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246 comments

Re:Comments on the letter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1227322)

God I love linking that page. Works best as an IRC topic by itself, they never can resist.

/topic http://www.goatse.cx

Re:market fallacies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1227328)

Anyone who has ever read the Foundation series of books by Isaac Asimov or who has done any basic quantum theory understands that ultra complex systems such as the stock market cannot be modelled deterministically. In fact, the mere act of measuring the state of the market is likely to change it.

Re:market fallacies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1227329)

you do realize that those books are fiction, right?

You people scare me sometimes.

Re:Reply letter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1227330)

Hehe, future grits.

BTW, I enjoyed your gritspoll [geocities.com]

Troll (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1227331)

Nice form, however you made the fatal mistake of assuming you were funny. Bad move.

Re:1st! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1227335)

Yo professor! You missed it by four minutes.

See this monkey, It makes no sense. Why does Chewbaka live on Endor? It makes no sense. . .

Re:Body Count (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1227336)

World Wars I and II which killed the most number of soldies and civilians in the history of mankind, were brought about primarily because of the "new world" economic policies and capabilities of Europe.

Hmmm . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1227337)


Hmmm, waitaminute -- if the vmlinuz[-\.0-9]+ file is just a symlink to a normal vmlinuz somewhere, wouldn't you just be replacing the file it links to? Or is real kernel in an unexpected place?

Anyhow, I guess I made the mistake of assuming that my copy Red Hat is representative of Linux in general. Bummer, that spoils the joke, at least partially. Unless you want to consider it an anti-Red Hat joke, but that wasn't the intent, and anyway there are probably a lot of lifelong Debianites who've never seen that numeric cruft at all.

Re:Is this a private party or can anyone play. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1227345)

Unlike you, Mr Sterling's writings is interesting and well crafted.

Re:Stairway to Karma (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1227347)

This is pretty good. Someone with some musical tallent should post an mp3 of this.

Re:Is this a private party or can anyone play. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1227348)

Enough of this, I'm off to eliminate some waste. (unlike Mr. Sterling I do this in the restroom instead of a magazine article)

Seems to me you do it here...

Re:The above is just a crude pic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1227349)

You now you could always wait a few minutes for the moderators to hit the forum, and some people who have read the article to intelligently reply. In fact if you had read the article and thought about it for a little bit then you most likely would not have had your eyes offended.

It's too pessimistic, even as satire. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1227350)

I think, if there were awards for cynicism given out, Mr. Sterling would easily take at least second place.

I also tend to agree with the fellow who said that Sterling seems to have consumed more than his share of lead paint flakes. I feel sorry for the fellow if he truly believes that he can (a), predict the future at all, even in satire, and (b), really believe that the whole world is going to turn out as he describes.

The future is exactly what we want to make of it. Every second, every minute, every hour, every day, we're CREATING the future in God only knows how many different forms and ways.

There's no way to predict how things will turn out as a whole, but I will say that what goes around invariably comes around. Those who put out greed, hate, and other dark aspects will get them back upon themselves as a group, and will eventually self-destruct (unfortunately causing much collateral damage to the rest of us along the way).

Those who strive to be just a tiny bit better of a person every day, who are not afraid to "push the envelope" as it were, will be the ones who really can make a positive difference.

The statement that one person cannot change the world may or may not be accurate (it depends on how one defines 'change' in that context), but look at what's happening already with open-source. Linux, and the other open-source Uni*es, have succeeded because a whole bunch of people got together and decided "We don't want Microsoft to be the only option."

While a new OS may not necessarily be what saves the planet, the driving force that created said OS just might if applied in different directions.

So. Are you going to snap at someone today, or acknowledge a polite "good morning" ?

Think about it.

Re:Body Count (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1227351)

I think Bruce is wrong about the body count. The new economy is going to have an amazingly high body count. In a world of cheap, free, or open source everything, some entire industries will be put of business. There will be lots of upset people and there will be some BIG conflicts, disputes that will make the current MPAA v 2600 shit look like a minor pissing contest. Sooner or later some people who find themselves displaced in the new economy are going to bring out the big guns. I hope I can find someplace nice to retire before the shooting starts.

Re:coke or pepsi? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1227352)

er, In case you are confused, I think the original anonymous coward meant your signature, e.g. "I am.. therfore I think.". Not your coke/pepsi war thing.

Re:Reply letter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1227353)

i like that too, but that isn't my page. it is just a fan of mine, tee-hee. hooray. thank you.

Re:fucking moron (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1227354)

And your point is?

Me too! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1227355)

Are you JonKatz?

Re:Comments on the letter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1227356)

God I love linking that page.

Have you ever spent some time thinking about why that might be? well, I'll tell you. It's beacuse you're an immature moron.

Re:Linux Virus Alert (formatting corrected) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1227357)

Now that was some funny stuff =)

Re:What Slashdot Won't Say (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1227360)

I bet CmdrTaco & co feel pretty smug. "We're no longer an internet company (ANDN), we're a linux company (LNUX)."

Problem is, 75% of linux companies will be bankrupt in 5 years. Actually, more like 100%.

Don't worry Taco, your Perl skills will come in handy when you're begging for quarters on the corner of Main & East Street!

SHOULD BE (+2, TROLL) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1227361)

funny shit.

Growing food in the desert (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1227364)

Actually this is being done in southern Spain, where there is very little rainfall. Land is cheap, so farmers take big sheets of clear plastic and make tents over big areas to keep the humidity in, and grow crops that way. Apparently it's quite economical.

Re:coke or pepsi? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1227365)

yea, I'll admit its slightly amusing. I just felt like being an arrogant, pedantic bitch at that particular moment :]

Re:fucking moron (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1227366)

It does, however, help to state your premise in complete sentances. At least Sterling has bothered to do that.

Re:2035 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1227367)

It's 2038, and a 64-bit clock will do.

MODERATE UP (INTERESTING) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1227368)

great stuff.

Re:SHOULD BE (+2, TROLL) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1227369)


funny shit.

Thanks, I'm glad you liked it. Too bad I was in a rush to get it posted and fucked up the first time :( Can't win 'em all.

--80md

Chew on this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1227375)

lets say amabook.com goes chapter 11, what assets do they have to sell off? Book racks? Surely they don't own any servers, probably lease them.

now lets say ibmish goes chaper 11, it would be a wonderland of assets!

just something else to worry about

Re:coke or pepsi? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1227376)

No offense but your quote is idiotic. Perhaps you ought to read Descarte instead of just transposing one of his misused conclusions.

fucking moron (0)

tofupup (14959) | more than 14 years ago | (#1227377)

take a computation theory class ... such problems are undecidable at best ... it is not even in the ball park as p=np ... this up there with the halting problem ... there is something called finite injury ... which states at best you can get/approximate a finite amount of information out of these class of problems ... morons ... people forget there is a science behind computer science

Re:coke or pepsi? (0)

nerdling (72635) | more than 14 years ago | (#1227378)

/me thwacks the anonymous descarte-quoting coward

(I thought it was funny vassago :( )

U can't dispute what can't be proven or disproved (0)

bubbasatan (99237) | more than 14 years ago | (#1227379)

Well, for starters, this guy is obviously speaking in such vague generalities that we can neither prove nor disprove his vision of the future. That's like what soothsayers, fortune tellers, psychics, etc. do. They make vague predictions that can be interpreted so widely that they always seem to be right. Yeah, there will be bear markets in the future. There will also be bull markets. There will be depressions, recessions, prosperity, and maybe even some more irrational exuberance for good measure. That's the way of market cycles. Will we ever gain complete control of the market? I doubt it, but we probably will come to understand more than we do now. Just remember, for one question we answer, multiple new questions will be posed which seem even more impossible to fathom. Never trust anyone who claims they can see the future and have all the answers. I prefer to function as intelligently as I can in the present as well as the future, and I at least know enough to state that I don't know it all. IMHO, this guy is a fraud.

Re:Linux Virus Alert (formatting corrected) (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1227381)

The only time one of my Linux machines had those viral numbers appended onto the vmlinuz filename, it turned out that the machine had been infected with the RedHat virus. I, of course, got rid of it by installing the Slackware anti-virus program.

