A harmonic convergence of Bruce Sterling

Spimes, why people hate Exxon, and viridian design.

By Andrew Leonard
April 8, 2006 3:13AM (UTC)
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How the World Works received a new computer at work this morning. This will be great for future blogging productivity, even if it sucked today into a black hole. But at last I'm back up and running, and pleased to give a shout-out to one of my favorite science fiction authors, a whacked-out visionary who is possibly the greatest geeky keynote speaker alive on this planet, Bruce Sterling.

Bruce popped up my computer screen twice within the space of a few minutes early this morning. First, courtesy of a Technorati feed piped into my blog reader that alerted me that he had linked to a How the World Works post on his Viridian Design Movement newsletter. This is like having God blog about you (even though I think the link included is not the one he meant to point to). Then, moments later, I saw a reader's post responding to yesterday's rant about the possibilities of RFID. Daniel Renaud noted that that Bruce Sterling had already come up with a much more full-blown and brilliant conceptualization of my half-baked fantasy. Not only did he steal my idea more than two years ago, but he's already even written a book about it. The nerve!


I begged for a world in which every object told us everything about itself, so we could make informed decisions. "Is that too much to ask?" I wondered. Imagine my delight just now, when, while reading a wonderful speech Sterling gave at the 2004 Siggraph computer graphics conference, he said, explicitly, that "it's not too much to ask."

Sterling's vision coagulates around objects that he dubs "spimes." Spimes don't exist until you validate your desire for them with your credit card, at which point they are manufactured and delivered to you, containing not only all possible information about them, but also instructions on how to dispose of them and plenty more context to boot. I cannot possibly do justice to the glory of his Siggraph speech. Read it, it's a hoot.

But I can do justice to a quote from "People Hate Exxon," his latest Viridian Design Movement newsletter, which fits quite neatly into the How the World Works zeitgeist.


"It's not too surprising that these proletarian lefties and inveterate peaceniks should attack Exxon, for (by my modest count there) war profiteering, racism, overcrowded jails, civil liberties, human rights, HIV, hepatitis, mental illness, combat fatalities, the Pentagon's budget, the need for prosthetics, pollution, environmental illnesses, foreign adventurism and buying Congress wholesale. But wait till it starts dawning on conservatives and rich people that climate-change is Exxon's biggest product, and that climate disruption is causing horrific economic damage to their own pocketbooks. Somebody somewhere is gonna go down hard for that. There really isn't a better candidate for scapegoating and deliberate public punishment than the people of Exxon. And they're sure not gonna lack for fingerpointing. They're all over the world, and all over the world people hate them."

Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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