Bruce Sterling at SxSW Interactive March 15 2011

March 16 2011

Was looking forward to hearing Bruce and he didn’t disappoint. He was cogent and pithy as ever.  Ultimately he wove together a theme about political agency in an era that has neutered it.

Here’s my notes:

  • Started out saying this was the best SxSW ever. Anti-nostalgia, no backlash on corporate sponsorship at the show, ultimately recognizing the core is intact and the gathering is solid
  • Talked about “design fiction”
  • Then switched to politics. Called out that political language has been decimated at present, reduced to “polarizing brand management.”
  • Called for “passionate virtuosity” – something artists have, can we strive for that across the board
  • First political topic was Synthetic Biology and J. Craig Venter.  Sterling was at presidential council of bio-ethics, not impressed with DC bureaucrats’ ability to parse the gravity of the technology.  Called out change in cultural discussion from genetic engineering debates of 70s and current lack of discussion about the technology. Exxon Mobil funding Venter. Sterling’s point was not anti-synthetic biology per se, but rather why are the corporations controlling the outcome instead of the people? No difference between industry and government in this day and age.
  • Switched to Italian politics and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s involvement in sex scandal. A moral discussion.  And he brought it back to the states ultimately – Washington DC “a Walmart of a brothel.”  Kept using the term “calamitous.”
  • Concluded with “Who are the victims of a decaying status quo? The young people.”  Ripped on boomers for awhile – “get out of the way boomers” and called for “millenials” to start global youth movement.  Called for an end to the “era of organized deception.”  Instead of poem, quoted Girabelli’s call to battle, also “Women – do not embrace a coward.”
  • Final line: “Another world is inevitable; the future is unwritten.”