The virus writers at Red Hat, in their infinite wisdom, create a symbolic link to their virus-infected vmlinuz-x.xx.xxx-vx.x file named plain vmlinuz. In the old days (don't know if it's still the case, hope to never have to find out again) they then hardcoded the vmlinuz file with all the number croft into lilo.conf. End result- you could recompile the kernel as much as you liked, when you typed 'lilo' to enable it, the same old crappy binary kernel that RedHat installed would be booted.

It's the kind of sickness we have come to expect from the pimpmongers at RHAT.

Re:the future is now (1)

Drel (1281) | more than 14 years ago | (#1227382)

I have to disagree with two points. First, you state:

> among other things, the Green Revolution in
> agriculture and the plummeting price of food
> means that the Great Plains aren't getting
> chewed up by clueless undereducated farmers
> as they were in the 1930s

Well, that's a loaded statement; I'll ignore the elitism, but the fact is, most of the farming areas of the U.S. are now being chewed up by enormous corporations who care much more about profit and yield today, than any long term land management. The possible ramifications of the lack of species diversification in food crops (if sub-type X produces more than sub-type Y, screw sub-type Y, even though it may prove to be resistant to a as yet unknown disease) could make the Great Dust Bowl look like the bald patch on your lawn. Let's not forget poorly thought out, supposed "Green" policies, like the introduction of Cane Toads into Australia.

Second, you state:
> People like Sterling probably didn't see any
> point in financing Columbus' expedition, either.

This is a fictional essay, Sterling is not saying that he doesn't believe space exploration was worthless, he just believes (backed up by most of the research I've seen) that space exploration will lack _monetary_ profit in the near future.

The above is just a crude pic (1)

Creed (8917) | more than 14 years ago | (#1227388)

Everyday I find a new reason to get news elsewhere. Moderate it down. It is meaningless crap.
Intelligent conversation on /. has certainly gone down the tubes.

Re:Is this a private party or can anyone play. (1)

Shoeboy (16224) | more than 14 years ago | (#1227393)

Seems to me you do it here...
What do you think /. is?
--Shoeboy

Re:Of Mars and the Gobi (1)

TWR (16835) | more than 14 years ago | (#1227394)

Now if we could grow food in the desert -- that would be something else

Take a look at what the Israelis are doing in the Negev; there are farms in the middle of a desert.

-jon

Re:Body Count (1)

TWR (16835) | more than 14 years ago | (#1227395)

Wonder what he meant by that. Did he mean unemployment? Accidental deaths? Failed corporations?

I think he's referring to labor unrest, more than anything else. Early attempts at unions (unions were a direct result of industrialization) were often met with violence on both the part of the workers and the factory owners. The factory owners often had government help in cracking skulls.

Getting mangled by the rather unsafe machines used at the dawn of the industrial revolution or things like the Triangle Factory Fire in New York (many women burned to death in a shirt factory in NYC because the doors were barred to prevent people from leaving before their shifts ended.) also produced some rather high body counts.

-jon

Re:market fallacies (1)

SeanNi (18947) | more than 14 years ago | (#1227396)

> you do realize that those books are fiction, right?

True, but the person who wrote them was an economist. (As well as a chemist. As well as a linguist. As well as... he knows lots of subjects.) But the point is, Asimov knows what he's talking about when he discusses such things. He did a good deal (ie: several years' worth) of research before he wrote the first Foundation trilogy.

At any rate, from what the short blurb at the bottom of the Fortune story said, I'd say Asimov has better credentials to has name than this Bruce Sterling guy.

(Of course, if anyone knows better... ie: if, in fact, Bruce Sterling is a noted economist or something, feel free to point the fact out!)

It's a fine line between trolling and karma-whoring... and I think you just crossed it.
--
- Sean

A bit weak. (1)

tietokone-olmi (26595) | more than 14 years ago | (#1227403)

Not what I'd expect from Sterling. Still, the idea of shooting lawyers on sight sounds kind of neat :-)

ObFilthyAmerikaners: The writer really needs to look up "communis[mt]" in the dictionary.

bruce sterling... (1)

delmoi (26744) | more than 14 years ago | (#1227404)

Wow, the whole time from when I saw this story on slashdot, until the time I actually loaded the link, I thought it was talking about Bruce Perns. I really read slashdot to much, I think....

[ c h a d &nbsp o k e r e ] [dhs.org]

About global goveremnts (1)

seth_hartbecke (27500) | more than 14 years ago | (#1227407)

First of all, no war need be fought for a global government to happen.

Second of all, the current governments will not disappear under the one world government.

So to figure out what will make a world government happen we must first outline what a government is.
Economy--Every government is messing with their economy, even if they claim that they are not.

Control of an economy is very critical to being a government. If a country's economy fails the people leave and the government looses funding. There have also been many people who theorize that future war will rarely be fought with bombs, but with threats to close up shop and move all our business out (you can see some of this happening now). What is an army other then something to go in a kill people and destroy infrastructure. Would you not rather those people come to your country and make money that you can tax to run your government with?

Ok, so now that I put down that control of the economy is the foremost thing that defines a government let me explain how a one world government can happen without a war. Globalization. As companies spread out over the world they will demand that the local terrifies and other import/export regulations be dropped, eventually the governments will have to agree. Also, these companies are going to get into trouble sometimes so international courts will be setup to solve these problems....

See where I am going with this? A one world government will not happen some day when China, USA, or other major power starts marching across the globe quashing the local governments in its path. Instead the present governments will be gradually giving up power to international bodies (because their citizens demand it). Take a look at the European Union, see the future there.

And there will eventually come a day when people start realizing one by one that we have a one world government where the present governments are really more like provinces or states.

Re:the future is now (1)

KTrainor (34264) | more than 14 years ago | (#1227413)

Rodentia said:
the attitude is all now. That jaded, po-mo chatter is sooo yesterday. In two years this
article will look as dated as a 1-gig Athlon.


Another poster commented that the 1990s don't look very much like SF writers in the 1960s said they
would, either. Bang on. Sterling's whine about the deteriorating ecosystem totally ignores the
progress being made...among other things, the Green Revolution in agriculture and the plummeting
price of food means that the Great Plains aren't getting chewed up by clueless undereducated
farmers as they were in the 1930s. Cheap water filtration is getting us to the point
where you have to look really hard to find polluted water systems
in North America and Europe...and the rest of the world is catching up.

Sterling's notion of the world turning its back on space is a non-starter also...one of these days
soon we'll be up there, because it's raining soup and NASA isn't the only outfit that can afford bowls any more.

People like Sterling probably didn't see any point in financing Columbus' expedition, either.

Re:Misunderstanding the market (1)

Foogle (35117) | more than 14 years ago | (#1227414)

Wow. I was just like "What the hell does a bicycle have to do with the market??" for good two minutes. Then I read it again.

-----------

"You can't shake the Devil's hand and say you're only kidding."

A 64-bit clock is enough (1)

Craig Davison (37723) | more than 14 years ago | (#1227416)

1. Plan 9 is dead. Maybe you're thinking of Hurd.
2. Hopefully nobody will be doing date-ciritical things on a 32-bit UNIX box in 30 years. How many 16-bit PDPs are in service doing useful things today?

... But we've all been through this before.

Re:Cute, but not much else (1)

ronfar (52216) | more than 14 years ago | (#1227429)

If you can find a copy, Futuredays by Isaac Asimov is just that. Basically, Asimov analyses a bunch of 19th Century French Trading cards based arount the theme of the year 2000. They contain things like mechanical hairdressers, motorized battle wagons, and radium heating (i.e. a piece of radium suspended in a thing that looks something like a fireplace... scary!)

The biggest thing in these cards was of course, airtravel and travel in general. I think the people who made them saw the way travel was going to change the world, though they didn't get the details right. The had no ideas about the information age, but after all that would be easily eclipsed by the huge travel revolutions that was occuring in the late 19th and early 20th century.

