Sunday, April 14, 2013

Bruce Sterling: annual rant at SXSW (2013)

Now, most of you in here aren’t novelists. I’m not complaining that novelists are disrupted and are very badly off — although we are.
What I’m telling you is that you’re more disrupted. You are worse off.
Whatever happens to musicians happens to everybody. Including you.
People like to say that musicians reacted badly to the digital revolution. They put a foot wrong. What really happened is that the digital revolution reduces everybody to the state of musicians. Everybody — not just us bohemian creatives, but the military, political parties, the anchor stores in retail malls, academics subjected to massive open online courses.
It’s the same thing over and over. Basically, the only ones making money are the ones that have big, legal stone castles surrounded with all kinds of regulatory thorns. Meaning: the sickness industry, the bank gangsters, and the military contractors. Gothic High-Tech.
If more computation, and more networking, was going to make the world prosperous, we’d be living in a prosperous world. And we’re not. Obviously we’re living in a Depression.
I’m a cyberpunk writer. I wanted to write a kind of visionary, futuristic science-fiction that was tied into real-world tech developments. I learned how to do that. I did it. I did lots of it.
But it was one of those situations where the operation was a success and the patient died. The world’s extremely cyberpunk now, but the science-fiction genre, this particular form of a counter-culture literature with its paper support structure of fanzines and conventions and specialty bookstores, it was a casualty.
If you really want to be involved in futuristic tech development — if you’re sincerely interested in it — why don’t you just do it? Why write fiction about it? Just involve yourself in it. Network with the people who are doing it. It’s not hard.
Full transcript.

1 comment:

Pete said...

Thanks for posting this, Jason.

I share Mr. Sterling's sadness about technological churn.

I haven't been involved at all with mobile and tablet computing, so I can't comment on the death-of-the-PC. I understand that people don't want to have to worry about updating their software, or running anti-virus, or hard drive crashes.

One of the things I've realized after a few years of using Linux is that there are a handful of designs that outlive several generations of computing technology. (Vim, Emacs, Erlang, the design of Unix, the foundations of AutoCAD) Granted there are other technologies that stick around because of inertia and not good design; like massive proprietary databases.

So I find this a bit comforting that the next big thing won't necessarily sweep away the things I find most useful. We really just have burgeoning options in this regard.