranchised can imagine themselves powerful?

    If "corporatism" is going to be defanged, it will be through LAWS, not skulking lumpenhackers. Laws are concieved and nurtured through involvement and hard work by concerned and dedicated citizens. It means dealing with people, including some you may not agree with or much like being around. It means building coalitions and making compromises and getting up early.

    Stefan (who used to WORK with the Shadowrun designers before he got a real job)

  • by DrEldarion (114072) on Thursday June 08, 2000 @05:51AM (#1016202)
    In Shadowrun, the big thing that gave the MegaCorporations all the power was the Shiawase decision. This court ruling decided that the corporate complexes had extraterritoriality -- basically that they were considered as different nations. This posed a real problem, because then the megacorps could get their own armies, make their own laws (while breaking everyone elses), etc. The government could do absolutely nothing about it.

    -- Dr. Eldarion --
  • Yer selling the kids short, sport. They is always posers in a crowd. Use the zeitgeist when you have it and bide your time when you don't.

    The dynamic has been the same since at least 1848. We don't need them to voice the arguments with eloquence or even understand the issues, we need their bodies on the street and on the tube.
  • Slight correction: Here in the South, while we do have people who use the word 'Coke' to mean 'carbonated beverage', it doesn't mean, persay, Coke. It's the same as using 'Kleenex' to mean 'tissue paper' and 'Xerox machine' to mean 'copier'...

    If fact, I doubt Coke likes it...a couple more decades of this and they will lose the trademark.

    The correct name down here is 'soft drink', or 'soda'. (Don't come down here and ask for pop, or even soda pop, we look at you weird.)

    -David T. C.

  • Magic doesn't work in focus groups

    No, actually magic works better with groups of foci.

    (anyone who's played SR as a magician should know what I'm talking about ;) )

    -- Dr. Eldarion --
  • The Shadowrun sourcebooks are all presented as text files on a large BBS, with responses from the users that are occasionally more interesting than the text file itself.

    Slashdot is Shadowland.

    Other than that, I think that Katz is making a bit too much out of this and taking a lot of the source material out of context. Shadowrun is a neat game, yeah (I've got and have read all of the sourcebooks and novels, etc), but it's more of a reflection of our times than anything. It started with the Japanese MegaCorps when it came out in 1989 (when the game world was in 2050); now that we're less scared of the Japanese taking over the world, it's the German and American Megas that you have to watch out for. When our fear of cults was high, a large insect cult took over Chicago; now that it's technology, it was a section of Seattle that was taken by a Artificial Intelligence.

    And, as other have pointed out, if anything we're deckers. Tortises, in this case - we don't have direct neural connections. Yet.

    - Tim Skirvin (tskirvin@killfile.org)

  • Indeed and furthermore, Jon is wrong to write:

    Shadowrunners are the individualists who live on the margins, able to "slide like a whisper" through the databases of giant corporations, spiriting away the only thing of real value -- information.

    It's just not true that information has real value. Information has value in as much as it allows you to do things. The kinds of information that giant corporations keep in databases are only valuable because they allow corporations to exercise their power. "Information is the new currency", correctly understood, is almost always code for "Power is the new currency".

  • by carlhirsch (87880) on Thursday June 08, 2000 @06:30AM (#1016224) Homepage
    It's like this -
    Monsanso has to expand their markets. Monsanto (as well as ADM and others) make their money off of western farming practices. They sell fertilizers, they sell pesticides, they sell seeds.

    So what to they do? They push industrial farming practices (which work just fine in places like Western Europe or the North American Midwest) on Third World countries where for starters the soil simply can't support that kind of agriculture for more than a couple of years. After that, the soil's tapped out, the farmer moves on, and desertification expands.

    Here's an example of business practices surrounding genetically modified foods - Ag industry producers like to create crops that are resistant to their own brand of herbicides and thrive on their own brand of fertilizer. I would liken it to being roughly as effective as selling "Integrated Solutions" such as MS BackOffice. Overpriced, exploitative, and unneeded.

    -carl
  • by bob dobalina (40544) on Thursday June 08, 2000 @06:32AM (#1016227)
    No, I think he's someone who understands all too well what this sort of revolution is about.

    Its not about liberation, freedom, or giving a damn about anyone else. Its about power. They want it. They want to run the world. They recognize that they cannot do so without the approval of a large number of people. They then parrot lines and stories and arguments that make said people think the cadre is fighting for them. And then, with the blood, sweat, tears and lives of those very same people, the cadre "betrays" them (the cadre always intended to, so there's no real betrayal), milks them, bleeds them dry.

    Orwell's pigs pleading to the rest of the farm about how much they are sacrificing for the freedom of all farm animals.

    No, this guy isn't kidding: he understands all too well. He just didn't keep the secret, secret.

    He may mean warm bodies now, but whether they're warm or cold is irrelevant once his type have seized power.

  • Could someone else lend Jon some current science fiction so that I can stop reading about shit I knew 10 years ago?

    How the fuck can you call yourself a geek when you're just discovering a culture that originated back in 1982 with Neuromancer and Burning Chrome. The idea of corporate versus underworld culture with an element of computer trickery has been around since the late 70's, and you're just now figuring this out? Hell, the cyberpunk literature style has been pimping this idea for the past 20 years, and was considered 'dead' until Snow Crash was produced.

