Politics, Foreign Policy, Current Events and Occasional Outbursts Lacking Couth

Friday, April 25, 2008

Bruce Sterling Interview

This is a cool interview with Bruce Sterling (via Cosma Shalizi on There are a number of great quotes. Here is one on the Internet as a Library:

Well, I'd believe that the Internet was a “new type of library” when somebody showed me a library riddled with every booming variety of piracy, porn, fraud, spam and organized crime. There “might” be a library somewhere half as freakishly disordered as the Internet -- I'm guessing the mortar-blasted halls of Mogadishu Technical University.

The role of elite universities isn't just to give kids access to knowledge and data; their role is to produce elites. People don't go to college in order to get an ISO certification; they go there to network with their own generation -- to get married, even. A modern society without universities would be very unstable and socially alien.

If we produce an elite class of genius autodidacts who are entirely self-educated on the Internet and who have never been socialized, then elite universities are in for it. Yet practically every institution in human society would be turned upside-down by a revolution that deep; we'd have no colleges, no schools of any kind. Shortly after that, no professions. Everybody would be their own Buckminster Fuller. All that was solid would melt into air.

The Internet surely has aspects that are like a “library,” but it's also called a “superhighway,” a “cyberspace,” a “net,” a “grid,” a “cloud” -- the military thinks it's a battlespace, politicians think it's a campaign stop, entertainers think it's a theater, merchants think it's a mall. Academics think it's an academy, with a little more historical justice than those other johnny-come-latelies. But it isn't an academy substitute, any more than digital targeting is a substitute for boots on the ground.