London demonstrates the stupid, janky future of Smart Cities

Bruce Sterling's scathing editorial in The Atlantic on the future of "Smart Cities" uses London's many smart city initiatives as a kind of measuring stick for the janky and dysfunctional future of civic automation: a city that throws great smart city conferences while its actual infrastructure is a mess of "empty skyscrapers, creepy CCTV videocams, and sewers plugged with animal fat" that require decades of planning an attention to cope with -- significantly beyond the attention spans of any of the tech giants vying to be the smart city providers of the future. Read the rest

Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky's State of the World address, 2018 edition

Every year, Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky take to The Well and conduct a weeks-long, wide-ranging "state of the world" discussion, trying to dig through to the zeitgeist's bedrock, taking questions from all comers (you don't need to be a WELL member to read, and you can send your questions in to Jonl). Read the rest

Talking Casa Jasmina, a house of the future designed for people, not corporations, with Jasmina Tesanovic and Bruce Sterling

The Casa Jasmina project (previously) is an automated smart house designed to be made of open source hardware, with the needs of the people who live there -- not the corporations who extract rent from them -- in mind. Read the rest

Bruce Sterling at Maker Faire Rome: Desirable, Buildable, Profitable

Last week I was in Italy for the first Maker Faire Rome. (You can see my photo galleries of the event here and here.) The Faire kicked off on Thursday with a series of presentations. One of my favorites was given by science fiction writer and design critic Bruce Sterling. He gave a slideshow about his Venn diagram of things that are desirable, profitable, and buildable.

For instance, things that are profitable, but not desirable or buildable, include speculation, embezzlement, frauds, hoarding, theft, vaporware, and hoaxes. Things that are desirable, but not buildable or profitable, include fantasies, speculations, the magical, and the mythical. Things that are buildable, but neither profitable nor desirable, include trash, pollution, and entropy. Things that are buildable and profitable but not desirable include niche products, hobby gear, long tail objects, weaponry, and criminal hardware. All in all, there were seven categories of products that Sterling identified, and gave examples of, in his slideshow.

An improvised explosive device (IED) is buildable and profitable, but not desirable (at least not by anyone other than the people making and using them) Read the rest