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Bruce Sterling, Bright Green Futures and Black Swans
Alex Steffen, 18 Oct 10

Worldchanging Ally #1, Bruce Sterling, is interviewed over at Fortykey books, and says a lot of interesting things:

Rhys: You are well-known as an advocate of technology as the optimum solution to future environmental crisis, primarily through ultra-efficient design. I believe that this approach is called ‘Bright Green Environmentalism’ as opposed to the ‘light’ and ‘dark’ green variants, which place stress on individual consumer responsibility and government programs. Were you always ‘bright green’ or did you ever have any faith in ‘light’ and ‘dark’? Indeed, are these three solutions mutually incompatible?

Bruce: Incompatible things can exist within the same world. I'm a "Bright Green" ideologue, but I don't want to repress other means of thought and action. The world's situation is severe. It's not about shallow tricks of today's "technology" solving "the environment." It's about an old, huge, growing threat to world civilization: the climate crisis. That is a two-hundred-year-old planetary problem. It spares no one. No verbal maneuver can escape the science there. It's a worry we will surely share with our great-grandchildren. It's a huge, persistent, global calamity.
The "solutions" we might offer today are like people in 1910 "solving" nuclear warfare. We don't endure the worst of the crisis now, and we don't understand the solutions. I have always known that the Greenhouse Effect was a major threat. I was writing about that in my first books and stories, thirty years ago. The Greenhouse will get worse and worse, every year, until my lifetime ends. Then it will get worse yet. No denial will make any difference. Most affirmations have been worthless, too.
I can tell people that the climate will get worse, because that's the truth. But I'm not a politician, scientist, engineer or financier. I'm just a visionary novelist. I can advocate some things and maybe increase some public awareness of things. Practically speaking, I am not a major actor in this old, colossal, dreadful story. I am just a talkative artist, someone who can smell that future coming. I do smell it. I smell it every day. It smells like your home, on fire.

The interview is promotional for his new novella, out in ebook form, Black Swan:

He twisted the computer and exhibited his screen to me.

I don’t design chips, but I’ve seen the programs used for that purpose. Back in the 1980s, there were thirty different chip-design programs. Nowadays there are only three survivors. None of them are nativized in the Italian language, because every chip geek in the world speaks English.

This program was in Italian. It looked elegant. It looked like a very stylish way to design computer chips. Computer chip engineers are not stylish people. Not in this world, anyway.

Massimo tapped at his weird screen with a gnawed fingernail. “This is just a cheap, 24-K embed. But do you see these?”

“Yes I do. What are they?”

“These are memristors.”

In heartfelt alarm, I stared around the café, but nobody in the Elena knew or cared in the least about Massimo’s stunning revelation. He could have thrown memristors onto their tables in heaps. They’d never realize that he was tossing them the keys to riches.

I could explain now, in grueling detail, exactly what memristors are, and how different they are from any standard electronic component. Suffice to understand that, in electronic engineering, memristors did not exist. Not at all. They were technically possible—we’d known that for thirty years, since the 1980s—but nobody had ever manufactured one.

A chip with memristors was like a racetrack where the jockeys rode unicorns.

It's good stuff. Black Swan is a 2010 Sidewise Award Nominee for Best Short-Form Alternate History. You can order it directly from the publisher's book page.

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Comments

Interesting interview.

I hadn't heard of "Black Swan" before.

I have to say, that's an awfully specific award nomination.

Here's the link to the Amazon kindle edition:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0042G0RRY


Posted by: Stefan Jones on 18 Oct 10

I find it amusing that unlikely, high-impact events have come to be known as 'black swans'. I appreciate how the term arose, but Australia is on the opposite side of the singularity to Juvenal and I ride to work past them nearly every day!

Practically speaking, I am not a major actor in this old, colossal, dreadful story.

Sterling is certainly more major then *me*!! I want to do more, but it's frustrating figuring out what and I suspect a lot of people are in the same bind. The only comfort I can take is that somebody, somewhere, is fulfilling a role, and that I can at least nurture it.


Posted by: Tony Fisk on 18 Oct 10

It is true that the planetary balance began to be destroyed once the chaotic economic development. I wanted only to live well and now we pay the price. We need to rethink their lifestyle and this will be very difficult, if not impossible. In this world where only money matters, do not know if we will succeed. We only hope is left.
Posted by vanzari auto


Posted by: hilarbet on 24 Oct 10

so from one futurist to another, i was just watching jeremy rifkin's talk to the royal society of arts -- http://www.thersa.org/events/vision/vision-videos/jeremy-rifkin-the-empathic-civilisation -- and i'm pretty convinced that he's at least framed the 'solution' correctly as a race condition between global consciousness (the http://empathiccivilization.com/) and entropic decay (climate change).


Posted by: glory on 24 Oct 10

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