Bruce Sterling’s annual State of the World, 2008

Every year at The WELL, legendary author Bruce Sterling discusses his thoughts on the year just gone and the year to come. This year he talked with members of the WELL plus Jon Lebkowsky, who writes interesting articles himself for Worldchanging and Webblogsky. Among the highlights mentioned in the ‘State of The World, 2008’ talk are Pakistan, getting closer to a worldwide consensus, Sterling’s opinions of Europe (where he now lives) and the future of nation-states versus cities:

Well, there’s nothing inherent about nations as an organizing principle. Nations could go away. Global government, that’s never existed. It’s a sci-fi idea. It’s kinda hard to imagine *cities* going away, though, short of a massive population crash. All the major cities in the Balkans are still there, even though the “nations” they conjure up have changed their flags, passports and currencies five or six times. New York has a future. Chicago has a future. San Francisco is dynamic. Any place called a ‘creative class city” is very attractive’

Bruce Sterling has always been a fascinating writer and futurist and this is a thought-provoking discussion on the future of our world. Another great writer, Kim Stanley Robinson, also had a great interview recently on BLDGBLOG which is worth checking out too. As one of the commentators says,

“One of the things I’ve long admired about (Bruce Sterling) is his rejection of apocaphilia (ed- the love of thinking about the world ending) — not in the sense of being a cyberpollyanna sunshine thinker, but in recognizing that options exist and choices matter, even in the bleakest of landscapes.”

I think that’s an important point to make and one that I’m attempting to take on with my posts here at Futurismic. It’s essential to be aware of possible dangers to our world but we need to think about them constructively, not wallow in the prospect of something out of John Joseph Adams’ ‘Wastelands’ anthology. When I and others talk of the potential pitfalls of peak resources or climate change it’s not to glorify the threat but because the solutions are exciting.


4 thoughts on “Bruce Sterling’s annual State of the World, 2008”

  1. Bravo, Thomas, for the last sentence of this post. I’m no stranger to blogging about natural resource constraints – but I feel too often the people who are at the vanguard of (almost any kind of ) activism do so from almost a self-loathing perspective; e.g. “Can you believe what a horrible species Man is for what we have done to the environment,” implying a willful malice in the harm that we have caused. We learn, we grow, we make mistakes along the way… and hopefully, eventually we make things better. Does anyone honestly think the ancient Romans were evil for building their plumbing out of lead pipes?

  2. Definitely, Stephen. Added to the fact that the negative, doomsday style of talking about real issues turns people off to the ideas. When presented with such a negative outlook, how can people get excited about doing something? We have to present the positives of such a change.

  3. I think what you really mean to say is that the solutions are beneficial to our aching planet. Sure the solutions are great, but I imagine there will be pain associated with their acceptance. I say this because, I assume that very little action will be taken until there is crisis. E.g. 5 dollar a gallon gas, skyrocketing food prices, riots in the streets.

  4. What I mean to say is that the solutions are exciting. As a science fiction writer, it excites me to think that these new technologies and strategies might create a different way of living, just like the internet or the car or the jet.

    The cynic in me agrees with you that very little action will be taken until there is a crisis. The optimist in me thinks that the cooler and more economically viable solutions are already getting investment. And even if the cynic is right, why glorify that and alienate the people reading? I’d prefer to aim for an optimistic ‘we can tackle this and create this exciting future’ than doom and gloom people into inaction.

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