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Sci-Fi

Interview with Bruce Sterling 133

kpost writes "Reason magazine has an interview with Bruce Sterling." Fairly lengthy and entertaining interview for you bookworms out there. Covers a lot of different subjects.
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Interview with Bruce Sterling

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  • I love this guy (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Tirel ( 692085 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @01:10PM (#7892493)
    I particularly liked this Q&A:

    reason: We're still seeing technological progress, at least in terms of tools. Some of us have DVD burners in our laptops, when not too long ago we couldn't imagine burning CDs. Content providers are freaking out about this because people are able to make their own product, or duplicate other people's product.


    Sterling: I'm not really all that interested in what Hollywood does with its stuff. I mean, they're only the size of the porn industry. I think the real revolution is in industrial production. It's about manipulating factory processes, it's about mass customization, it's about a revolution in industry that gets the toxins out of the air and is more efficient by, say, a factor of four than what we had. When that happens we'll have a genuinely new world. Playing movies off handhelds, that's not really that big of a deal.


    He is right to the point, it doesn't really matter what the RIAA, MPAA and their cronies do, they surely can't stop us, it might have worked in the past, but now we control the information paths and they can't do anything except scare those who haven't got access to the sources of information that we do.

    I wish more people like him were in politics, that way maybe we'd be better off.

    He's also one hell of a writer.
    • He is right to the point, it doesn't really matter what the RIAA, MPAA and their cronies do, they surely can't stop us, it might have worked in the past, but now we control the information paths...

      Huh? He's completely dismissing your point.

      • Why would I listen to a sci-fi writer talk about politics and what he calls the "petrocracy"? I might as well have Karl Rove give me a lecture on how a warp drive works or why a ship the size of the Enterprise doesn't mess with a planet's gravity when it orbits it.
        • For exactly the same reason you would listen to, say, Arnold Schwarzenegger talk about real estate. People can be informed about more than one thing.

          IMHO, Sterling is a more skilled and useful visionary than he is a science fiction writer. You should be listening to what he says and probably avoiding his fiction.
    • by Per Abrahamsen ( 1397 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @02:14PM (#7893099) Homepage
      ... but experimenting with technology is. Palladium and similar technologies which are largely motivated by the desire to prevent us from unautorized playing movies, may as a side effect prevent us from experimenting with technology. If we can only run authorized programs, plug in authorized hardware, and browse authorized content, how can we experiment with new programs, new hardware or new content?
    • I think you completely missed his point.

      He is right to the point, it doesn't really matter what the RIAA, MPAA and their cronies do, they surely can't stop us, it might have worked in the past, but now we control the information paths and they can't do anything except scare those who haven't got access to the sources of information that we do.

      It doesn't really matter what the RIAA, MPAA, et al do, because changing means of producing and distributing music and movies are relatively minor advances in te

  • by _PimpDaddy7_ ( 415866 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @01:13PM (#7892516)
    "I'm not really all that interested in what Hollywood does with its stuff. I mean, they're only the size of the porn industry."

    I think that says it all :)
    • I think Hollywood and the porn industry are the same thing. they both produces movies with lots of visuals and a crapy story.
      • Seriously!

        Though you could argue that a clip of some chick getting 19" of man meat shoved in every hole she owns still constitutes more plot line than several big budget movies combined...
        • by Anonymous Coward
          Although the porn industry has less devices for itself. The sexual tension between Sam and Frodo was really what made ROTK such a great movie.
      • Won't the p0rn rip off of LOTR be interesting. Trilogy == threesome ring == well, ring (of a different kind I suppose) fellowship == more than just fellowship The close relationship between Frodo and Sam == bisexual Gollum == is still a junkie, but has something else stuck in his throat... ugh, the mind boggles at the possibilities. pc
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I mean, they're only the size of the porn industry.

      10 inches, I swear!

    • Do you mean, in the same way as number 7 is the same size as number 7? ;-)
  • by burgburgburg ( 574866 ) <splisken06@email . c om> on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @01:22PM (#7892616)
    That's funny, but the thing that's peculiar about it is there was always a dark side. There was always the porn/mafia/drug dealer/pedophilia aspect -- the four horsemen of the apocalypse.

    Wow. I hadn't recognized that pr0n is not only comparable to organized crime, drug dealing and child abuse but was also an explicit indicator of the end times. I was thought it was one of the main reasons there WAS an internet in the first place.

    • I was thought it was one of the main reasons there WAS an internet in the first place.