    You'd have been better off doing a review of the cyborg element of shadowrun, since that is becoming more possible recently. I'm sure you would have lots of people (like myself) who plan to get cyber implants once they become available to the public

    So please, Rob, CT, even Cowboy Neal, turn Jon Katz onto some current literature, let him borrow a copy of a recent book. I'm tired of hearing about the latest revolution that happened ten generations ago. (computer time)

    --
    Gonzo Granzeau

  • by Freedent (84485) on Thursday June 08, 2000 @06:37AM (#1016236)
    Monsanto produces seeds that don't produce offspring, if that's the right term. It's called the terminator gene, and is patented by monsanto. If you buty their seeds, you have to go back every year to buy more (there's actualy a licensing fee you have to pay), instead of saving them like farmers usually do. If you're caught with Monsanto seed on your land, and don't have a license, they take you to court (even if it's blown onto your proerty from your neighbours farm, gotta love protecting that bottom line).

    One of the huge problems with this, is Monsanto has only one strain of seeds. Places like Etiopia, where wheat (for example) seems to have origintated from, still host 80% or so of the wheat gene pool. This pool is needed for crossbreading of strains to ensure diversity, and to ensure than no one disease or parasite can destroy the whole wheat crop.

    That's not good business for Monsanto, and the smaller countries and farmers are worried about what would happen if trade laws forced them to deal with Monsanto. The World Bank and the IMF put pretty tight restrictions on governmental policy for those countries who need to borrow money.

    The really sad part is that all the loans to 3rd world countries could be easily forgiven by the west. We lost more in the market crash of 1989 than we would lose in forgiving these debts, and it hasn't seemed to hurt the economy to any degree.

    So what's stoping us? The need and want to control to some degree 3rd world (developing) countries.

  • This is insane. If we're Shadowrunners, I want to be an insect shaman...
    Nobody's a shadowrunner, Jon, no more than anyone's a high elf mage. Nobody I know has physically broken into a megacorp's (they don't exist on Shadowrun's level, even...) datacenter, killed a bunch of guards, and hacked into an node off a "real world" representation of data and programs. I think you like the way "shadowrun" sounds, and that's about it. What kind of research did you do into this article? While you're rambling about the "eerie parallels" in SR, why not mention the reemergence of raw magic, elves, orks and dragons? Wait, there is none!
    This is a painful article. I think Timothy's "No Logo: Taking Aim At The Brand Bullies" article take on a similar issue, with less hyperbole.
    I'm dropping you, Jon.
  • by Tackhead (54550) on Thursday June 08, 2000 @06:41AM (#1016239)
    ROFLMAO.

    > Maybe, with enough work, we could finally get him to say something useful for once

    Hell, I'd be content for him to use the "1" key in his dates. A lowercase "l" hasn't been substitutable for a "1" in a date since the age of the typewriter.

    It's not just this article - look at damn near every article it writes - every time he means "19xx" as a year, it types "l9xx".

    Congrats to the coder who fixed the "Micros~1 compliant quotes" bug. Can we have him pipe its output through sed and s/l9/19/g before it goes to Slashdot in the next revision?

    I suppose the original idea was to add a little "human touch" to it, because no software would make an error like that, only an older human raised on typewriters. But to me, it's just tiresome :-)

  • So you're saying that it's not enough that people have a basic understanding that too much power in the hands of a few is a bad thing, each individual involved must grasp all aspects ofevery issue involved...

    It doesn't take a genius or an eloquent, articulated speaker to understand that WAY too much power is consolidating into too few hands.

    But seriously, enjoy your elitism and sneer at people less intelligent than you all you want. It's helping the situation immensely.
  • AugstWest wrote:

    So you're saying that it's not enough that people have a basic understanding that too much power in the hands of a few is a bad thing, each individual involved must grasp all aspects ofevery issue involved...

    More specifically, that they at least try. You better believe that whoever you happen to be fighting knows exactly how to play to the media, and if your movement is full of uninformed insta-protesters they're going to play that angle to the hilt. We see it every day with the "Linux kiddies" who don't know much about issues of open-source vs. proprietary software; they just know "Microsoft is bad, Linux is good!"

    It doesn't take a genius or an eloquent, articulated speaker to understand that WAY too much power is consolidating into too few hands.

    If it doesn't take a genius to understand, it doesn't take a genius to articulate the underlying issues either. If it comes down to it make up flyers for your protestors to copy and give people. At least then they can take an active role in spreading the message instead of passively chanting catchy slogans.

    But seriously, enjoy your elitism and sneer at people less intelligent than you all you want. It's helping the situation immensely.

    Actually, you seem to be the one sneering at others. I like to believe that everyone is capable of understanding the basics of the issues involved in even fairly esoteric debates. I don't ask that people be geniuses. I ask that they put forth an honest effort before succumbing to the lure of zombie-like "populism".

    This sort of mindless unconcern for the details of the issues is why those few people have that much power in the first place.

  • My wife says so...

    I moved out of my parents' basement years ago.

  • by WillAffleck (42386) on Thursday June 08, 2000 @07:07AM (#1016259)
    and once more Jon tries to make a grand myth where little of substance exists.

    By your terms, I would be a Shadowrun person - I work in Seattle, I do tech, I own parts of the megacorps that rule the world ... stop!

    Look, ever since the days that Bill Gibson cranked out his fine literary fiction on his typewriter, everyone's been all into this genre, but it's pretty much a work of fiction.

    You might get some arguments from the situation in Mexico and a few other places, but this is 20th Century thinking applied to a vision of the 21st Century. The real 21st Century is neither a utopia or a distopia, which you might recognize more of if you took courses that friends of mine have taught at various universities on Utopian Societies from a Fantasy and SF perspective.

    The future's much more low tech than we think, and yet radically different. There is a battle going on for information freedom, and one for a market-ruled cyber feudal system, but the geeks are winning and the corps are losing.

    And if you wonder if I know anything about this, I was the one who brought Bill Gibson's first Hugo award home through Australian customs (heavy bugger) and is why he got invited to the Westercon in Vancouver in the first place.

    If you want to write fiction, go ahead. But don't present it as News for Nerds, but as Speculation for Spooks.