The biggest problem of today, and a problem that gets dressed up in many different ways is the concept of greed. People have a tendency to think that greedy people are the ones who have the most chance of changing things in the world, and that non-greedy people are ultimately not going to matter. This kind of social pressure reminds me of a story I heard that comes from England during The Great War (WWI). Ok, the story involved a young communist who was a conscientious objector to the war. (Incidentally, I am not promoting communism here, but I believe in giving people all the facts in a given situation. I personally think that the communist systems that have existed in the world have often been run by people motivated by greed.) To him, the war was being fought for the upper class that were his real enemies (in all the participating countries) and the soldiers who went off to fight the war were fools. However, throughout the country, able bodied men who refused to go off to fight the war were branded as cowards. No one was willing to look very deeply at their philosophical objections to the war. This fellow finally went off to fight in the war after a pretty young girl dropped a white feather in his lap (i.e. saying in a silent way, "You are healthy and you are here in England and not at the front, therefore, you are a coward.")

That's the real trouble with our modern greed based culture, TV shows like "Who wants to marry a multi-millionaire?" and the like show that money and material success are the true measure of a person. Most people would chuckle at a person who had a chance to sell out and make millions who chose instead to help society, at least that's the impression I get from the media. The first thing they'll do is castigate the person for naiveté, the next after that is impugn the person's motives, "No one is that altruistic, it must be a scam."

The big question though, is are greedy people happy? I would say that people who are greedy will be on the whole less happy than people who are not. They'll be more driven, perhaps, more ambitious, but not happy. This has nothing to do with rich or poor, either, I'm talking about people who think of greed as a cardinal virtue, whatever their tax bracket.

One thing any individual can do is to drop the "Greed is good" mentality from their own mind. There are better motivations to get you to success, such as idealism. Greed is just an artificial lust, it is an unfulfilled desire. Unfulfilled desires lead to suffering until they are rejected (ahem, this is not my own idea, of course, it comes from Buddhism) or fullfilled. I wonder when you look at some of these incredibly rich people driving things like the battle over deCSS who always want more, more, more if greed is even a fulfillable desire?

I think greed is more like compulsive gambling. A desire that goes on, without end.

Re:Of Mars and the Gobi (1)

Minupla (62455) | more than 14 years ago | (#1227433)

But why would you want to? I mean, the world isn't at all crowded yet

Oh I don't know. Really, what would be the difference between a desert city, with Martian domes and your current metropolis. You'd have city as far as your eyes could see. Parks, and movies. How often does the average city dweller get out of the city? And usually they get there on a plane to some island out in the ocean.

I don't think it's as far out as you seem to think. Make it marginally attractive - tax breaks, lower inital prop values, pre-wired for net from the ground up... Frankly I'd prefer to see more of us move to a structure like this, and let some of our currently decimated areas of the earth go back wild so I could enjoy them on my vacation :)...

-- Minupla

Interesting, but verbose (1)

mftuchman (66894) | more than 14 years ago | (#1227439)

I thought it was a decent satire of today's business culture. One wishes he put some interesting economic analysis behind his conclusion - I'm not sure a worldwide currency necessarily implies a lack of diversification.

Occasionally, I think he's way to verbose

So our old-fashioned exuberant market fell right off a cliff. Then we dog-piled so much computer analysis on top of it that it no longer roller-coasters. And except for those colorful mixed metaphors, today's market acts very sensibly and predictably. Basically, our ultrasophisticated market fell to earth, and it can't get back up. Today's market goes nowhere in particular, and it does pretty much nothing at all.
Pretty language, but what is he saying that he couldn't say in two sentences?

---

I really hate to say it but I think... (1)

slashdot-terminal (83882) | more than 14 years ago | (#1227442)

Mr sterling eat one more lead laden paint chip than he should have. This guy could generate one of the biggest grandaddy flames of my entire net life in that little piece but I will try to restrain myself.
The concept that the stock market can be adequately mapped and predicted for starters is not even removely close to being accurate. For many, many, many, years our most brilliant mathmeticians and physicists have attempted to use chaos theory int predicting the stock market and while there is some rudimentary ability to predict what it will do it is an open system not a closed one. This is not something that could be done even if technology could advance to the level on Star Trek. As an investment community grows the community changes and is prevented from doing the kinds of things he mentions.
Secondly on all of his so called social knowledge and government I would also have to agree. If anything we have seen policies that have increased the ability of one to be liberal we have seen in just say 40 years: fair and equal traetment of minorities (at least better than what it was before), sexual orientation (some problems but generally ok), focusing the moral compass (we at least see the people who are getting murdered instead of them getting glossed over). Another assumption is that this individual is a "regular joe" that sounds foolish considering that the whole concept of being able to do an analysis of your own cuture and doing logical considerations about all related life isn't something that can easily be attained (I really can't accurately do it and I doubt that anyone else can either not even nobel prize winners). Another concept which is wrong is that people will gradually turn into the type that you would find in Fahrenheight(sp) 451 is also absurd. Even the development of the evil
television hasn't really killed anyone just allowed for more choices. I think that we have seen a remarkable increase in the ability to gain knowledge and facts and to generally educate one another. The concept of a one world government by 2035 isn't even reasonable at all. Think of it if I am rather bad off or I have different opinions than you do you really think that I will willingly join your little government and give up all my rights? Well guess what I see is a rather large country with over 1,000,000,000 people in it who really dosn't want to be conquered add to that the concept that most of our recently developed nuclear delivery and guidance systems are now in their hands I think that at least a third world war will have to be fought in order to get that kind of thing. Also we see the development of suposedly having a large crash of the stock market and a resulting 1930's era depression occuring. I have had relatives that lived then (they are still alive) and from what they have told me and what I
have read that is a little impossible. Organizations like the SEC and the Treasury department prevent all sorts of nastiness from happening. Add to that the problem with his idea of refugees. There is no way in hell that if you have to leave your home like the Oakies (as he so fondly referred to and the "Grapes of Wrath" boy was that a mistake on his part!)
People who have nothing will not be able to have the finacial resources to have cellular phones, laptops, and web pages.
I just think that the mix of Bradburry and Orwell in this guy's rants is a little extreme and unfounded because there are not a single citation or future prediction in the entire piece. This is more like reading a good piece of poreachy science fiction or perhaps anything by Orwell or Bradburry.

Re:market fallacies (1)

zeroth (85997) | more than 14 years ago | (#1227443)

Yes, the market is difficult to predict because the very act of predicting it changes its behavior. It's a positive feedback system. As people try to make predictions faster and faster, the spikes get bigger and bigger. Unless there's some dampening in there, any positive feedback system (that's not at rest) will wind up destroying itself.

--mark
you've all seen the movies of the bridge, right?

Re:Interesting look in to a future economy (1)

gid-foo (89604) | more than 14 years ago | (#1227447)

The US support of the UN is terrible. We only use them as a tool for justifying the use of force internationally. I think the UN is a great idea. The fact that the US decides to snip its balls and not pay what we owe is our fault not the UN's. What are they supposed to do when we won't give our support?

Re:Of Mars and the Gobi (1)

god_of_the_machine (90151) | more than 14 years ago | (#1227448)

Mars structures in the desert. This one does truly intruge me. The concept is taken from his book distractions. I could see this happening. When you think of it, the desert has a lot to recommend it. Homogenious terrain, plenty of solar energy. Lacks H2O but oxygen is in plentyful supply, and H is farily easily obtainable from hydrocarbons with a bit of technological advancment. Wouldn't be the first space application to see real world use.

But why would you want to? I mean, the world isn't at all crowded yet -- we don't have to go live in the desert until the rest of the world is full. If we had the population density of Hong Kong or Singapore in a country like the US or Canada or Russia we have a lot more room for people without having to rely on desert occupation. Now if we could grow food in the desert -- that would be something else! Then we could live in non-Mars-like terrain but still take advantage of the deserts so they won't be empty space. If we could genetically engineer veggies to grow with less water, I bet it could be done.

Of course the solar energy idea is brilliant and I am sure that it will start happening very soon -- depends on the price of energy I suppose. Imagine a desert full of plants and solar panels -- a different world indeeed!

