Prognostications

When a new year rolls around, you can be sure people will make predictions about what awaits us in the coming year. These predictions usually herald either the apocalypse or the dawning of a new golden age of mankind. The degree of doom or jubilee is a function of how close the new year is to the past or coming millenium. A change of decade always seems to bring a sort of tired resignation, with more looking backward in assessment than forward in anticipation.

Today, I stumbled on a conversation about the state of 2010  involving Bruce Sterling, one of the fathers of cyberpunk, and a number of his associates and hangers-on. It began with an e-mail from fellow author Cory Doctorow, who has a young daughter and was feeling some of the weight of that responsibility. Mr. Sterling happens to be the daughter’s godfather, so Cory asked him for his assessment of society at the present time, and in the coming decade, plus a little godfatherly advice. The ensuing conversation churns through 6+ pages, and is well worth reading, both for the commentary by one of our culture’s prominent futurists and also as a case study of intellectual discourse on the internet.

It’s heady stuff, and I don’t agree with all of it (Sterling and company seem to favor quasi-socialist/Green political and social solutions) but it’s also pretty entertaining. Sterling begins by saying a godfather’s proper role is to dispense money, not advice, and proceeds to ramble through just about every topic under the sun: sociology, science, technology, politics, and Brazilian hair gel. Give it a read. There’s also a link to a Sterling short story about architecture and technology partway through, or you can click here for that.

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