    Comprende?

  • The reason for the reccomendation to send the appeal directly to the Supreme Court was to prevent MICROS~1 from stalling.

    Under the normal appeals procedure, Gates could drag this thing out for years. Sending it strait to the top means that Gates gets one more chance for appeal, and then he has to break up the company. Their chances of a successful appeal, based on the law as it is written, is slim to none.

    The "conservaitive" appointees are probably the least likely to overturn the ruling, because Reagan and Bush went out of their way to find judges with a strong bias towards the philosphy of judicial restraint, as a reaction to the "activist judges" of the Berger court. Whatever reasons you may have for disliking O'Connor or Thomas, they are totally against political legislating from the bench.

    MICROS~1 will almost definately be split up, and I could not be happier about it.

    Name-calling just invalidates your argument... pinko. :)

  • by AugstWest (79042) on Thursday June 08, 2000 @07:16AM (#1016263)
    So, we're sort of on the same page, just in different contexts.

    The original statement was about the people that appeared on TV during the WTO protests. This brings up more "power held by a few" issues, since we can't trust the TV editor's selection of individuals to present.

    Even still, if I had a full understanding of all of the issues involved and someone from a local TV station came up to me and asked why I was protesting, my answer would be swayed by:

    a) brevity in the hopes that it would get on the air
    b) the fact that there was a camera in my face and a possible TV audience watching
    c) that my mom might be watching
    d) trying to cram all of the ideas into a 5-second sound byte that they might actually use.

    I don't agree that the main issue is the people having a full understanding of the issues, I think it is at least as important to have large numbers of people protesting. If there had been 10 uber-intelligent people protesting outside you wouldn't have seen it on TV.

    The thing that raises awareness is NOISE. You need to make a big noise to be heard in this society, and I think that even though the most intelligible people weren't the ones whose voices were heard, a lot of awareness was created.

    I like to believe that everyone is capable of understanding the basics of the issues involved in even fairly esoteric debates.

    The basic issue is power. Too much power in the hands of a few. There are offshoots of details and individual instances of harm, but these people had a basic understanding. They probably had a much better understanding than those of us who weren't there know.

    Social change requires huge numbers of people and a basic, commonly understood cause. I think that's what we had, and I can only hope that the number of people involved increases.

    I honestly believe that this basic function of growth is what will lead to a better understanding.
  • But lately, I've been cultivating a theory: that JonKatz is not actually a human being

    What do you mean -- *theory*? Haven't you heard of the KatzBot?

    I thought everyone already *knew* that /.'ers were beta testers for the KatzBot.

  • hehee... this reminds me - the new republic (a fine liberal magazine, btw!) had an article recently about leftist movements in the context of wto protests: "protest too much (meet the new new left: bold, fun, and stupid)" [tnr.com] by franklin foer.

    it's a fascinating article. it explores how, in the search of an updated self and liberation from the stereotype of crazed coffee-house revolutionaries, the contemporary left managed to liberate itself from a coherent ideology as well, and has become full of, literally, rebels without a cause. worth checking out!
  • In other responses to this article, it has been pointed out that what allows for mischief is acceptance in the mind of the public. It works to the corporations' benefit to blunt the distinctions available for public thought, so that just such trickery can evade notice.


    True enough, although I have to say that corporate success is not, in itself, a bad thing. It is a measure of how successfully a corporation is selling its customers something they want or need. The question you are raising here is whether those wants and needs are being blurred and redirected. In too many cases, they are.

    There is a need to market freedom and privacy. Let's remind people of the value of those concepts. And let's make sure that they know why free software promotes and protects them. (I know I used the term open source earlier. I use it in the sense of having the source code when I am specifically not talking about the other freedoms embodied in the concept of free software.)

    Perhaps it is time to include some language into free software licenses that ennumerate some freedoms that are implicit in the other terms:

    • Your data belongs to you. Use of this software does not imply that the owner of the copyright on it has any rights over the data that you process with it.
    • The author of this software has no right to limit you to accessing your data to this software. The format and protocols used are documented and you may use other tools to access your data, or create new ones.
    • Your license to use this software, provided you do not violate its terms, is unlimited in both time and place. You may use it from any computer at any time for as long as you want to access your data. You may allow anyone else to do the same.


    All of the actions I just described would violate the terms of at least some of the non-free licenses that I have seen. What benefits are actually worth the implication that the copyright holder on the software you use has any right whatsoever to limit your rights to your own data?
  • by Randym (25779) on Thursday June 08, 2000 @07:59AM (#1016285)
    That, as a whole, we are being lulled into an unconscious slumber, that powerful unaccountable forces are subtley, but greatly, shaping our perception is very scary.

    "Most people on this planet are asleep; it is our job to awaken them." -- Gurdjieff, sometime in the 19th Century (paraphrased)

    Some of the best cultural, literatary, and artistic work, and cultural progress in general, has been accomplished under non-capitalist systems.

    Oh yeah? Name even one. "The East is Red", maybe? 8-P

    The problem is that capitalism measures everything by market value, by how much an *individual* values something, not by what a *society* values.

    Every artist I have ever known has created their art with no regard to its market value or what society thinks about it. And they were each individuals. They would rather *stop* doing art altogether than submit to some kind of "social-valuing* system.

    BTW -- *excellent* quote from Lindsay.

  • All of the laws that protect the individual were created long before any of us even drew breath

    While this might be true, it doesn't mean that we can't do the same. An individual has A LOT more power now a days, especially in the area of creating public awareness, a necessity for creating and changing laws.

    This kind of governmental apathy to actual human beings will be the downfall of our society, if not our entire race.