Re:Interesting look in to a future economy (1)

Rantage (96467) | more than 14 years ago | (#1227453)

IMO, if we ever have a single global currency we won't have it ready to roll by 2035 and I think that's due (in part) to a lack of something you mentioned: a universal government.

A universal government could certainly enforce the creation and use of a global currency (well, at least at the commercial level) but barring a massive planetary conflict or sudden outbreak of unification fever, I don't think 35 years is enough time for this.

I don't necessarily agree that you do need a universal government to establish a universal currency. Although my knowledge of European affairs isn't vast, I'm still pretty sure there are individual countries therein which have agreed upon using the Euro. :)

Establishing a global currency in a multi-nation world would take time. Just look at the various multinational treaties languishing in the various parliaments and congresses around the world, awaiting ratification. The "globo" could happen, but again I don't think it would happen by 2035. I think a lot of countries outside of Europe would want to study the Euro's long-term effects on countries that use it before implementing a much larger version.

Online gaming for motivated, sportsmanlike players: www.steelmaelstrom.org [www.steelm...gtargettop] .

Re:Interesting look in to a future economy (1)

Rantage (96467) | more than 14 years ago | (#1227454)

* [...] In fact, it could provide quite good leverage in getting countrys to stop human rights abuses.

I must respectfully disagree. I cite China and the WTO. Weak-willed politicians will always let greed (for money or power) dictate their actions.

Of course, this only works if you trust the UN. And while I do, I get the feeling that many USAers do not. Am I right in saying this?

You may not be far off the mark. To me, the UN appears to be an ineffectual organization when it comes to anything besides issuing "condemnations" and sponsoring food distribution and immunization programs. I've watched with disgust how the UN had been unable to effectively deal with rogue states such as Iraq, Serbia, Libya and North Korea.

In all fairness, however, my country is awfully damn slow in paying the UN....something not widely reported here.

Online gaming for motivated, sportsmanlike players: www.steelmaelstrom.org [www.steelm...gtargettop] .

the future is now (1)

rodentia (102779) | more than 14 years ago | (#1227457)

Other than the cute sci-fi details (greenleafyshade.com [nps.gov] ) and the refraction of the economics, the attitude is all now. That jaded, po-mo chatter is sooo yesterday. In two years this article will look as dated as a 1-gig Athlon.

Re:Interesting look in to a future economy (1)

Fruan (105302) | more than 14 years ago | (#1227459)

A Globo could work with out a global govenment, and I have always held that the introduction on a global currency would be the first major step on the path to a global govt.

The idea would be to have the UN run the currency show: print, mantain etc. And when a counterfieter is found, the UN would call for aid from member countrys*. As you said, a large counterfieting scheme would be awful. I'm rather certain that the good ol' US of A would lend a hand in bringing any wrong doers to justice.

Of course, this only works if you trust the UN. And while I do, I get the feeling that many USAers do not. Am I right in saying this?

-
* Ok, so not every country is a member of the UN, so it wouldn't actually be a globo. However the benifits gained through being a member would most likely bring all those other countrys running. In fact, it could provide quite good leverage in getting countrys to stop human rights abuses.

Re:Predicting the future (1)

Captain Sarcastic (109765) | more than 14 years ago | (#1227462)

More importantly, he's asking a very relevant question: in a world where the value of everything is defined by marketing, and everyone knows it, how is it possible for anything to have value or be intrinsically important at all? If everything is marketing, what matters? Unlike Sterling, I think that society as a whole will react by retreating into religion.

Hmmm... is religion something that people "retreat" into? I'm not meaning to throw bottles from the bleachers here, because I will admit to having little use for religion myself, but I wonder if you're correct about that?

If I may be so bold as to look into my own tea leaves, I think that religion may take a hit from the general fatigues which you suggested (quite astutely, too, I might add!). When religions begin to ply the Internet even more thoroughly than they do now (as members become more net-savvy and access becomes easier), there will be a glut of information, and people will look at the various claims by the different faiths, and either dismiss them as more "over-the-top" marketing or find less differences between the competing creeds.

(N.B. The sig doesn't apply here - I'm not intending to be ironic, as most readers (if any) have probably guessed. :) )

Same as I said years ago, on paper (1)

techwatcher (112759) | more than 14 years ago | (#1227465)

I have predicted, several times, to several persons, and even written a paper (part of a business plan) about how in the future, economists will finally discover the concept of limits (well-known to other mathematicians) because of the Internet, particularly that most popular part of it known as the Web. This guy is correct about the overvaluation, but I doubt he understands exactly which kinds of business models will work. After all, he thought Amazon.Com would someday return a profit sufficient to pay off that enormous capitalization, proving he doesn't even understand the way the 'Net transforms ordinary retailing!

Btw, in a second (smaller) paper, I have described how publishing predictions such as this fellow just made actually produce the result... The entire capitalization machine (based on shares, stocks, etc.) has, via changing technology (and its increasing ubiquity!), become a mechanism with ever-decreasing periodicity and ever-increasingly efficient positive feedback loops (in the engineering sense).

Capitalism is a very specific system (using money to make money) arising from the historically brief age of industrialization... Further, we now live in the age of cooperation and specialization, not competition. Economists who can make this adjustment to a new paradigm are, of course, few and far between! They think the entire world has always run the way it ran for just the past few centuries, and have invested an enormous amount of learning time, professional experience, and ego in it.

Interesting look in to a future economy (1)

NRLax27 (123692) | more than 14 years ago | (#1227470)

After reading this article, I find myself wondering exactly how far away we are from a "globo", universal currency. The idea seems to work at least decently in Europe, right? My first reaction is that a globo would be a wonderful thing, until I really sat down to think about it.

Having a universal economic currency would almost certainly require a universal government. Otherwise, what would prevent some poor country from printing up 2 or 3 extra billion globos, to bail them out of economic crisis? If this were to happen, then the obvious inflation that would occur would in fact be horrible, and could lead to a horrible economic collapse as is portraid in the article.

However, if we just adopt a global government, could that work at all? I know that the world is smaller with today's fast computers and quick internet connections, in addition to telephones and televison, but it still reminds me too much of a modern Roman Empire. Rome was a wonderful empire while it lasted, but the area it covered was just too vast to manage.

So after reading the article, and thinking for a few minutes, I think that the safest possible economic course for the future is to avoid things like the "globo".

Hmmmn.. (1)

jallen02 (124384) | more than 14 years ago | (#1227471)

Heh I have never been a big sci-fi fan. Dunno why.. guess im just lazy but midieval fantasy has always been more interesting to me Some of the time I feel like im trapped in the twenty-first century. I would have liked being a crazy foot solider who only had to live for 20-30 years :-)

ja

My favorite line... (1)

Megane (129182) | more than 14 years ago | (#1227472)

California is full of migrating Okies again, only this time the Okies have laptops, Web pages, and cell phones. It's basically a Grapes of Wrath thing, only they're logging frequent-flier miles.

And reading his writing is a much richer multi-media experience if you've heard him giving readings enough to know his voice, with that California valley accent, so out of place in Texas, fondling every word like stream water rolling over pebbles. Oooooh...

2035 (1)

swale (146852) | more than 14 years ago | (#1227474)

I have always enjoyed Mr. Sterling's work. It has been a while since I read any of his SciFi. In 2035 'nix will run out of ticks. On the 12 hour special New Years shift we mused that we wouldn't be taking another one then. Personally I'll be 85 and hope to see it. Plan 9 or a 128 bit clock?

Re:market fallacies (2)

emerson (419) | more than 14 years ago | (#1227482)

>On the other hand, if everyone adopts your scheme, the result would be the ad absurdum
>situation where everyone wins all the time; surely the market cannot function in such a fashion.

Au contraire, that's exactly what the market is for. The "someone wins, someone loses" mentality about the market is common among lay folks (like myself, I Am Not An Economist), especially those of a scientific bent, as it plays to a certain hypothetical Principle of Conservation of Wealth.

But economics simply doesn't work that way. If that were the case, then taking that concept ad absurdam, we'd all still be having to share the same meager wealth that the first few thousand proto-humans had a few million years ago, among the six billion of us.

