In ‘Bruce Sterling : Gothic Chic In The Future Favela‘ Sterling muses on the coming ‘teens (it was written in 2009). We’re no longer digital revolutionaries, but digital natives. In this talk Sterling posits ‘gothic high tech’ as analogue past versus ‘favela chic’ of the future. He hopes these two ‘trends’ or sensibilities will merge.
I say Sterling misses a few things, of which the most important is: culture. One can categorize the old order (gothic high tech) as “moving, interlocking parts”. That representation, I think, is a match made in heaven for the idea of the State as a Pyramid, with a king (or whatever) and a clique of courtiers on top, and a political impotent mass below.
On the other side you have a culture best described as “copy & paste”. One could say that this culture was born some 150 years ago. Not quite, because it’s not unfair to say that James Watt did not invent the steam engine, he simply used “copy & paste” to vastly improve an existing design. When Egypt, following January 25th 2011, shutdown the Internet, Twitter engineers quickly (with some help from Google) came up with @speak2tweet. So the next dictator who wants to suppress a revolution will have to shutdown civilization or else. The reason: “copy & paste”, doesn’t just piggyback on “moving, interlocking parts”, it’s not even a question of “copy & paste” taking over. “Copy & paste” simply is superior to that other system.
So the question of what kind of future sensibility best preserves the present order versus every future novelty, is irrelevant. Someone will surely copy Sterling’s ideas and paste his/her own onto them, and it will grow from there. Or not.