    This kind of citizen apathy to actual government will be the downfall of our democratic society. Anyone who doesn't vote and express their opinion is only making the opinions of others more valid. Anyone who says "it doesn't matter, I can't do anything about it" is a part of the vast cultural inertia that makes change so difficult. The corporations will lobby and lobby and lobby, it is an investment for them. The people must do the same thing, for the same reason.

    The problem, IMHO (and the one I'm fighting against the most), is the power that our mass media corps hava in keeping these issues away from the awareness of the public at large. Or presenting their bias as "objective news." (yea I know true objectivity is a toughy) This keeps a critical mass of attention or outrage from ever reaching a lawmaker's door, and they continue as if everything were A-OK.


    --
  • The greatest disappointment I had upon turning 21 was finding out that in real life, going to bars only rarely results in shadowy individuals offering to pay you money to go on adventures.

    And when they do, it usually turns out not to be the sort of adventures I had in mind.

    --
    perl -e '$_="06fde129ae54c1b4c8152374c00";
    s/(.)/printf "%c",(10,32,65,67,69,72,
  • That's one interpretation. The other is that he really believes what he's saying. There's no arguing that many geek-types were abused by their peers growing up. That's a simple fact. I do think that it's a serious stretch to imply that this was somehow due to corporate influence, if that's what he was getting at. However, it is quite believable that corporations will take advantage of the situation if they can find a way to do so. By demonizing geeks and hackers, they can get new control structures put in place to further secure their power. You just need a little public hysteria and some media hype to make it happen. By the time anyone figures out the real story, it's too late.

  • mention of famous persons for the intent of improving author's notoriety...

    No, I just wanted to point out I'm not flaming Jon just because I hate his guts, but because he's taking something that I know something about and distorting it into something that it isn't.

    Don't get me wrong, I think Jon has a tendency to write as if it's the end of the world, and as if he actually knows something about the subject on which he's writing and has facts to back it up. Neither of those suppositions is true. And it would be nice if he'd learn how to write for the medium he's writing in, as opposed to magazine format. And, as an aside, I do hate Jon's guts, but it's not him as a person, rather his lack of writing ability.

    I've been published (for pay) in about 20 magazines, a large quantity of 'zines, and have had enough egoboo to last me a lifetime. For example, this afternoon I'm on a cruise with the Mayor and Governor for something about the Seattle International Film Fest, boarding at the AGC docks on Lake Union, Friday I'm attending the SAM Premier Member's do at our local art museum, and Saturday night is the Gala Ball for SIFF. Fame is highly overrated and those high donor parties can be pretty boring, in my opinion.

    Look, the world ain't ending today, even if it is the post-Microsoft decade ...

  • by Rand Race (110288) on Thursday June 08, 2000 @08:31AM (#1016297) Homepage
    Your point is well taken, but historical hermeticism doesn't really fit into the techno-mage view. Hermeticism was all about changing perception, similar to Timothy Leary's LSD beliefs, rather than actual physical manipulation. They couched their theories in alchemichal formulae that only initiates could decipher in fear of the Inquisition rather than any true belief in the supernatural. Hacking one's own consciousness was the plan; the demons and angels so prevelant in Alchemical treatsies were metaphors for psychological constructs.

    The convergence of hermetic mysticism and information technology could be downright fascinating however. It would seem to offer even more than the merging of Architectural science and mysticism that brought about the Freemasons.

  • How ironic that young gamers have sensed for years (the original Shadowrunner rules were published in l989) what journalists and politicians still keep missing -- that life for individuals gets rougher by the year here in the Corporate Republic.

    How does it get rougher, exactly?

    That a handful of megacorporations are becoming powerful beyond anyone's control.

    You mean like the aformentioned Shell Oil and United Fruit? You're right: when a megacorporation such as C&H Holdings can force the overthrow of the legitimate monarchy of Hawai'i and force it's annexation into a United States which is predominately being controlled by a handfull of megacorporations who promise to restore prosperity after a damaging Civil War forced unemployment into the 30% range--oh, wait: that was last centry. Sorry. We're supposed to be talking about this century...

    That individualism is not only growing more difficult, but one day soon may actually be dangerous.

    I just love it how you can make a sweeping generalization unbacked by any evidence and present it as a defacto "truth." Repeat this often enough and people presume that this is simply The Truth, without realizing the fact that you never backed up this assertion at any point in your career.

    That this creeping reality has been a role-playing exercise for brainy kids for more than a decade is an amazing thing.

    I don't think I need to point out that this sort of fiction (extrapolating a future as a dysfunctional projection of the present) isn't anything new. Others have already pointed out a number of examples, to which I will add "1984" and "Animal Farm".

    A lot of the people reading this are already Shadowrunners, or are about to be. For Corporate Republic renegades, life is increasingly an adventure.

    Well DUH! It's a bloody game! Do you think Mad Max would have been as interesting a movie if the characters were transplanted to the Los Angeles of today, where instead of being something to fight to the death over, gas was simply $1.69/gallon? Do you think Escape from New York would have been as interesting a movie if it were placed in today's New York, where "escape" means coming up with correct change at the toll booth?

    Any form of entertainment is going to extrapolate the present, twist it in some unexpected way (Gataca's DNA tests, 1984's omnipresent two-way televisions and thought crimes), throw in an element which makes it possible to have some fun (how can a society which made individuality a crime have such an inept police force?) and presents it as entertainment.

    Hell, this formula is so popular that it even shows up in right-wing stuff like the Turner Diaries--which makes the bad guys the government (instead of corporations) and anyone who doesn't recognize the inherent superiority of white people (instead of cyberpunks). Yes, this may be an abhorent example to some folks here, but for God's sake, paranoid fantasies are paranoid fantasies, no matter who are the good guys and who are the bad guys.