Markets exist to generate wealth, not simply to redistribute it. It could be theoretically possible to have an everyone-wins-always market, but your point about uncertainty is valid -- there's just too much chaos there to predict with any more accuracy than, say, the weather.

--

Cute, but not much else (2)

vlax (1809) | more than 14 years ago | (#1227485)

Imagine a science-fiction writer in 1900 looking forward to the level of productivity and automation of 2000. What would he write? Probably nothing very different from what Sterling wrote.

History isn't over, neither is economics. In 1900, many intellectuals forsaw a future of peace and leisure, where everyone would be rich. It didn't happen for them, and it won't happen for us. Conflict is plentiful; markets still fail; governments still fail; there's no real movement towards better medicine for most, much less all, of the people; economists are still better at telling you what went wrong than at predicting what will go wrong next; and wealth still accumulates at the top (even more than it used to).

Recent history is full of the failed attempts of those who believed that markets would act rationally. The LTCM collapse is just the latest in a long line of failed "systems" for beating the averages. People know that won't work at the race track or the blackjack table, and Sterling should know better than to believe it's any different for markets.

Each era's political and economic certainies are the next's discredited superstitions. Don't be so sure it's any different for capitalism various stripes and schools than it was for Marxism's. Sterling's prediction of the end of the Third World at the hands of the 'Net is as premature as the same prediction was at the end of imperialism.

Sterling's discomfort with the commodification of everything is today's problem. I'm already burned out on the Digital Revolution - so are most people. Sterling's anti-historicism - scepticism that progress is leading somewhere - is also today's issue. It was also the issue in 1900, and 1800, and 1600, and 1000 for all I know. We struggle on, finding meaning in history only when it's over.

The real issue is the lack of willingness to work for progress. We don't have convincing goals, or even real expectations that the world can and will improve if we work for it. That is where our malaise comes from - the belief that as much as the world sucks we can't do any better.

I fear Sterling isn't doing much to fight that notion, and the only good excuse for it is that no one else is either.

Depiction, not Prediction (2)

bughunter (10093) | more than 14 years ago | (#1227490)

I'm not the first one to observe that this is a SF short story disguised as a predictive editorial in a financial mag. It's a mistake to read this as an editorial disguised as fiction, though it seems to me to be presented that way.

Those of us who read Bruce's work frequently know that he's got a bunch of futures in his head, and he's not revealing which one he's betting on. In fact, since he revealed this one, I'd be willing to wager it's not the one he's wagering on.

I find it interesting how he's borrowed from several of his recent novels, all of which I've enjoyed immensely. From Distraction (my latest favorite) we have the technologically-inclined economic nomads ('technomads?'), i.e. Okies with Cellphones. And he alludes to the social problems that come with life extension technology, as he depicted brilliantly in Holy Fire. I'm sure there's more but I read most of his other fiction so long ago that plots and titles become blurred.

As an engineer who studies complex systems, however, I have to willfully suspend disbelief in this premis that "you can't repeal the business cycle." My regard for this statement, simply put, is that the business cycle is an emergent process of an artificial system, so by altering the system you can indeed "repeal" any cycle you like. You just have to understand what you've created, and where you've let chaos creep in. By using that verb, Bruce skillfuly makes you infer that it's a natural law, unviolable, predestined.

But the unrepealable business cycle is a very good premise for a work of speculative fiction, and I think he could have milked it for more than just a couple thousand words... and he may yet. O

Moderate this guy up -^ (2)

Venomous Louse (12488) | more than 14 years ago | (#1227498)


Good gravy, the man's making sense! Is that allowed?

Over-reading between the lines (2)

jabber (13196) | more than 14 years ago | (#1227500)

If I draw on my ability to bullshit - earned in English Lit many years ago....

Sterling's quip that the market has been made deterministic by the application of enough computing power suggests that enormous computing power is available.

This computing power can also be applied to making sure that corporations *perform* deterministically - hence the market is deterministic, and there are no misconceptions, hunches or secrets.

Re:market fallacies (2)

Ralph Wiggam (22354) | more than 14 years ago | (#1227506)

Computers don't correctly guess the future of the market because they're perfect. They're correct because people listen to the computers and everyone's computers are very similar. If every computer on Wall Street predicts that AT&T is going to drop, what does everyone do? Sells AT&T. What happens? AT&T's stock price goes down. They touch on this in the movie Pi (where I stole the example from), and obviously the global economy is a more complicated system then that. No matter how stupid or crazy people are, if we turn all the decision making over to the computers, it all becomes predictable.

-B

Re:Interesting, but verbose (2)

maxume (22995) | more than 14 years ago | (#1227507)

I am just being a bitch, but your mangled version is longer than the Shakespear that you quote. I of course realize that if you used the entire speech that you could come up with a more concise version rather easily, but like I said, I am being a bitch.

coke or pepsi? (2)

vassago (23470) | more than 14 years ago | (#1227509)

bruce didn't tell us if coke or pepsi won world war III.

Re:Misunderstanding the market (2)

Foogle (35117) | more than 14 years ago | (#1227513)

What about a business cycle? Surely you don't think that business cycles are caused by company performace -- that would be a very odd coincidence.

-----------

"You can't shake the Devil's hand and say you're only kidding."

The Future... or not? (2)

B. Samedi (48894) | more than 14 years ago | (#1227514)

As usual Sterling has some rather interesting things to say. And as usual some people are taking this as him saying that this is what the future will be. Heinlein once said that it does not pay a prophet to be too specific. When someone does something like this it is more along the lines of "Think about these things and where they are going." This probably won't be the future any more then the 90's were any more like the old pulps but it does make you ask "What is my future (and my children's) and what do I want to do with it?"

Check out his Viridian movement (sorry don't have a link right now; if someone could give it I would be appreciative) and see what it has to say. We do have the world in a grip that is on course to cause some rather interesting consequences. And don't forget the old saying "May you live in interesting times" was a curse.


Of Mars and the Gobi (2)

Minupla (62455) | more than 14 years ago | (#1227519)

Cute. I suspect he'll be proved right on some of it. Load a shotgun with enough pellets and you're bound to hit something. But I doubt we'll see the end of laywers as a profession (even excepting IP laywers). Human nature is just that way, when something goes wrong we want the ability to blame someone, anyone, other then ourselves and the legal system with the lawyers allows that to happen.

Global currency. Could happen, never would have guessed that the EU would agree on the Euro myself.

Predicting the market? Sorry, too much chaos there. We still can't get the weather parterns right, in another 35 yrs we're gonna get something as chaotic as human expectations, buying patterns and new IPOs down pat? No, not buying Bruce.

Mars structures in the desert. This one does truly intruge me. The concept is taken from his book distractions. I could see this happening. When you think of it, the desert has a lot to recommend it. Homogenious terrain, plenty of solar energy. Lacks H2O but oxygen is in plentyful supply, and H is farily easily obtainable from hydrocarbons with a bit of technological advancment. Wouldn't be the first space application to see real world use.

I do disgree with the commercial inviability of space though. I believe that ore mining from asteriods will become commercially viable in the next 40-70 yrs. Which admitably puts us beyond 2035, but not much.

Seti@home. Who knows? It's a lottery, only cheaper :)

Anyways, those are my thoughts, take em or leave me, I don't have any better precognative skills then Bruce Sterling, but I figured I'd load up my shotgun too :)

-- Minupla

Re:Tech (2)

ucblockhead (63650) | more than 14 years ago | (#1227520)

Beware, for every prediction that underestimates the impact of some future technology, there is another that overestimates the impact of some future technology. The same people who failed to see the impact of the computer in 1950 were busy predicting that nuclear power would make energy so cheap that it would go unmetered.

If you read a lot of that era's SF, you'll notice that nearly all of the exciting trends of the second half of the century were missed while nearly all of the new, exciting technologies the stories talked about didn't pan out. It is like Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, set around now, which has a fully functioning moon base controlled by one computer with 70k of core memory.

If you look at the SF of the fifties (and any other descriptions of the future) you'll see that it is all about atomic power and spaceships. Barely a word about things like computers, biotechnology and the like. It is very possible that "nanotechnology" is the flying car of 2050.

