Fascinating, wide-ranging discussion with William Gibson


Professor McKelvey looks like he ought to be advising a sociopathic property developer named Fisk. Please tell me I’m not the only one who thinks the prof looks like Toby Leonard Moore.

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There are worse people to be compared to :wink:

It was a pretty surreal time to have been invited to do this, so I tried to wear the fanciest thing I had.

I just joined the BBS after being a lurker for a while, so I’m happy to answer any questions.


Welcome aboard!

Something I have been musing about of late is whether we will see any more great counter-culture movements in the west. As one of the audience was framing ISIS as essentially an anti-techno/corporate movement (if I understood him correctly) and within the context of the general pessimism of the day (the internet isn’t living up to its revolutionary promise etc), do you think we might see the pendulum swing the other way. What the hippie/anti-war movement was to the military-industrial complex might some future generation shun modern convenience, connectivity, and automation? Will that even be possible? Is the only way to fight corporate power and influence to circumvent them? Is it possible to do that in a modern society when we are already working for them?

Don’t turn on, tune in drop out…turn off, opt out, drop in or something like that.

I know Occupy is a recent example…but what happened?

Every time I see Bill speak I’m awed. While I am a certified genius, (test scores only, no hate please. And no more Mensa invites). he blows my mind.

If I had the capacity to free think like him, after reading Neuromancer back in 1984, I would be a gazilionare, Instead, I watched the Internet develop pretty much as he predicted.

Doesn’t really matter: the internet makes my living nowadays, only wish I had paid a bit more attention earlier…


Thanks! I’ve been most disturbed of recent by Sam Frank’s piece in Harper’s about Silicon Valley innovation: http://harpers.org/archive/2015/01/come-with-us-if-you-want-to-live/ It seems like an age old trap that innovation and disruption might be much less radical than expected. One of the first books that really got me thinking was The Rebel Sell: http://www.amazon.ca/Rebel-Sell-Culture-Cant-Jammed/dp/0006394914. Its been a while since I read it, but certainly it raises some good critiques for culture jamming. All to say is that more long

ISIS, as many have pointed out like http://thewalrus.ca/brand-isis/, is also really effective because of their media usage. So in some ways, I see them as the most technologically sophisticated. I guess its disturbing because it shows how hollow media tactics can be for progressive change.

Before Occupy, I attend a workshop hosted by Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi. He talked about how people need to be together in different ways, occupy the same space. Then Occupy happened. Part of what I think will last from Occupy is that sense of being together in ways re-assert a sense of publicness. Occupy, at least in Toronto while I was there, really struggled to create a space, but I think that’s a really interesting question. As much as I can be cynical, I really got a kick out of this video: http://www.kcfreedom.net/

One of the fun parts of the interview with Gibson was to remember a wierder Internet. I get nostalgic for Hell.com when I really had no clue what was going on.

In short, I have no answers, but interested what you have to say.

Thanks again.

He’s been called a curator of the present and I thought that’s a really great way of seeing how he writes. He just seems able to present current trends in very evocative and thought-provoking ways.

Interesting to hear his description of creating amazing new tech in his novels but let the characters consider it all ‘old hat’.
Something like the way Deckard uses the machine to analyse a photo in Bladerunner.

I used to work for a mobile repair workshop. Back when the Motorola brick was beginning to find alternative uses. One farmer brought his in for a new battery after he had used it to hammer in a staple on a fencepost.

That is indeed a frightening article. All sounds like a scene from an
Robert Anton Wilson novel which would be funny if it wasn’t so scary.
“Anders was already polyphasic himself. Operating by the lights of his
own best practices, goalfactored, coherent, and connected, he was able
to work 105 hours a week on world optimization”. How fine is the line
between world optimization and world domination? Wouldn’t it be funny if
they turn themselves into the malevolent AI’s they seek to avoid.
Silicon Valley as Skynet. Actually, that’s not funny. And Elon, playing
the benevolent dictator gambit? I’m routing for Tesla and SpaceX and all
but I like driving my own car and I don’t know if I want to live in
Muskworld. Funny the mention of Snow Crash. Reading that article made me
think more of Diamond Age and Anathem. Mention of the “New
Enlightenment” hits home as I am within sight of the end of Quicksilver
(The Peripheral is waiting on my nightstand) The vision of all those
techno-fiefdoms, both real and virtual reminds one that the first
Enlightenment was no rosy cake walk but a brutal slog and this next one
will require the distribution of a whole lot of kool-aid.

