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sparky sterling: monkey at bat

Bruce Sterling is a monkey at a typewriter.

I was going to write a long screed about his idiotic "Ten Technologies That Deserve To Die" (prisons, DVDs, but Arbiter over at Spathic not only beat me to it, but really sunk some teeth into it.

And there is today's required reading. Go.


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Michele holds up the following article for mass-ridicule. The ten technologies that need to go away? Nuclear Weapons Coal-Based Power The Internal-Combustion Engine Incandescent Light Bulbs Land Mines Manned Spaceflight Prisons Cosmetic Implants Lie De... [Read More]


I agree with him on the Internal Combustion Engine, but for two different reasons that he misses completely:

1) The dependence on a non-renewable energy supply to fuel the engine that is controlled and exploited by totalitarian regimes who are using the profits to exploit and eventually crumble Western democracy.

2) There are so many other ways that petrochemicals can be used to create plastics and other amazing products/polymers, AND YET WE INSIST ON BURNING THE STUFF FOR FUEL!

I was once a great admirer of Mr. Sterling. He seemed to have a global perspective that I could respect, and firsthand knowledge of the situation on the ground in other countries that let him accurately predict the growth of Radical Islam and it's adoption of Western technologies for their own ends.

Having said that, lately his writings have become less broad and more cynical. This last article constitutes an incredible brain fart on his part.

I think his comments about manned space flight are possibly the most ridiculous I've heard from a so-called futurist. Apparently he's content to let the technology founder until a generation comes along with the ability and the will to push the envelope.

Meanwhile, the rest of us are supposed to exist in a continuously more recycled, conserved ecology, while the whole world winds down around us.

See "Fallen Angels" by Niven, Pournelle, and Flynn if you want my opinion on that concept

ps, Laurence I agree, about the uses of hydrocarbons, but the infrastructure has to be in place to make a major transportation shift. If I could charge my electric car in the parking lot at work (for a fee. Still be cheaper than gas) I would have bought one a long time ago.

I'm not a huge Sterling fan, and I didn't expect to agree with this piece, but honestly, I think it's getting a little misinterpreted. I didn't see it as saying "Stop using these things now!" so much as it was saying "I can't wait for the day when these technologies are made obsolete". Looking at it that way I can agree on most points. Even spaceflight - no, I don't think we should stop working on manned spacefligh; but on the other hand my Heinlein-fueled geek dreams of living to see humanity's future in space aren't going to come true unless we come up with orders-of-magnitude improvements, in safety AND efficiency, over the Wright-brothers level equipment we have now. I will be overjoyed to see the day when humans can jaunt about the solar system without strapping themselves to giant firecrackers or twiddling thumbs for months in an airtight shoebox before reaching their destination.

Maybe my reading comprehension is off. I read it as a satirical piece (Sterling is identified as a "humorist") that points out the shortcomings of some of our vaunted technology. He's right about the cons of DVDs, for one thing; we're getting screwed by unskippable ads, and it won't be long before Kodak and Ford and Hershey's pop up on our screens before a film's menu. It's an observation piece, not a screamy, "left-leaning" (of course, anything we don't like MUST be "left-leaning") manifesto. Lighten up.

Incandescent bulbs are already obsolete. Compact and power-flourescents are much better and efficient.

There's a lot more to like about internal combustion engines than their noise (which I, for one, could do without.) No one has come up with anything practical with the energy density of a tank of gasoline.

Study without thinking, and you are blind; think without studying, and you are in danger.