Re:Interesting, but verbose (2)

ucblockhead (63650) | more than 14 years ago | (#1227521)

He's talking about the whole half-page soliloqy, not the "to be or not to be, that is the question" excerpt that is always quoted.

Re:Cute, but not much else (2)

ucblockhead (63650) | more than 14 years ago | (#1227523)

Imagine a science-fiction writer in 1900 looking forward to the level of productivity and automation of 2000.

You don't have to imagine. Just read Bellamy's Looking Backward, which was written in 1887 and describes the world of the year 2000.

A fascinating read.

"Distraction" (2)

ucblockhead (63650) | more than 14 years ago | (#1227524)

This follows many of the same themes as his recent novel, Distraction, though IMHO, the cause he gave for the economic collapse was pretty silly. But anyway, that book expanded on a lot of the same themes, as an examination of a "high-tech" depression. One of the interesting differences between the twentieth century's depression is that he at least implied that things like food weren't necessarily hard to get. That they were cheap enough that even the very poor had enough to eat. (And we already see that trend starting in this country). But the economic depression left people disenfranchised none-the-less.

Re:U can't dispute what can't be proven or disprov (2)

TheCarp (96830) | more than 14 years ago | (#1227540)

I hate to say it...but it is time to drag out the
old clue bat.

> Well, for starters, this guy is obviously
> speaking in such vague generalities that we can
> neither prove nor disprove his vision of the
> future.

Even if he said exactly that "on this date AT&T
stock will fall to X" you still can't prove or
disprove it until that date comes.

You simply can not possibly "prove or disprove"
furtue events, until that day comes. The best you
can do is talk abou tprobability of it happening.

> Never trust anyone who claims they can see the
> future and have all the answers. I prefer to
> function as intelligently as I can in the
> present as well as the future, and I at least
> know enough to state that I don't know it all.
> IMHO, this guy is a fraud.

He is a fraud? Please point me to where it is
stated that this article is anything but fiction?

Is douglass adams a "Fraud" because he wrote about
the earth being destroyed by a Vogon Constructor
fleet, who were making a hyberspace bypass?

The article was merely a fictional acount of what
the author sees as a possible future. The intent
of fictional acounts of this type is NOT to
accuratly predict the future...rather...it is
(usually) to present a world which we can hold
up and compare to our own (in this case a world
that has been ravaged by the lack of forethought
of our own world). The purpose is to make people
think about the world that they live in now and
to reflect on current day values and trends.

I fail to see how this is fraud.

Re:cultural cycles? (2)

TheCarp (96830) | more than 14 years ago | (#1227541)

> By cultural cycle I refer to the lower class
> citizens (or whatever they were referred to at
> anypoint in time) coming out of the shadows to
> smack around the powerful every 30 or 40 years.
> In the early 1900's there was the labor
> movement, in the 50's and 60's we had civil and
> social movements. In general these things lead
> to a better society, even if it wasn't
> revolutionary. The time may be coming again soon

The more I think about it...the more I am apt to
agree with you...however its not exactly the lower
class comming out and beating the upper class.

These changes seem to start in the upper class.
(not the top of the upper class...more the
middle of the upper class). People who would be
considered philosophers or thinkers....who
disagree with the current system fundamentally.

Look at the "Labor Movement". The upper class were
abusing the lower class. People worked long hours
for shit money. Working conditions were dangerous.
There were little or no protections for workers.

The labor movement, unions etc, grew out of
socialist and communist ideas. Those ideas however
came from men like Karl Marx.

Who was Marx? Son of a Lawyer. Educated in law
and philosophy. He was no low class worker. He
was a social philosopher. It was the ideas of men
like Marx, Engles and several others that helped
oranize and galvanize the lower class.

Face it, the average lower class worker does not
want to analyse and think about larger issues
like economics or social justice etc. Why do
you think television is so popular? After a
hard days work, people just want to sit down and
turn their mind off. (I admit...after a stressfull
day - I sometimes do the same - luckily I don't
have too many stressful days)

However...once enough members of the upper class
(again not usually the top people...as they tend
to have too much vested in the status quo) are
disenchanted with the way things are...then things
start to happen.

One of the reasons that I see republican democracy
as so dangerous is that it attempts to short
circuit this cycle of social progress. (yes, now
I am digressing). It sets up a small and powerful
elite, who are chosen by their wealth (afterall
it takes real money to run a campaign and get
elected to a high level of power) and ability
to persuede people.

The cheif effect of this is to make the people
think they have power because they have choice.
In truth the power is still with the main power
groups because they are the ones that choose what
the peoples choices are. In the end the system
caters to the rich and powerfull, while it
pacifies the general populace.

All they need to do is ocasionally make an issue
of something, then take decisive action on it. In
essence, throw the people a bone. Make them feel
important.

Then again...I wouldn't doubt that marx said
similar things about the bougeois. As much as
I think the system is setup to short circuit
that social cycle, I still feel that things ARE
changing despite it.

Then again...thats not surprizing...one only
need aply some of the basic Erisian principals
to it....remembering that anything which attempts
to impose order, in the end results in more
disorder. Perhaps the worst "they" can do is
slow the cycle down like a poorly constucted dam
and someday it will just explode with more
force then before?

hmmm... time will tell I supose.

ok...I have rambled enough.

Body Count (2)

348 (124012) | more than 14 years ago | (#1227543)

And unlike the Industrial Revolution, the New Economy had an amazingly low body count.

Wonder what he meant by that. Did he mean unemployment? Accidental deaths? Failed corporations?

Re:Misunderstanding the market (2)

348 (124012) | more than 14 years ago | (#1227544)

What about a bicycle? Surely you don't think that bicycles are caused by company performace -- that would be a very odd coincidence.

Stairway to Karma (2)

Trollmastah (129873) | more than 14 years ago | (#1227545)

There's a poster who's sure all that's +3 is gold
And he's trollin the stairway to karma
And when he gets there he knows if the posts are all flames
With a troll he can get what he came for
Woe oh oh oh oh oh
And he's trollin the stairway to karma

There's a +5 on the post but he wants to be sure
And you know sometimes threads have two moderatorsBR> In the post by the top there's a karma whore who sings
Sometimes all of our posts are for Linus Woe oh oh oh oh oh
And he's trollin the stairway to karma

There's a +2 I get when I flame with the rest
the fear that Jon Katz may be leaving
In these threads I have seen karma whores form a ring
And the voices of those who stand moderated Woe oh oh oh oh oh
And he's trollin the stairway to karma

And it's whispered that soon, if we all call the tune
Then the zealots will lead us to reason
And a new day will dawn for those who stand long
And the thread will echo with laughter And it makes me wonder If there's a minus one in your future
Don't be alarmed now
It's just a dump points for the moderater

Yes there are two paths you can go by
but in the long run
There's still time to change the road you're on Your thread is humming and it won't go because you don't know
The taco's calling you to join him
Dear poster can't you hear the wind blow and did you know
Your stairway lies on the honest thread

And as we wind on down the thread
Our karma taller than our souls
There walks a poster we all know
Who shines insight and wants to show
How everything he posts turns to gold
And if you listen very hard
The post will come to you at last
When all are whores and whores is all
To be a flamer and a troll
Woe oh oh oh oh oh
And he's trollin the stairway to karma

There's a poster who's sure all that's +3 is gold
And he's trollin the stairway to karma
And when he gets there he knows if the posts are all flames
With a troll he can get what he came for
And he's trollin the stairway to karma.

Re:Cute, but not much else (2)

ArsSineArtificio (150115) | more than 14 years ago | (#1227547)

History isn't over, neither is economics. In 1900, many intellectuals forsaw a future of peace and leisure, where everyone would be rich. It didn't happen for them, and it won't happen for us. Conflict is plentiful; markets still fail; governments still fail; there's no real movement towards better medicine for most, much less all, of the people; economists are still better at telling you what went wrong than at predicting what will go wrong next; and wealth still accumulates at the top (even more than it used to).

This shows an extremely serious lack of historical perspective. Consider this:
We *do* live in a "future of peace and leisure".