      Don't forget about VCRs, camcorders, and the rapid advancements in simulated-flesh technology... [realdoll.com]
    • I hadn't recognized that pr0n is not only comparable to organized crime, drug dealing and child abuse but was also an explicit indicator of the end times.
      Pr0n is loosing its taboos and that tends to scare a lot of people. I don't believe these are the signs of the end of the world, just signs of change. You could argue that the loss of morals ended the Roman empire, but that wasn't the end of the world, just another change in it.
      • You could argue that the loss of morals ended the Roman empire

        Except, of course, that the decadence of Tiberius and Caligula that people point to as marking the decline of Roman morals, was over four centuries before the fall of the Western Roman Empire and over a millenia before the fall of the Eastern Roman Empire.

        but that wasn't the end of the world, just another change in it.

        However, this is a good point. The Fall of Rome was a disaster at the time, but the history of China reveals the problems w

      • the rise of Christianity was the cause of the decline of the Roman empire. Romans from the Republic through the Empire loved sculptures, friezes, drawings, plays and festivals all of which could be considered pornographic.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Wow. At least two of these dark horseman only exist because of stupid laws that seek to protect me from myself or other consenting adults.
    • pr0n was considered the most dangerous aspect of the computer networks. In particular, people under the age 21 migth be exposed to nude people, or even worse, nude people having sex, and thus have their entire life ruined.

      It does seem to me that this attitude has been relexed a lot the last few years, probably because the net has given most people easy access to pr0n, taking some of the mystique away.
    • I think that he might mean the four horsemen according to the media, but I wouldn't want to put words in his mouth. He doesn't come across as being pro-porn though..
    • It hast that status only because we empower sex to be a great evil. If we suddenly decided that we desperatly needed to protect our children from all knowledge of milk production, the Dairy Farmers of America would be a great evil and lunch-ladies around the world would be burnt at the stake.

      If porn were not "dirty" and "evil" then it would just be more office work.

      If drugs (expecially pot) weren't the "dirty" and "evil" then drug dealing would take place in pharmacies where it belonged.

      If both of these
  • by kreinsch ( 82720 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @01:22PM (#7892622)
    There is also Bruce's yearly visit to the Well's Inkwell.vue: The 2004 Bruce Sterling State of the World Address [well.com].

    And, don't forget Bruce's new weblog at Wired: Beyond the Beyond [wired.com].
  • by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @02:29PM (#7893277) Journal
    I keep reading Sterling hoping to see what all the rest of you are apparently seeing, but all I get it someone deeply, deeply in love with hearing his own clever ideas, usually couched in some nebulously sardonic comment that makes it oh-so-hip.

    Some random snippets...
    "Socially, policy makers have made a series of choices very similar to what preceded the collapse into World War I."
    Huh? Like?

    "we've really turned our backs on a world that could have been pleasant, delight-ful, peaceful, and technocratic. Now we face a world that is religious, narrow-minded, fundamentalist, and violent."
    This is precisely the sort of vapid utopianism that begs so many questions it's meaningless. Really? How did "we" turn our backs on it Bruce?

    "Sure, we hate Exxon because they're huge and they're everywhere." Personally, it seems a little L.Ron Hubbard-y to contrive a eco-social movement with designated hate subjects, if not downright Nineteenth Century. Wouldn't it be more intrinsically interesting to try to understand the reflexive envy in a society that's not all that zero-sum anymore? Doesn't Bruce feel some irony in poking at Ellison's "proper" enemies, when his own cachet cows look as stereotypically sacred as anyone elses?

    I dunno. He's just got this 'end of history' thing cooking, looking for the McGuffin in a story that's just a stream-of-consciousness monologue. He keeps trying to refer to "the real story" or the very-much-italicized "truth", but I don't see how he manages it with a straight face. Maybe he's laughing all the way to the bank. I still cannot find the kernel of tangibility he seems to keep flourishing.

    It's probably just me.
    • I'm with you. I was reading it in the actual magazine last month (go subscribe! it's good!) hoping to see more good Cyberpunk stuff. I can attribute some of his missing proof to lack of magazine space (and reader attention, or lack thereof).

      However, one interesting approach his Viridians (or whatever they'd call themselves) have is simply the "you catch more flies with honey" idea: Instead of beating everyone's heads with doom and gloom environmental scenarios, why not work harder to create marketable r
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Sterling is a bit of an over the top hypester. He's typical of a lot of the Austin techno-hippy [robotgroup.net] crowd, Jon Lebkowsky, Chip Rosenthal, David Nunez, that fucked [main.org] up [main.org] hippie [main.org] artist [main.org] Santos [main.org], that guy who makes metal g-strings [gbronline.com], etc. I hope I'm pissing anyone off by lumping them all together.

      However, there is a kernel of true insight that you seem to be missing in Sterling. There is something more to him than the 99 percent of SF which is pure pulp crap.

      My advice is to just read his novels and short stories.

    • I keep reading Sterling hoping to see what all the rest of you are apparently seeing, but all I get it someone deeply, deeply in love with hearing his own clever ideas, usually couched in some nebulously sardonic comment that makes it oh-so-hip.

