What Bruce Sterling Actually Said About Web 2.0 at Webstock 09

It’s been out for a few weeks but I only got around to reading the whole thing recently. I love Sterling talks at conferences. What Bruce Sterling Actually Said About Web 2.0 at Webstock 09.

I really think it’s the original sin of geekdom, a kind of geek thought-crime, to think that just because you yourself can think algorithmically, and impose some of that on a machine, that this is “intelligence.” That is not intelligence. That is rules-based machine behavior. It’s code being executed. It’s a powerful thing, it’s a beautiful thing, but to call that “intelligence” is dehumanizing. You should stop that. It does not make you look high-tech, advanced, and cool. It makes you look delusionary.

Web 2.0 guys: they’ve got their laptops with whimsical stickers, the tattoos, the startup T-shirts, the brainy-glasses—you can tell them from the general population at a glance. They’re a true creative subculture, not a counterculture exactly—but in their number, their relationship to the population, quite like the Arts and Crafts people from a hundred years ago… Arts and Crafts people, they had a lot of bad ideas—much worse ideas than Tim O’Reilly’s ideas. It wouldn’t bother me any if Tim O’Reilly was Governor of California—he couldn’t be any weirder than that guy they’ve got already. Arts and Crafts people gave it their best shot, they were in earnest—but everything they thought they knew about reality was blown to pieces by the First World War.

We’ve got a web built on top of a collapsed economy. THAT’s the black hole at the center of the solar system now. There’s gonna be a Transition Web. Your economic system collapses: Eastern Europe, Russia, the Transition Economy, that bracing experience is for everybody now. Except it’s not Communism transitioning toward capitalism. It’s the whole world into transition toward something we don’t even have proper words for… The Web has always had an awkward relationship with business. Web 2.0 was a business model. The Transition Web is a culture model. If it’s gonna work, it’s got to replace things that we used to pay for with things that we just plain use.

Note: The bits about Ajax and Javascript are a bit off though.


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