At the turn of the century, the forty-hour workweek was a goal, not a norm. Virtually everyone works much less hard now than they would have had to a hundred years ago, to maintain an equivalent lifestyle. Do the majority of people work sun-up to sundown on farms or in coal mines? No... they clock their 40 sitting behind a desk or standing behind a counter (in a heated building, no less!) and go home to enjoy their leisure.
As far as a world of peace is concerned, well, that didn't happen, although it should be noted that even a conflict of some important scope, the Persian Gulf War, involved a minute fraction of the population of the coalition nations. Compare that to the American Civil or Franco-Prussian wars, if you like.

It's also an amazingly pervasive myth that income is "accumulated" more unfairly today than before. In the United States, at least, virtually nobody remains in the lower class their entire life. According to BLS statistics, much of the bottom 20% can be counted on to reliably migrate to the top 20% like clockwork within twenty years. (I once wrote a graduate economics paper on the subject... it's amazing to actually look at the numbers. The potential for mobility in the modern world is literally unlimited.)

Besides, the definition of "poverty" would be unrecognizable to people of a hundred years ago. Today's poor all own automobiles? They eat meat in almost every meal? Forget universal radios... color televisions? Clean, heated, running water?
What about access to "better medicine for all the people"? You mean practically nobody dies in childbirth anymore, no matter how poor they are? You can buy a bottle of painkillers at the store for half an hour's wage? We don't even have polio or smallpox?

I could go on and on. The fact is, folks, the twentieth century was a smashing success for increasing the lot of the common man. It's not too much of an exaggeration to say that we don't have poor people anymore, at least by 1900 standards. Of course I'm only referring to the West, and of course there are still those who live in subhuman conditions (e.g. the homeless). But misery ain't what it used to be. And those intellectuals of 1900 weren't very far off the mark.

-----
ASA
--------------------------------------------- ----------------------

Re:cultural cycles? (2)

LeSwoosh (158749) | more than 14 years ago | (#1227548)

Sure, there is a bit of a cultural waveform visible in America. Loosely following along in Millman's trend we had emancipation in the 1860's. Earlier than that and I don't know my obscure history of people's rights history to say. I suppose you can go back as far as the War of Independance and call it the main event, the initial splash, the cultural upheaval big bang.

But like its physical analog of a rock dropped in a stream, this cultural pattern unfortunately also has a trend of getting weaker with time. The cultural wave trend exists wholly within the context of the initial splash. The power of the waves must weaken otherwise every 30 or 40 years we'd have another War of Independance.

Its running down, slowly. Even if this perceived pattern is real, it will eventually smooth out to near imperceptable levels. I feel we are almost there as we speak. What exactly did the 60 give us? Miniskirts and Happy Faces and Bob Dylan? Perhaps the best thing we gained out of the sixties is a general awareness of the abuses of power, or perhaps we knew it all along. What concrete changes were made back then? And what about now? Grassroots organizations today, although numerous and determined, accomplish small things on small scales. Why? Because as we have grown, so have the powers that be. We have more resources and yet so do they. Rest assured that any change we enact is more than negated in some other area outside our influence or off the radar. Short of another revolution, this wave pattern tha began with the American Revolution is almost imperceptable.

Now we must also consider this: there is nowhere else to run to. Back in the heyday of English Colonialism, the early settlers found it relatively easy to populate and organize the North American continent and eventually seperate from the mother country. But the disenfranchised today have no such luxury. The global population is too great and the landmass too limited to support any major exodus. And we wont stop breeding. There exists nowhere on Earth today that can be to us what North America was to the settlers back then. So we are left with the waning cultural wave patterns, visible today in the same way that the the cosmic background radiation left over from the big bang is visible with a sensitive telescope.

As a people, we have nowhere else to go and nothing new to see. At this point, the human race is almost like a bunch of rats in a covered box, and breeding. We feed on ourselves. All this brou ha ha about the market and a global currency is just another new rat for us to turn to for answers, but in the end its just another rat. Bruce Stering can predict what he wants about the market. I predict that if we don't find a way get off this planet, and soon, we will become rats in a box on a sinking ship.

What Slashdot Won't Say (3)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1227549)

NEW YORK -- The Internet's biggest bull just turned into a big bear. Merrill Lynch's Henry Blodget became one of Wall Street's best-known analysts by making outlandish predictions about Internet stocks.
For example, Blodget forecast that Amazon.com's stock could hit a price of $400 at a time when it was only trading for only $240 per share.

But yesterday, Blodget changed his tune, predicting that the vast majority of Internet companies will be bankrupt within five years.

Of all Internet companies, "75 percent will disappear within five years, and 75 percent will never make money, or sell themselves," Blodget said at the Silicon Alley 2000 Internet conference.

He declined, however, to predict which companies would survive and which would die.

For investors, Blodget advised a scattershot approach to investing in the Internet sector, in hopes that one or two "home runs" would provide enough gains to offset losses from the other holdings.

But he also warned that newcomers to Internet investing may be too late, comparing the phenomenon to the Gold Rush of the 1800s.

"Ultimately, the real latecomers find they are buying piles of dirt," he said.

He said that since 1995, the industry has grown from one Internet company, America Online, with a total market value of $1 billion, to more than 300 companies with market capitalization of $1 trillion. But looking into the next five to 10 years, Blodget expects the flow of capital to slow.

Those bearish comments were taken to heart by shareholders in Internet stocks, most of which moved lower yesterday.

The Nasdaq composite index, where many Internet stocks trade, fell 29.57 to 4,754.51, its first down day this week.

But Blodget reserved some of his speech to make bullish comments on a select handful of Internet stocks, which responded by rallying in a big way.

Blodget said, for example, that there's good value in wireless, business-to-business and Internet infrastructure stocks such as Ariba Inc., which rocketed $19.81 to $299.69, and Infospace.com, which traded up $23.06 to $261.06. All stock quotes are as of the 4 p.m. close.

As for Doubleclick, which has experienced a selloff in recent weeks on worries that it improperly gathered information about its customers, Blodget thinks it's undervalued.

"I think the privacy concerns will pass at Doubleclick," he said.

Doubleclick gained $2.88 to $83.44 yesterday.

Re:What Slashdot Won't Say (3)

kuro5hin (8501) | more than 14 years ago | (#1227551)

Don't worry Taco, your Perl skills will come in handy when you're begging for quarters on the corner of Main & East Street!

He won't need to beg on the corner. He'll just make one global $quarter and use it over and over, in every store.

:-)

--

Annoying (3)

Creed (8917) | more than 14 years ago | (#1227552)

This sounds like the result of what Chesterson talked about. A sort of cult of progress.
<br>
I guess life sux if all you live for is the next innovation and have no internal ability to fufill the human desire of a meaningful life.<br>
Creed

I'd sure hate to be the one... (3)

ch-chuck (9622) | more than 14 years ago | (#1227553)

who has to blow up one of those 'inflatable cities' - an air mattress is bad enough.

I guess pins are illegal in there, too.

C'ya!

Tech (3)

Kaufmann (16976) | more than 14 years ago | (#1227554)

Other people have already commented on just about every other aspect of this story (some rather well, some not quite so), so I'll restrict myself to the technological aspect.

Basically, I think Bruce is being naive. He's seriously and dangerously underestimating the impact that dirt-cheap molecular nanotechnology may have in the future society. Quite honestly, I just don't understand why - I mean, I understand the skepticism (it's very fashionable nowadays), but this is the kind of thing that just changes everything - everything - and it is coming, hopefully within 20 years. Just as people from the 16th century would be overwhelmed at the rate at which things happen in the 20th century, the nanotech revolution is likely to knock at the 20th century man's door before he even knew what happened. And then Bruce will kick himself for having been pessimistic about technology (which is definitely a rookie mistake, as Mr Clarke will tell you). And then I'll have my revenge. MUAHAHAHAHA!!!!

