Posts Tagged 'Bruce Sterling'


Weirdly, it seems as if one of my pet fascinations and one of my web-based bugbears are set to merge.

On the one hand, impressions around the ‘internet of things’ purport a brave new future where all kinds of domestic appliances take on fresh and useful lives in cyberspace. Fridges which transmit their contents to your mobile while you’re at the shops, watches that record biological feedback for health checks and toothbrushes offering instant discounts on oral hygiene products if teeth are sufficiently scrubbed.

On the other hand, we encounter the ongoing battle for freedom within said web – a fight currently being waged by organisations like Fight for the Future against the cash-driven lobbying of America’s cable companies and their influence on the policies of the Federal Communications Commission.

As ever, science fiction has already navigated the more cautionary scenarios across this emerging landscape. Personally, Joe Chip arguing with the door of his apartment in Philip K Dick’s Ubik – wonderfully illustrated by Matt Taylor above – has always been a touchstone. A potentially dark and (excuse the pun) unhinged future where devices demand payment simply to function. The scene was the well-spring for my own ‘death by furniture’ piece, Delivery, and yet one that simultaneously feels prophetic and no longer that outlandish today.

In other SF quarters, Bruce Sterling has just published his new essay called The Epic Struggle of the Internet of Things where he explores digital commerce and governance desperately moving to monetise and control the internet. Meanwhile, Wired has extrapolated the idea of the fully integrated house being attacked by so-called ‘script kiddies’ in a domestic take on the now familiar disrupted denial of service (DDOS).

Finally, for aficionados of dystopia, similar worse case scenarios can be found in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 (1953) – consider Mildred’s obsession with household electronics – and J G Ballard’s Subliminal Man (1961) where shopping frenzies are driven by blip-verts flashed at unsuspecting consumers via road signs.

Still think the internet of things is a cool and radical new horizon for technology? Pause and think again about who will profit from and who will control this new wave of consumerism.

Tags: , , , , , ,

One year on since whistle blower Edward Snowden fired his digital distress flare across the bows of global government. It’s no surprise then that surveillance culture is gnawing at the collective consciences of the Sci-Fi minded. Personally, I find it delightful to be sat here in the eye of the storm, bathed in the assurance that the culture which bought you 1984, V for Vendetta and Brazil was integral in pillaging your virtual back waters, all thanks to the noble efforts of GCHQ.

In 2010, UK Tory MP Teresa May gave in to the electoral demands of pressure group No2id and scrapped the proposed chip card system for this country’s populace. A tactic that gained respect, if not votes, from the digital savvy among the left-wingers. How hollow that promise seems now in the wake of this latest observational scandal. Even before you get into the realms of online snooping, the UK still has one of the highest proliferations of CCTV systems in the world. Add online marketing data capture, bank transaction monitoring, e-passports and bio-metric lunch money for kids in school and… Any of this making you feel more secure? Less fearful?

Thankfully, while No2id might have served its purpose, others have taken up the torch of peaceful resistance – hence the Reset The Net video above. If you love your skiffy – regardless of your political leanings – then you’re perfectly at home with the wonderful mental exercise of extrapolation. So have a ponder, have a look at the Deus Ex and the Culture sides of the virtual fence we’re collectively sitting on and, if nothing else, do something. As Dame Stella Rimington – former head of MI5 – said back in 2009, the biggest risk in all of this is that we’re “sleep walking into a police state”. And if you’re in need of a bit of additional Sci-Fi related motivation, have a listen to Bruce Sterling’s closing speech at this year’s SXSW.

Until next time… Be pure, be vigilant, behave!

Tags: , , , , , , , ,