    The turning point for the modern real-world corporatism came in the l980s, when government decided to de-regulate many industries at almost precisely the same time as new marketing strategies and technologies were exploding, arming business with the ability to mass-market, monopolize and globalize.

    Bwwaaah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Katz, are you really so ignorant of history that your memory doesn't go back to before the Reagan administration?

    The "modern" corporation was born hundreds of years ago, when Kings would give exclusive license to partnerships of merchantile agents who would go out and engage in business on behalf of the crown. Britain's expansion into India, Spain's expansion into the New World, and just about everyone's expansion into China in the last few centuries were driven by corporations who were thoroughly in bed with the governments who gave them a license to exist. Even the United States played along with the annexation of Hawai'i, or our fiddling around with the internal politics of many Latin American countries.

    The only reason why megacorporations were not influential during the Dark Ages was because the fudal dictatorships who actually repressed 95% of the population and forced them into poverty and early death to support the requirements of the local fudal lord (often little more than a bully with a club) were suspictious of anything that couldn't be forced to toil in the fields for food.

    What's really remarkable thing is that Shadowrun was written before Microsoft sotware was in more than 90 percent of the world's personal computers, before five companies owned virtually all the radio stations in America, before AOL/Time-Warner became the largest information entity in history, and before the Justice Department blithely approved AT&T's acquisition of the MediaOne Group, giving AT&T control of more than a third of the nation's cable networks for television, high-speed Net access and online telephone service.

    But it was written after other great examples such as Shell Oil, railroad barons and the Hearst family's control of most newspapers across the country. (You remember Hearst's comment about the Spanish-American war? "You furnish the pictures and I'll furnish the war.")

    You don't need high-speed net access to manipulate the dailies. Just a telegraph and a will to use it. And William Randolph Hearst had both. The land that currently houses the Hearst castle was stolen from my Salinan Indian ancestors in a deal that Hearst made with the government: throw in the support of his local papers, and promise to partition the land and hand half of it off to the Hunter Liggot military reservation, and the government will rubber stamp a land deal dispite competiting interests.

    Megacorporations aren't anything new either: a term originally coined for companies who have interlocking directorships with overseas counterparts, these things have been around long before Shell. And their influence on the government has been around just as long as feudal lords realized the value of a gold coin.

    The idea of the Shadowrunner in such a universe almost perfectly captures the worsening plight of the individual in our own era, when family farmers, small businesspeople, software designers, individuals of all sorts are losing opportunity to tell their own stories, shape their own lives and economic futures.

    In an era where more than 70% of all people working in the United States are employed by small businesses employing 50 or fewer people, where a web site can be set up on a number of systems for $50/month if you don't want to have banner ads pastered all over your work, where individual purchasers are heavily influencing the design and delivery of products (see "Clue Train"), individuality is "losing?"

    Small farmers are getting the shaft for two reasons. First, they are losing out to larger corporate farmers because larger corporate farmers are able to diversify the crops they plant and thus are able to reduce the risk when the price of one of those crops falls through the floor. Second, they are losing out to large corporate farmers because the vast majority of the population in the United States is simply unwilling to pay $2.00 for an apple or $1.50 for an orange. That is, price pressure to keep food incredibly cheap is driving small farmers out of business, because they simply cannot afford to keep up with the corporate farmers.

    It's the same rational which keeps overseas sweat shops in business making cheap clothing for people in the United States: because we are unwilling to pay $30 for a $4 white t-shirt, and we are unwilling to pay $150 for a $30 pair of pants. So long as we are unwilling to pay the higher wages demanded by non-sweat shop factories, so long as we are unwilling to pay higher food costs needed by smaller farmers to allow them to continue to operate, we will continue to have cheap clothing and cheap food--and out of work family farmers and overseas sweat shops.

    There are so many things wrong with Katz's posting which shows his lack of comprehension of politics, economics, history and culture that is is beyond me why he continues to post this sort of ignorant drivel.

    Shadowrunner may be a fun game. But as a reflection of the current trends of our society, it isn't exactly groundbreaking. Nor is it accurate. And there are much better examples of the sort of "megacorporationism" from the last century than there is in this century.
  • by AugstWest (79042) on Thursday June 08, 2000 @08:38AM (#1016299)
    And this is different from the rest of history in what way? Would you perhaps prefer feudalism?

    I'd prefer the best balance of power possible. I'd prefer to see progression toward empowering individuals over greedy corporate interests. Again, we're somewhat in agreement, and I totally agree with you on the Web/Internet's ability to let more of us have our voices heard.

    I'm trying hard to stay away from the standard rhetoric, but it's not easy to do. The last 16 years of government legislation have been bulding toward protecting businesses rather than individuals. Well-funded lobbyists speak louder than the rest of us.

    That's part of the reason that the U.S. government was set up with so many checks and balances, and it's also the reason why our founding fathers wanted to make sure that the citizenry had the right to bear arms.

    It's "We the People," not "We the Corporate Entities." I have yet to see anything the WTO has done so far, or tried to do so far, that wasn't meant to bring more wealth to those who already have enough. I haven't seen anything that's meant to benefit anyone other than the already powerful.

    People that join causes without understanding why these causes are important are inevitably being duped. Chances are good that they are even serving the cause of some of the same people that they hate.

    Theoretically, I can see your point. I just don't think it's the case with this current argument. I certainly don't think that the people portrayed as modern hippies were serving or helping the cause of the WTO by protesting in the streets. These people weren't *that* uninformed.

    Another thing to keep in mind here is that it's the WORLD Trade Organization. These protests weren't jsut viewed in the US, you have to remember that TV stations all over the world are just as keen to show disquiet and riots in the US as we are of showing the riots in other countries.

    In other words, these demonstrations made more noise than just about any website imaginable. Footage was viewed in more homes than Yahoo and AOL can ever hope to invade.