My gut reaction is that maybe we need to take the Escape From New York
approach. Transport Silicon Valley a safe distance away, wall if off,
cut the data connections so the AI’s can’t escape and let the
Libertarian Death Match begin. Televise it though 'cause I’d watch that

What I find worrisome/interesting about the ISIS model of propaganda is
wondering how effective it could be here? Clearly it has already worked
on getting a few citizens to join the fight, but can that level of
polished message be used to motivate Westerners to act out against their
own institutions? Is the propaganda’s persuasiveness proportional to
the disenfranchisement/desperation of the population it is aimed at? Did
Occupy just need a better PR machine and for things to be just a bit
worse? Is something more nefarious brewing? When mailmen start landing
gyro-copters on the White House lawn it seems like the level of crazy
needs to be kept an eye on. Speaking of mailmen, as it relates to
culture-jamming I do think he ( and Lessig and Warren etc.) are on
target. The primary issue is not consumerism but the power derived by
the ones who benefit from it. Nothing wrong with wanting nice things, my
old hippie dad drives a sweet BMW but just because a billion people
use Google or Facebook doesn’t mean they get to have a say in policy
matters any more than you or I. Citizens United is a horrendous mistake
and I do not buy into the idea that markets or companies can somehow do a
better job when they are just as complicit in winding us up here in the
first place. The government didn’t corrupt itself. Frankly I have had a
much easier time at the DMV renewing my registration than I have
dealing with AT&T trying to cancel my service.

This I find disturbing: http://consumerist.com/2015/04/22/john-deere-wants-to-be-able-to-file-copyright-claims-against-the-way-you-use-your-tractor/

That is a bad trend that ultimately drives a further wedge between users
and technology. Besides the obvious property rights issues there I
believe it is pretty important to have at least a rudimentary
understanding of the technology and science we rely on. You don’t have
to be a rocket scientist but If you have basic knowledge of say, how a
car works or how computers work you’re probably going to use them more
efficiently, get more enjoyment out of them and understand the issues
surrounding them better. It’s no different than understanding the basics
of government in order to be an more informed participant. I don’t
thinks it’s too much to ask people to put in a little effort. Amazon
wants to land drone deliveries right in the trunk of your car, how much
lazier can we get?

Convenience is the enemy

-Lady Miss Kier

The internet is a let down.? There are still weird nooks and crannies, I
am nostalgic too but it is remarkable that you and I can even have this
discussion. It’s reminds me of the early days of cable tv when it was
wild and untamed and you changed the channel at your own risk and MTV
was fun to watch. Now it’s mostly a wasteland and I had to cut that
cord. Maybe the internet is going that way (already went?) but like you
and Mr. Gibson discussed… who knows whats is waiting in the wings to
take it’s place?

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The Peripheral is pretty dark, but

I heard a promo for this radio doc on CBC, http://www.cbc.ca/radio/thesundayedition/upper-v-lower-jihadi-town-listener-mail-the-untold-story-of-psychiatry-reciting-poetry-1.3045391/jihadi-town-1.3047524 that sounded interesting in terms of a response. I’m also still left unsettled after Adam Curtis’s new documentary Bitter Lake: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bitter_Lake_(film)

John Deer might actually do copyleft a solid by making the issue of copyright a broader issue. I always thought Redhat’s locked hood metaphor apt. My friend who works on cars says every new one that comes on the lot has to have its OS localized. Seemingly mechanics are hackers and by going after them, expansive copyright runs into a long, established cultural norm over the right to fix your car. With all the bad news, this might come out positive. Fingers crossed.

Oh, and the Internet is not a let down. I probably need to go looking for wierdness more regularly :wink:

Great talking with you.

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