Sci-fi author and sustainable design advocate Bruce Sterling ends his run at Wired magazine. In his final column, he swears he’s a Futurist. I respectfully disagree. He likes people way too much.
“My Final Prediction”, Bruce Sterling’s last column with Wired, ends:
As a futurist, I’ve often licked my chops over rather grim possibilities. But my lasting fondness for the dark side is a personal taste, not an analysis. I’m frequently surprised, and when I consider the biggest surprises, I’m heartened that they were mostly positive. The Internet, for instance, crawled out of a dank atomic fallout shelter to become the Mardi Gras parade of my generation. It was not a bolt of destructive lightning; it was the sun breaking through the clouds.
Please, Bruce, you’re not a Futurist. And your “fondness for the dark side” is like my “fondness” for The White Stripes. I would like to like them, but I don’t actually like them. As soon as no one’s looking, I switch back to AFX and Autechre.
Futurists are violent, callous, and remorseless. An art project in college had me memorizing the 1909 Futurist Manifesto, and I can still recall the good bits:
Oh, maternal ditch, half full of muddy water! Oh, factory gutter! I savored a mouthful of strengthening muck which recalled the black teat of my Sudanese nurse!
We want to glorify war—the only cure for the world—militarism, patriotism, the destructive gesture of the anarchists, the beautiful ideas which kill, and contempt for woman.
Look at us! We are not out of breath, our hearts are not in the least tired, for they are nourished by fire, hatred, and speed! Does this surprise you? It is because you do not even remember being alive! Standing on the world’s summit, we launch once more our challenge to the stars!
Futurists would love the world we’ve created today. Essentially, their manifesto has manifested. Even television commercials have wholly adopted Futurist values. Faster transactions with your credit card! Higher horsepower for your SUV! More blades on your safety razor! Louder crunch in your snack food!
Nope. I’ve heard Sterling speak before and I was not left wanting to destroy museums or build my own rocket pack. He had the closing remarks at last year’s South by Southwest Interactive conference. After an hour of decrying the state of the world, failed governments and devastated ecosystems, he described the beautiful world that was possible and, in a tearful rendition of Carl Sandburg’s “The People, Yes!” drove the point home. I couldn’t continue without quoting the poem myself.
The people yes
The people will live on.
The learning and blundering people will live on.
They will be tricked and sold and again sold
And go back to the nourishing earth for rootholds,
The people so peculiar in renewal and comeback,
You can’t laugh off their capacity to take it.
The mammoth rests between his cyclonic dramas.
This old anvil laughs at many broken hammers.
There are men who can’t be bought.
The fireborn are at home in fire.
The stars make no noise,
You can’t hinder the wind from blowing.
Time is a great teacher.
Who can live without hope?
In the darkness with a great bundle of grief the people march.
In the night, and overhead a shovel of stars for keeps, the people march:
“Where to? what next?”
No, Bruce. Sorry to say it, but you’re a humanist. Maybe, on some days, a transhumanist—but mostly just a humanist. I know it sucks to be a happy, optimistic writer sometimes (what do you do for angst?) but you’ve given us a beautiful vision of an ecological sustainable future, so don’t fight your nature. No pun intended.
Sorry this post looks like a Clips Show. I’m getting sick and needed some extra sleep.