    And it's especially poignant that these demonstrators weren't out for their own personal interests, or for US interests, they were out for basic human rights on a global scale.

    I think it was key that people in other nations got a chance to see the side of America that isn't all about self-interest and ending up on the better end of every business deal we get involved in.

    I'm glad everyone saw Americans standing up for global human rights. Do I wish that those had been Americans who had showered that day? Maybe. Do I wish they had all had solid arguments, or better ideas, or better capabilities of expressing them to the (entirely corporate owned)media? Sure. Do I think that there were probably mroe focused, clean-shaven folk there? I saw a lot of them in the background shots, but ery few interviewed.

    During this last meeting that was held in DC, government agencies raided a building that was storing necessary first-aid kits for the protesters. The protesters were organizing, and getting prepared for the media and for general FIRST AID.

    The raiders arrested over 20 people who were breaking no laws, and who were never convicted of breaking any. They were just detained, beaten and "oppressed." The first aid items were confiscated. Freaking TAMPONS were confiscated.

    Power has always had the tendency to consolidate in the hands of few people.

    This is true, and will continue to be. The US Government has loads of checks and balances, some of which still even work. But that's another story... :]

    The issue is, during these early, formative stages of the inevitable global governing body, shouldn't we try to build in some checks and balances? Because the entities with a controlling interest so far have shown no interest is such things.
  • But let us not forget the important thing here:

    If Shadowrun were real, then Jon Katz really could be a troll!

    This explains everything!
    --

  • Are you sure there are many corporate executives that worry about getting "new control structures put in place to further secure their power"?

    It seems to me that most of them concentrate on profits and stock value for 5-10 years, and then cash out their options and retire. Sure, a few of the high-rollers keep going back into the fray, out of the challenge of "winning" again to build their ego, but most corporations exist for one reason and one reason only: to make as much money as possible as quickly as possible. They are not known for long-term planning.

  • You probably gain the support of likeminded people in the first world, but the third world almost certainly sees it differently.

    Well, this is information that is almost impossible to find here. It's definitely good to know. All of the coverage of the WTO meetings has been about vilifying the protestors, and it's hard to come across any info about what the meetings are about or what other nations think of the whole thing.

    It would also be good to know how much the people expecting the cushy factory jobs know about what exactly is going on.

    The only real info I've heard of so far pertains to unfair trade agreements, wherein somtimes harsh stipulations are made to nations that are trying to get involved in global trade.

    I've heard horror stories of countries that were formerly self-sufficient running into problems because they're required to purchase x amount of, say, grain before they can export x amount of, say, coffee.
  • Look at how sub cultures like Punk and Grunge have been co-opted and ultimately destroyed by the forces of marketing. Both cultures had at their core an ethos of self reliance and "do it yourself" that made them special and evolutionary. However, within a few years of their break through, marketers had identified the readily recognizable elements and packaged them into a ready to buy product. The young and would be hip could simply go into a store and buy the outfit rather than having to discover the scene and its ideals. If we're not careful the same things gonna happen to us.

    I know I am preaching to the choir here, but the sad part is:

    It is already happening!

    That is, the corps have identified the " readily recognizable elements" of "our" (and I use the term meaning those of the Free Software movement - I am not implying that everyone on /. is of like ideas) culture - that we like to see the code.

    Thus, they give us "Open Source" - which, while a part of the Free Software ethos, does not represent the whole idea - or ideal - of the movement. Yet it is something easily recognisable (and confusing enough) for the average person to be lulled into thinking Open Source will give them the same rights as Free Software - when it will assuredly not.
  • I agree on that one. If he had said something about the Cyberpunk game I would say "Hmmm ok." But Shadowrun? I haven't noticed any dragons, elfs, orcs, etc running around. I think he went with the Shadowrun thing because of the name. It's not over used like Cyberpunk.

  • by Darchmare (5387) on Thursday June 08, 2000 @10:02AM (#1016324) Homepage
    ---
    Because the seeds Monsanto sells are sterile, producing plants with no offspring. You have to keep going back to Monsanto and buy more seeds every planting season.
    ---

    Do you 'have to' keep going back? Did Monsanto market the seeds as being non-terminating when they were? Are there not other companies people could go to for seeds and fertilizer?


    - Jeff A. Campbell
    - VelociNews (http://www.velocinews.com [velocinews.com])
  • That's funny - I noticed the same thing in California (the whole 'soda' thing).

    Up here in the northwest (WA state), it's called either by its brand name, or 'pop'. No 'soda' to be found.

    Dialect can be a very interesting thing sometimes...

    - Jeff A. Campbell
    - VelociNews (http://www.velocinews.com [velocinews.com])
  • And if I remember correctly Texas has the legal right to leave the U.S. and form it's own nation again written into it's constitution.

  • ---
    As I get older, I find that my respect for Stallman increases. I once took the ``pragmatic'' ESR view that freedom as such was a minute philosophical nit-pick. If enough people can be convinced to think in such terms, the surrender of basic human rights will go off without a hitch.
    ---

    The difference is, 'free software' is not a right, let alone a 'basic human right'.

    It's a 'feature'.


    - Jeff A. Campbell
    - VelociNews (http://www.velocinews.com [velocinews.com])
  • What makes you more knowledgable than they about what they need or want?

    Do they have enough love? Food? Water? Pleasure? Pain? How can you possibly make such a statement with a straight face?


    Love, food, water, pleasure and pain are totally different things from global economic and political power.

    We're stepping into unheard or realms of individuals controlling other individuals. I'm not saying it's a bad thing, I'm saying that we should be cautious. When governments are trying to stop people from having their say in the goings on, when individual voices are no longer heard because the BIG suits don't care what they have to say when it comes to global regulation, I think it's fair to say that those people have too much wealth.