Well, that's all the ranting I have for now :)

Predicting the future (3)

aphrael (20058) | more than 14 years ago | (#1227555)

In the afterword to Earth, David Brin talks at length about how difficult it is to predict the medium-term future --- it has to be both plausible and surprising (who in 1960 would not have been surprised by the world of 2000?). This is a hard thing to do; the two requirements almost contradict one another. That said, Sterling's piece isn't a bad job of it. No, of course the world won't be exactly as he describes it --- but there are elements of it which could happen, more easily than we think. The bit about fatigue, in particular, is believable; just as increased knowledge about all of the truly horrible things that happen in the world led us, as a culture, to be tired of trying to fix them (there's a large set of literature on what social scientists describe as "compassion fatigue"), constantly chasing after the cool, new technology will lead us to "technology fatigue": the excitement will dwindle. More importantly, he's asking a very relevant question: in a world where the value of everything is defined by marketing, and everyone knows it, how is it possible for anything to have value or be intrinsically important at all? If everything is marketing, what matters? Unlike Sterling, I think that society as a whole will react by retreating into religion. But there will be some sectors that don't --- and while Sterling essentially points to despair as the solution that will emerge, it might be interesting to speculate about what, eventually, would replace such despair.

Re:Interesting, but verbose (3)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 14 years ago | (#1227556)

Pretty language, but what is he saying that he couldn't say in two sentences?
I'll bet you're a lot of fun when people read Hamlet [usyd.edu.au] : "Dude, what's all this `To be or not to be' speech? What can't he just say, `Maybe I'll kill myself, but maybe not, 'cause I'm kinda scared of dying.'"

Yes, brevity and consise expression have their place. But so to detail, metaphor, and simile.

Re:Body Count (3)

ucblockhead (63650) | more than 14 years ago | (#1227557)

Not many data entry personel get their hands accidently ripped off by their machines.

That was pretty damn common around, say, 1830 or so. Early industrial revolution factories were very dangerous places.

You can certainly point to sweatshop like conditions in some areas of high tech, but none of them have the some lethality. I suspect that's what he meant.

Re:An SF story in Fortune... what next? (3)

ucblockhead (63650) | more than 14 years ago | (#1227558)

I think we can more or less take it as a given that whatever the world is like in 2035, it won't be much like this story, for the same reason the 1990s weren't like any of the old SF stories that tried to imagine them.

I suspect Sterling knows this. There are certainly reams of "predictions" in SF that are laughable now. But as you say, it is a mistake to assume that true prediction is the point of SF. Really, there are three sorts of SF "predictions".

  • Descriptions of things that the author thinks will happen.
  • Descriptions of things that the author worries might happen if things don't change, or change in a bad way.
  • Descriptions of ideas that the author thinks are interesting, but not necessarily at all likely.
And of course most stories are mostly a melding of the three. It might be interesting the speculate on which this essay is.

I suspect that it isn't meant to describe "what will happen" so much as it is meant simply to say "what goes up must come down" in regards to the economy.

cultural cycles? (3)

MillMan (85400) | more than 14 years ago | (#1227559)

OK, it's damn hard to predict the future. In fact, its pretty much impossible, anyone who predicts anything correctly has a lot of luck on their side.

So Bruce seems to be extrapolating our current cultural makeup: a cynical and increasingly hopeless and pessemistic society. And as such, while the world sucks and is boring, as he puts in a more elegant fashion, there isn't anything we can do about it.

I like his comments on the business cycle, but he seems to beleive that there isn't a "cultural cycle" as well. I haven't read any of his books (I will soon though, everyone bugs me about reading his books), but my limited studies of history have shown me that there is a cultural cycle as well.

By cultural cycle I refer to the lower class citizens (or whatever they were referred to at any point in time) coming out of the shadows to smack around the powerful every 30 or 40 years. In the early 1900's there was the labor movement, in the 50's and 60's we had civil and social movements. In general these things lead to a better society, even if it wasn't revolutionary. The time may be coming again soon.

Everytime the powerful try to roll back people's rights, things reach a breaking point where these movements seem to happen. People never lose all hope as Bruce seems to suggest. You can't have something without it's opposite being present as well. It's cyclical just like anything else.

That being said I'd have to label Bruce's article as "trendy" more than "insighful". Still, it was a good read.

An SF story in Fortune... what next? (3)

Mendax Veritas (100454) | more than 14 years ago | (#1227561)

Cute, but nothing special. It reads like an off-the-cuff story he gave to Fortune either because they'd asked him for some comments on the future or just because all the usual SF markets turned it down.

I think we can more or less take it as a given that whatever the world is like in 2035, it won't be much like this story, for the same reason the 1990s weren't like any of the old SF stories that tried to imagine them. I re-read some old Larry Niven stories recently; he speculated (probably not too seriously) that the '90s would have manned visits to Pluto and cheap commercial teleportation, but computers don't figure much more into his 1960s vision of the '90s than they did in the real life of the '60s. (Which is precisely the point, I guess; writers tend to imagine the future as being sort of like today except for one or two specific, isolated changes, which isn't how the real world works.)

In a way, what a lot of SF is really about isn't the future, but more how these isolated changes that writers imagine might affect us if we had them today. This story, though, is more like a satire on the present (the joke about companies lasting only 18 months reminded me of Netscape, which lasted somewhat longer than that but was so clearly doomed from the beginning that I never saw the point of its existence other than as a typical Jim Clark get-richer-quick stock scam). As such it's mildly amusing, but it doesn't really say anything new.

Misunderstanding the market (3)

d_pirolo (150996) | more than 14 years ago | (#1227563)

Mr. Sterling seems to misunderstand why fluctuations in the market exist. His analysis seems to imply that flucuations are present only because we don't understand the market. This is not true. While it is the case that buying behavior in the market is controlled to a certain extent by people's perception of the economy, that perception is rooted fundamentally in performance of corporations. If companies are doing well, making good decisions, and producing efficiently, the economy is strong. On the other hand, if companies make bad decisions and subpar products, the economy does poorly. We can analyze the market all we want, but just because we might understand how it works does not mean that all companies will perform equally well all the time. Some companies perform well, some poorly, and the sum total of performance is the single biggest control on market behavior.

Is this a private party or can anyone play. (4)

Shoeboy (16224) | more than 14 years ago | (#1227564)

I can whine in general unspecific terms about capitalism too. If I go several pages will "Fortune" publish me? I can whine about people smoking and drinking and having unprotected sex too. Like Mr. Sterling I'm not having enough sex (unprotected or otherwise) and I resent those who appear to be enjoying life more than I am.
The environmental rants were nice too. Think about this: environmentalism is all about eliminating waste, buisness profitability is also about eliminating waste. Capitalism does not == environmental havoc. The problem is that companies and individuals are shielded from having to bear the cost of their inneficiency thanks to the government subsidizing polluting activities.
Enough of this, I'm off to eliminate some waste. (unlike Mr. Sterling I do this in the restroom instead of a magazine article)
--Shoeboy

Re:market fallacies (4)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 14 years ago | (#1227565)

> Sure, we can pile super-giga computers on the market, analyzing it over and over again, but the main fluctuations will always be there, because of one fact: no matter how powerful the computers, there will always be stupid people running them

A second fact -- or so I suppose it to be -- is that some kind of Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle must surely apply. If you find a scheme that predicts the market perfectly, you start winning consistently. But if you win consistently, someone else has to lose consistently. Ergo, you have changed the market. The other players will either change their strategy or else quit playing. On the other hand, if everyone adopts your scheme, the result would be the ad absurdum situation where everyone wins all the time; surely the market cannot function in such a fashion.

I suppose one possible result is the highly predictible and well behaved market he describes, but I rather suspect that the actual result would be a market that always slipped from under your thumb just as you thought you had it pinned down, leaving the appearance of being even more erratic than before.

--

market fallacies (4)

aarestad (154626) | more than 14 years ago | (#1227567)

Interesting, but my reaction to the author's description of the market in the future seems suspect. Sure, we can pile super-giga computers on the market, analyzing it over and over again, but the main fluctuations will always be there, because of one fact: no matter how powerful the computers, there will always be stupid people running them. GIGO. You can't compensate for human stupidity in any system. There will always be that the market will behave in unpredictable ways - completely chaotically.
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