Bruce Sterling's kicked off his annual state-of-the-world, take-all-comers interview on the WELL's Inkwell conference, which is open to the public — as usual, he's fizzing with outrageous brilliance:
I don't think today's rich and powerful "run the show" — in the sense
that there used to be a coherent show and it used to be runnable.
Today's rich and powerful are meritocrats and plutocrats, rather than
some class-based old-school-tie phalanx Establishment. Any earlier
set of the rich-and-powerful would have regarded contemporary players
like Gates and Soros and Perot and Berlusconi and Murdoch and Bloomberg
and bin Laden to be strange, jumped-up, arriviste, nouveau-riche
types, crazily unstable pretenders who don't even bother to send their
daughters to the cotillion ball.
We really need some new class-term for these modern tycoons who've
been flung into the planetary stratosphere by today's amazingly unequal
wealth distributions. "Mogul" is a pretty good revived word. It
suggests that current Russian model of five or six guys who've divvied
up a national economy into privatized secretive satrapies that exist
outside the rule of law.
But to imagine that some mogul in exile in London, sweating bullets
over radioactive poison, is really "running the show…" I mean, yeah,
he's surely a player of some kind… but is he "running it?" By what
right? Through what clear and legitimized set of accountabilities and
responsibilities? There aren't any. He's obviously winging it
totally. They guy's not a conventional political or economic actor at
all. The guy's basically a conspirator.