    Wealth not meaning cash, assets or beach houses, wealth meaning control over resources.
  • Monsanto may not be warm and fuzzy, but they're not as bad as you say. Reuters story, October 9, 1999: Monsanto Vows Not To Develop 'Terminator' Gene [biotech-info.net]

    They have the patent, but have agreed not to use it.

  • ``So you are urged to buy something that makes you special and different...''

    Is it just me or did this remind anyone else of the scene in ``Life of Brian'' where everyone announces in unison (something like) ``We are all individuals!''. It wasn't too many years ago (well I guess it was in the early '80s, so I guess is was a little longer ago than I thought) that I was sitting in the local shopping mall marvelling at the sheep that thought they were announcing their individuality by wearing clothing with some corporate logo emblazened across the front (The Benneton sweatshirts, etc. were probably the most ludicrous examples). ``Why do you want to offer them free advertising?'' was what I asked myself. There's a scene in ``Crumb'' where Robert Crumb was sittong on a streetside bench having much the same feeling that struck a cord with me when I saw the movie. People have become brainwashed to a certain extent by corporations and their advertising campaigns. I can't remember the name of it, but there was an old, old Jerry Lewis movie where some little old lady (his landlady, I think) was so brainwashed by advertising that she was constanly asking him to buy whatever it was she'd just seen on the TV ads. (As a result she had all this useless crap sitting around that she never really needed; the perfect individual in the eyes of our corporations.)

    ``The jobs we are given, and the careers we follow fracture more and more any social cohesion. ...

    I mean malls whith huge parking lots and poorly conected suburban areas with no smal stores. But I do not really know the USA so I can't say.''

    Yep. You got it about right. Our local town zoning boards have pretty well killed off the concept of the local grocery store or just about any business within walking distance from where you live. Plus, the major store chains have somehow convinced themselves that we won't actually shop in a store that's smaller than a certain size which pretty much guarantees that you'll be driving to some MEGAmall if you want to shop. After your daily 90-minute-each-way commute the last thing you want to do is have to drive to a mall but what choice do you have? Sometimes you wonder if the auto manufacturers and the oil companies haven't been bribing the zoning boards. :-(

    ``If you want to live that way - fine. But people who are forced to live that way don't usually find it funny.''

    Got that right.
    --

  • To illustrate & agree, I could pull a stupid reference from The Matrix and paraphrase what that lead agent guy said about the first matrix:

    "Humans need pain."
    I couldn't agree more. Everything in moderation, including moderation :)

    -AP

  • Your average executives aren't known for long-term planning. That's not their job. But many of the larger corporations do make long-term plans. These don't usually get in the way of their short-term goals of quarterly profits, so they don't really have to make a trade-off.

  • This very much reminds me of something that came up in a class a couple years ago. Wherever there is famine, the root cause is a serious power unbalance. Famine are by their nature a political phenomenon. Native peoples survive precisely because they're able to successfully farm the land and raise livestock. The natives of South America practiced a sustainable "slash and burn" farming for thousands of years before the first invaders from Europe ever arrived. Sections of land were burned, then farmed for a few years, after which they were allowed to *completely* regrow before being burned again. Once economic and cultural pressures forced the shift to cattle and cash crops, these practices were impossible, or at least not economical, and were quickly abandoned, or rather, never taken up by those that now owned the land.

    In the case of the Potato Famine in Ireland, Brittish rule had forced most Irish farmers to devote most of their airable land to cattle (see a theme here?), allowing them only a tiny portion of their own land from which to feed themselves. The most effective method for accomplishing this was the growing of potatos. Traditional crops (or rather the practice of growing multiple crops) would have survived the Potato Blight. However, now that the farmers were depending on the potato as their staple food, the Blight prooved deadly. Throughout the Famine, exports of beef continued to Brittain. The cows, (and the Britts, evidently) were eating fine.

    More recently, the famine in Etheopia (any other oldsters out there remember "We Are the World"?) bore many of the same symptoms. Corporate involvement made it more profitable to raise cattle on the arid land, a practice that quickly decimated the ground cover that held the soil in place, causing the desert to spread, and making farming impossible.

    Point being (and I know I'm stretching the bounds of "on topic" here): economic forces shape the world far more powerfully than any legislation. Political Action Committees and Special Interest Groups hold god-like influence over the US's legislative bodies, and recent attempts to get the electorate more involved have had exactly the opposite effect, conferring "political viability" on those candidates that have the funding to support an election campaign. So the government isn't going to change anything. And the corporations aren't going to change anything. And whatever you think, writing your Senator definately isn't going to change anything. (Recent polls have found that congressmen ignore emailed letters just as they do the paper kind.) You have to speak with your wallet and your vote, and get your friends to do the same.

    &lt/long-ass rant&gt -BlueFrog

  • pay off the local .gov and you have a rather isolated test lab with $0 pay labor

    The problem isn't Monsanto, its the corrupt government that lets its officials be brought. Fix the government and the corps will behave themselves.

    yes there may have always been cancer - but I don't think it has ever been so wide spread.

    The reason that more people get cancer these days is merely that they are failing to die of other things, like cholera, polio, smallpox, war, famine and childbirth.

    Go and look at some trading standards cases from a few hundred years back. Chalk dust in flour was common, and sweets were dyed with heavy metal salts. I kid you not. Fancy a return to those days? Whereas these days we have the luxury of getting annoyed about GM pollen.

    Paul.

  • I'm guessing you never played it by this response, but I would like to say also that I think the simple fact of being an American must be dificult at times due to the ever growing global realization that Television is America, Media is America.

    Your guess would be wrong. Not only have I played shadowrun, I learned to play it in Germany, in German.

