Shapeways, The Community

Shapeways interviews Bruce Sterling

Bruce Sterling is a noted sci fi author, futurologist & speaker. As well as being an award winning author and one of the founders of the cyberpunk movement he is an early and constant booster of Augmented Reality technology and coined the word Spime. Spimes are pieces of technology that know where they are and can reveal their entire history to you. He is also behind a project that hopes to document dead media, founded a green design movement, loves Bollywood movies, is a hacker in the original sense and you really should read his Wired blog Beyond the Beyond.      

Joris Peels: I was wondering if at one point you would be interested in doing an interview about 3D printing/the
future?

Bruce Sterling: Well, man, all I can tell you is that I’m hanging out at a monster science event with labs-on-a-chip and 3d biofactories.

Joris Peels: Sounds good, are there any jet packs?
Bruce Sterling: Only for the microbes.

Joris Peels: What are you making? 

Bruce Sterling: A novel.  Kind of abstract, I know, but somebody’s gotta do it. 

Joris Peels: What will the Bollywood films of the future look like? In 200 years, will there be kissing? 

Bruce Sterling: Well, films are sure not gonna be on “film.”  The Republic of India is sixty years old. Indian cinema is over a hundred years old.  This suggests that there’s likely to be some kind of organized entertainment spectacle in 200 years, but the legal censorship mechanisms and the audience customs that belong to the current political regime are not built for the ages.  The kissing fetish is not a major impediment for Bollywood.  In recent Bollywood hit Dev D., actress Kalki Koechlin plays a high school student who is forced into prostitution because she’s camera=phoned having sex and the file gets uploaded onto the Internet.  Indian sexual politics is moving into an alternate modernity.  Indians who want some raw Indian porn don’t have much trouble finding Indian websites.  Bollywood films of the future are likely to be very Indo-global, but not very much like contemporary Hollywood films.

Joris Peels: If everyone had replicators would people that were able to speak quicker be happier than those that spoke slower? 

Bruce Sterling: Look, “everyone” is never going to have anything.  The human race includes infants, the senile, the mentally retarded, the disabled, people in clinics and prisons, the illiterate, the totally broke, dropouts of all descriptions, refuseniks…  This is like asking what happens when “everybody has a car.”  Everybody’s not gonna have a car, even in an imaginary world where cars cost less than nothing.  If replicators were as cheap as cellphones we wouldn’t be any “happier.” Are guys who yak really fast on cellphones any happier than the rest of us?  Hardly. 

Joris Peels: How long will it take for someone to develop the first prank disease? 

Bruce Sterling: You mean besides “smallpox blankets?”  Maybe massive lethality on entire populations doesn’t count as “pranks.”

Joris Peels: In the future will people still read science fiction? 

Bruce Sterling: “Science fiction” is 80 years old.  Mass-produced commercial fiction is about 250 years old.  “The future” is a very long time.   Do you suppose people will still be “people” forever?  The  human species is only two million years old and the universe is 13.7 billion years old.

Joris Peels: Is Avatar more like Dances with Wolves, Pocahontas or Ferngully?

Bruce Sterling: Dances With Wolves.

Joris Peels: Does it suck?

Bruce Sterling: Not if the intention was to clear a billion dollars with a three hundred million dollar investment.  The Bollywood people I follow are hugely impressed by “Avatar.” 

Joris Peels: Who is the most likely person to be the first to start his own species?  

Bruce Sterling: Somebody not born yet.  A “species” by definition would be required to breed only with itself and not with human beings.  It’s hard to believe that we couldn’t finesse a minor problem like that one.  If you somehow engineer yourself to have four arms and wings, we could just re=engineer your stem cells and restore your so-called “species” to the status quo.  Big deal. 

Joris Peels: If you could resurrect one dead media, which would it be? 

Bruce Sterling: The Incan quipu.  It would be great to learn how those really worked. 

Joris Peels: Would spimes be sad? 

Bruce Sterling: They’re inanimate objects.  I’ve seen some East German plastic kitchen hardware that was pretty sad.

Joris Peels: If every single electronic device was connected to the Internet would: My fridge tweet? 

Bruce Sterling: The Internet is never gonna be connected to everything.  Your fridge could tweet right now if you wanted to invest a few dozen bucks.  Go ahead, help yourself.

Joris Peels: Would my stereo have a Facebook page? 

Bruce Sterling: You still  have a “stereo“?  Gosh. 

Joris Peels: If I walked into a bar who gets the Four Square check in? Me or my iPhone? 

Bruce Sterling: Did you drive there, or did your car drive there

Joris Peels: Once Google has organized all the worlds information what will there be left over for other companies to do? 

Bruce Sterling: You still plan to eat, am I right?  Somebody’s got to bury you after you’re dead and you stop doing searches.  

Joris Peels: The hoverboard is the greatest piece of technology ever imagined, discuss. 

Bruce Sterling: If we’re talking strictly imaginary technology, it’s hard to beat the Hindu pantheon churning the entire universe from a sea of milk by using a giant cobra

Joris Peels: Augmented reality seems to right now incorrectly assume that the people of the future will leave their homes? 

Bruce Sterling: Augmented Reality right now is a set of three quite different display technologies and cannot “assume” anything.  It’s true that AR is very big on urban informatics for wanderers right now, but that’s because all the girls, gold and glory is in the smartphone market right now.

Joris Peels: A while back I registered the domain name lowimpulsecontrol.com, I did that because I believe that ever slicker and more compelling technology will lead to impulse control disorders becoming mainstream, what do you think? 

Bruce Sterling: Did you ever see a cartoon called “Koko’s Earth Control“?  It’s about mastery of technological power liberating the imp of the perverse.  This is a major problem for teenage hacker-boys, no doubt about it.  A lot of irresponsible 1980s-style hacker behavior has in fact gone very mainstream in the past 30 years.  If you shoot somebody I’d urge you not to tell the judge that, gosh, this Uzi was just so sleek and high-tech that you couldn’t stop yourself.  That happens to impulsive people every day, but if you rationalize your failings in that way people will lock you up for good.

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