Bruce Sterling Interview Transcript with Elektrischer Reporter

The video of the interview can be found at Elektrischer Reporter.

It´s good breaking peoples preconceptions and running thought experiments. And its kind of good at popularising background ideas which need a little sharpening. Thats good for just breaking down your preconceptions in sort of adjusting that things might be different. But I can get a lot of the same kick out of design magazines quite frankly.

Why do I do it? I don´t know. I really enjoy it and it does something for me that other forms of fiction don´t. I like it for it´s sense of engagement when people talk about future in a very abstract corny kind of way.

To read fiction is to see the future not as it´s speculated but as it´s felt and as it´s lived. It´s about structures of feeling and meaning and that´s what literature has to bring in the game of futurist speculation and that´s why science fiction is different from just say scenario thinking. So it puts flesh on idea and trends and I think that can be valuable.

Well you know to me it seemed very natural, I mean I didn´t make up the term „Cyberpunk“. But you know it came from a bohemian creative milieu from Austin and popculture and popmusic and kind of cultural activities and I am still very interested in those kind of a student of those things. But as time went along I became interested in really definitiv kinds of trends and kind of cultures kind of a small world and a temporary world in many ways whereas green issues are kind of a large clear impressive danger and it just seemed to me kind of morally obligatory to look to those larger issues.

You know I have a principal that if a problem shows up at my own doorstep I won´t simply write fiction about it. I will attempt to intervene and do something because you know I am a moral actor and I am a player in the world and I think you are a better writer for doing such things.

And when Chiapas cought fire in 1998 and the plume of smoke from burning tropical jungles went over my home and reached Chicago I understood the climate change which was a science fictional idea for a long time was becoming a reality and that very little constructive has been done about it.

So I did what I could to intervene. (Frage: What?) I started a mailist began agitating and writing about it. I had already written some science fiction novels about climate change that obviously didn´t stop it from happening so I thought I might intervene more effectively in the design world because they are a little closer to the ground there.

And I suspect I will be moving into the engineering world later. I mean from fiction to design to engineering and if I live long enough I problably be in the military. Really, in the emergency services. It´s a hobby of mine. It´s not an NGO, I am not Greenpeace. You know I am basically just a novelist and design theorist and sometime designprofessor.
But it turns out that if you get interested in the design world and you write about them and pay attention to what they are saying you become part of it. Thats what I did.

I still do it but I don´t do as much of it as I did because there are so many other groups now that are doing exactly what I hoped would happen. I mean the Davos´s meeting this weekend and devoting there attention to climate change. Now I am really tempted to just declare victory right there.

You know the richest people in the world at the sort of most influential public gathering are sitting and mourning over climate change? Why do I have to add my voice? I mean I was aching to see them do that. The people at silicon valley – you know Vinod Khosla and his collegoes and so and forth – are moving from internet into green energy which they are – I don´t really need to get behind that and push. I think I am very close to achieving my aims, really.

You I think it´s a misnomer that if you want to be green you have to be deep green and be sort of a crunchy ???? a VW-bus (4:53). That was an interesting idea thirty years ago and obviously doesn´t have much legs. If that had succeded we were not be in the trouble we are in.

You know if we were in a sunlit building it´s better, if its properly ventilated its better, if there are fewer afluids (??? 5:08) in your body you are having a better time. And if the air isn´t polluted you breathe better, your children are happier. If the sunlight shines on you and isn´t intercepted by smog you are happier.

If polar bears are alive and the ice cap did not melt its a better world. It´s not a worst world. The difficulty with the sort of deep green philosophy is that if it´s about reducing emissions and doing as little as possible to try to reduce your footprint there is nobody so green as the dead. Because to be dead is to have the least footprint possible.

Whereas the kind of 21st century bright green which is espoused by people like, there is much more active and interventionist – and you know I think its more intellectually sound it´s more human and better engaged.

Yeah the 21st century is going to be green. We are going to achieve sustainability. That will happen the only question is: how many of us die? Really. Eventually it´s given.
I mean if it´s unsustainable it will stop by definition.

So do we leap to a new industrial order or do we just get pushed out of the old into a dark age. And the answer is: both. Some will be pushed into a dark age and some will leap to a new order. And it´s a sliderbar and we want to have the fewest pushed and the most leaping.

If you thinking about the future you need to put pessimism and optimism aside. They are intellectual vices. It´s like covering one eye and expecting to get a vernacular view. You really need to think about the future historically. You need to think about it with a historians dispassionate approach. You will not ask: Are you optimistic about the 19th century or pessimistic about the 19. century.

I mean: Bad things happen, good things happen. Some bad things had good aspects later, some good things turned out to be bad in the long run. To make value judgements of that kind actually damages your ability to think clearly about what going to happen. So I think the propper attitude is neither optimism nor pessimism. It´s engagement. You are to care about it and you are to be in command of the facts. That´s what really matters.

[tags]Bruce Sterling, Interview, Elektrischer Reporter[/tags]