    However, Jon Katz is an American, writing about an American work (Shadowrun) and how it relates to an American political system which is increasingly dysfunctional, and he posted his comments to an American website.

    The original flame was completely inappropriate and off-base, as were most of the replies here.

    Jon Katz, to put it simply, may or may not be qualified to comment on the American political issues he raised. He is most definitely not qualified to comment on how they relate to Bengladesh or Mozambique. He appropriately limited his commentary to the country he knew and was inappropriately flamed because someone felt he had violated their rules of "International Political Correctness."

    Bah. I've yet to read a comment in this thread describing these issues as they relate to Germany, the Netherlands, France, the UK, or anywhere else. For that matter, I'd be very curious to hear about these issues from a Canadian and Mexican point of view. As the two other members of NAFTA such a perspective would be very interesting.

    Alas, all I have seen instead is so much bitching, whining, and anti-American bigotry, all of which is well within the rights of those who posted such drivel to do so, just as it is my right to openly mock and despise them for it.

    I wonder if one were to discuss the roleplaying game Schwarze Auge and its relationship to the emergence of the SPD as the dominant party in Germany, if one would be flamed so vehemently. (Disclaimer: I doubt very much there is any such relationship!). This entire thread implies the worst form of Political Correctness: you may not mention nationality if you are an American - but for anyone of any other nationality it is OK. As a left leaning, liberal American I have had more than enough of this kind of double-standard Politicaly Correct drivel within American politics (even though the so-called standards of political correctness tend to support many of my own political views!) to not speak out against it when I see it infecting technical forums such as this.
  • Oh yeah? Name even one. "The East is Red", maybe? 8-P

    Hell...um, how about all of the good Russion novelists and composers. Um, perhaps the entire body of classic English literature and art. Anything that came out of the monarchies of europe. The wonderful litarature and art under asian monarchies and despots. And on and on. Chances are, if you go on vacation and tour any place in the world of cultural significance, it was probably created under some non-democratic government. Democracy is a rather recent thing.

    Every artist I have ever known has created their art with no regard to its market value or what society thinks about it. And they were each individuals. They would rather *stop* doing art altogether than submit to some kind of "social-valuing* system.

    Ever wonder why N'Sync, Backstreet Boyz, (insert generic auto-generated band here) are so popular?

    BTW -- *excellent* quote from Lindsay.
    Yes...I had't actually read much of him, but that poem really grabbed me.
  • it was probably created under some non-democratic government. Democracy is a rather recent thing.
    Oops...duh, got my governmental and economic systems mixed up. But as I think of it, the same probably holds true. In non-capitalist societies, art is appreciated for its own sake (or by mandate of the government), not for it's market value.
  • Actually, pretty much any art or literature that was produced before, say, 1600 was a product of someone working in a non-capitalist system.

    Errr...perhaps we have different definitions of what "capitalism" is. I find capitalism to have three irreducible elements: investment (of capital), risk (of loss of capital) and profit (return on capital). Thus, to me, "trading" *is* capitalism, and that goes back into the Stone Age. (For example the trade in amber and silk along the Silk Road goes back *at least* 10,000 years.) If you are restricting yourself to Europe, then you have to go back at least to the Hanseatic League around the 13th Century in Northern Germany.

    On the other hand, some people mark the start of "capitalism" with the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in the early 1800's. Your notation of "1600's" makes me think that you see the start of "capitalism" with the first granting of corporate charters, while I would argue that that marks the start of "corporatism", which I see as merely a variant of capitalism (although -- with its legal shift of liability away from the individuals comprising the enterprise and onto the enterprise itself -- clearly an important one).

    However, for art to last beyond the immediate requires societal involvement, generally from a broad segment of society. If a particular piece of art's appeal is confined to an individual or a small segment of society, it is far more susceptible to being forgotten or lost. Without a greater society to 'approve' and preserve works of art, we'd have an awfully empty culture.

    Again, I beg to differ. Art is what the *artist* says it is, not society. By your definition, Robert Mapplethorpe and Vincent van Gogh (in his lifetime) were not really artists, and neither were the Sex Pistols (or Elvis Presley in 1956). Ironically, sometimes the first mark of a great artist is a society united *against* his works. (It was only later that society came to appreciate the works of the above-named artists.) And what about "folk" art or "outsider" art? I'm not trying to excuse "junk" as art; I just don't agree that a "society" MUST validate art before it *is* art.

    By your definition, the turgid, sentimental works produced under the Nazi regime *were* art and the "decadent" art that they reviled was *not* (by the standards of German society at that point in time). Today, the opposite is generally felt to be true. Similarly, the dreary works of "social realism" under Stalin and Mao were enthusiastically received at the time; today they are seen as little more than anachronistic embarassments.

    Bottom line: society's judgement is irrelevant; the artist's judgement is irreplaceable. Society's standards change, because there is not -- and can never be -- any objective standard for judging what is art and what isn't. The soul of the artist is the final arbitrar.

  • although I have built a lot of really cool networks, in the grand scheme of things it means nothing

    In the "Grand Scheme of Things" humanity probably means nothing. We're just a lifeform that happens to have evolved sentience and produced technology. But "meaning" something? What would we mean, and to whom? Its a silly question.

    Try not to worry about the indifference of the Universe; its too depressing. Concentrate on enjoying life. Help others to enjoy it. The only meaning we have found is in one another.

    Paul.

  • runs on the "latest and greatest" MS OS.

    Check out the netcraft results here. [netcraft.com]

    -Peter


    Slashdot cries out for open standards, then breaks them [w3.org].
  • Meant to say "Funny that a WEBSITE about ..."

    don't flame me!

    -Peter


    Slashdot cries out for open standards, then breaks them [w3.org].

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