      Look, the thing you need to get here is it is not particularly Sterling's job to get everything right, because the people who *are* in positions like that get frozen by the need to be responsible. When Sterling is at his best, what you get is a pyrotechnic spew

    • "Socially, policy makers have made a series of choices very similar to what preceded the collapse into World War I."
      Huh? Like?


      Read something about WWI. Then the leaders of Europe weren't thinking hard about the economy but instead were spending tons of money on war equipment, which eventually the politicians were just too eager to try out, thus the pointless first world war. Sound familiar?

      "we've really turned our backs on a world that could have been pleasant, delight-ful, peaceful, and technocratic. N
      • ""Socially, policy makers have made a series of choices very similar to what preceded the collapse into World War I."

        Huh? Like?

        Read something about WWI. Then the leaders of Europe weren't thinking hard about the economy but instead were spending tons of money on war equipment, which eventually the politicians were just too eager to try out, thus the pointless first world war. Sound familiar?"

        No, actually maybe YOU should read something about WWI - I think you've rather misunderstood the root causes. It

        • No, actually maybe YOU should read something about WWI - I think you've rather misunderstood the root causes. It was hardly a matter of "gee, we have all these guns lying about, we've gotta use them on something" - no matter how that might fit your weak historical analogy. Which wouldn't parallel the current period anyway, so what was your point?

          Actually, it is an excellent analogy. Every historian agrees that the build up of standing armies and the development of new technologies were a major causes of W
  • "Id like to see what people can do with the Internet that they cannot do on paper. And there are certain things one can do that are not worth doing. Like I can set up a discussion group thats open to everybody! And that is not worth doing. Its sort of proven that it immediately turns into a cesspool because its badly designed." haha!
  • "Probably the single thing I do personally that reduces the crude havoc on the Internet is avoiding the Windows OS. Use a Mac, for heaven's sake. Stop adding to the pollution of viruses, and stop offering slave machines that spew spam for others."
    - Bruce Sterling

    Source: 2004 Bruce Sterling State of the World Address [well.com]
  • The man mentions Porn in one form or another five times, makes a reference to blow up dolls, and in general blames porn for many of the problems in the world. Then he puts porn on the same level as mafia crime, pedophilia, and drugs.

    The man is spewing little more than dogma and slashdotters admire this man?

    Maybe its because everyone respects his obviously repressed urges to ogle massive amounts of pictures of nekkid women.
    • it's obvious. here is a brilliant mind, way passed its shelf life, with nothing to do but blog and surf between ever decreasing commissions. i love his early writings, so awake and alive - but this interview was tedious. the porn was the best part.
    • by extra88 ( 1003 )
      Then he puts porn on the same level as mafia crime, pedophilia, and drugs.

      No, he references the scare-mongering media's (and sometimes Justic Department's) "Four Horsemen," not his own. Plus he's being interviewed by his buddy, Mike Godwin [panix.com] (yes, Godwin's Law [wired.com] Godwin), who knows what Bruce means.
  • Mass customization (Score:4, Interesting)

    by wytcld ( 179112 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @03:21PM (#7893925) Homepage
    ... it's about mass customization ...

    Work up this morning from a dream in which I was framing a /. submission on the question of why car manufacturers aren't aren't offering fully modularlized vehicles - sort of like you start with a front end option, add a drive-train option, add a rear option (so you get a lot of Ranchero-like hybrids). The best profits are in the vehicles people see more utility in (like pickup trucks) - this way you see more utility for you.

    Maybe the carmakers are afraid that such modular creations wouldn't have as much brand identity, that the brand would effectively be more the individual customer than the manufacturer. But why should that matter if it sells? And think about the downstream revenue - get in a fender-bender, just replace that module - less work for repair shops, more orders to the factory.
  • Sterling interviewed by Godwin in Reason magazine?

    OUCH - my inronimeter is pegged! (and it's a Fluke digital)

  • ... the porn/mafia/drug dealer/pedophilia aspect -- the four horsemen of the apocalypse


    Oh man, I wish I were a cartoonist, that is too funny to pass up...
  • by Baldrson ( 78598 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @04:31PM (#7895035) Homepage Journal
    The thing that strikes me about Bruce Sterling is how much he reminds me of Jon Katz. I haven't seen Jon Katz show his face around /. for a while now and lo and behold what do we have but Bruce Sterling holding forth Katz's tradition.

    The question arises:

    Has anyone ever seen Jon Katz and Bruce Sterling in the same room at the same time?

  • Bruce is in the midst of a two week discussion about the state of the world [well.com] hosted by the WELL. You can post a comment or ask a question directly to the topic if you're a WELL member; if not, you can send a comment or question to inkwell-hosts at well.com, and they'll post it for you.

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