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We're Going To Have To Find Out How To Deal With Lots Of Idle Hands
March 27, 2013 11:53 AM   Subscribe

The Forces Of The Next 30 Years - SF author and Mefi's Own Charles Stross talks to students at Olin College about sci-fi, fiction, speculation, the limits of computation, thermodynamics, Moore's Law, the history of travel, employment, automation, free trade, demographics, the developing world, privacy, and climate change in trying to answer the question What Does The World Of 2043 Look Like? (Youtube 56:43)
posted by The Whelk (18 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite

 
(My old employer designed all the buildings at Olin so that they would look classical and august and oooold, in our best traditions, even though they are all quite recent.)
posted by wenestvedt at 12:19 PM on March 27, 2013


I read the title as "We're Going To Have To Find Out How To Deal With Lots Of Indie Bands", which also seems appropriate.
posted by oulipian at 12:25 PM on March 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


I read the title as "We're Going To Have To Find Out How To Deal With Lots Of Indie Bands", which also seems appropriate.

I have an idea, and it might help with the looming food crisis, too!
posted by entropicamericana at 12:35 PM on March 27, 2013 [7 favorites]


We're Going To Have To Find Out How To Deal With Lots Of Idle Hands

Fortunately the answer lies where it has always lain: in brutality. The casual brutality of poverty, the chaotic brutality of prisons, and the organized brutality of militaries.

Yay!
posted by aramaic at 12:36 PM on March 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


So... imagine a Roland TR-808 stomping on a human face forever?
The kids still like the drum machines right?
posted by entropicamericana at 12:38 PM on March 27, 2013


entropicamericana: "So... imagine a Roland TR-808 stomping on a human face forever?
The kids still like the drum machines right?
"

A stomp box might be more appropriate.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 12:47 PM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


The permanent revolution
posted by Artw at 3:06 PM on March 27, 2013


One problem in the current version of idleness is: if you're in the top n% in skills and employability, you may be in demand more than 100%, while if you're in the bottom 100-n%, you're likely unemployed.

The former continue to develop new skills and connections, while receiving an income, while the latter are starved for resources to acquire skills, and lose connections, all while trying to find a job and continue receiving unemployment (a system where, in California at least, customer service is more customer hostility).
posted by zippy at 3:36 PM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


"People who get infrastructure late get better quality infrastructure than the early adopters."

This.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 3:52 PM on March 27, 2013


"People who get infrastructure late get better quality infrastructure than the early adopters."

I think that's exactly wrong. It adequately describes middle class technofetishists, who buy early and then can't afford to replace every year, but a rich person can buy a new smartphone tech-object every year and always be the first.... the question, for a country rather than a person, is whether the investment in infrastructure enables an increase of production large enough to finance the improvement and replacement of the infrastructure. I mean, it's a central issue in the industrial revolution "great acceleration" that doesn't really boil down well to a rap session for undergraduates and more importantly, it seems like he is relying on what seems like common sense for individuals to make economic predictions for whole economies... which is not a good way to predict the future. Did England's early investment in mechanized cloth-weaving technology hold them back?

And anyway, is he really predicting that Africans (or parts of Africa) are about to get a better internet infrastructure than the US because for various reasons they couldn't/can't invest in landlines? The trend for wireless internet in the "developed" world seems to be lower speeds, throttled bandwidth and spotty coverage: try getting decent wireless internet away from a major highway: I can barely get cellphone coverage where I live, but Comcast will give me something much faster than LTE. And I'm sure rice farming villages in S. Korea would laugh at what I could get from Comcast (and what I would pay for it.)

Problems in infrastructure in the English speaking world I think have more to do with the rise of neoliberal economics and the systematic defunding of infrastructure rather than being early adopters. The reason the US doesn't have fiber to every home isn't because we spent too much on the internet too soon... (god knows enough money was spent on fiber in the 90's) but that it wasn't profitable. What would be profitable if there was fiber to every home in the US we will probably never know, Kansas Google City notwithstanding...
posted by ennui.bz at 4:30 PM on March 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't get why people get excited about "futurists" in general and Stross's predictions in particular. I read Accelerando a couple of years ago and I personally thought (forgive me if you're reading this, cstross) the predictions were laughably modish and bad, and wildly, wildly overestimating the pace and scope of change for the timeframe.

Using that as a template, dude has a terrible record at predictions (no biggie; most people do, it's hard stuff).

Also wireless will never be the answer to good internet, esp as fibre to the node competes. It breaks down in cities very fast due to congestion, is effectively (for now, at least), speed-capped whereas optical is only limited by the speed of light itself, I just can't see it.
posted by smoke at 5:02 PM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Accelerando is largely a critique of transhumanist thought, which cstross definitely does not endorse. If the predictions seem more harebrained than the usual, it may be because he thought them through further.
posted by LogicalDash at 7:53 PM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wireless seems to be the answer to profitable internet, though, for better or for worse, especially as the trend away from laptops/desktops and to tablets/smartphones continues.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 2:36 AM on March 28, 2013


I should mention, my in-laws all work, or worked, for Verizon, and they have been trying to get out of the landline business in New England slowly but surely for the last decade, spinning that business of as FairPoint, etc.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 2:57 AM on March 28, 2013


Also wireless will never be the answer to good internet, esp as fibre to the node competes. It breaks down in cities very fast due to congestion, is effectively (for now, at least), speed-capped whereas optical is only limited by the speed of light itself, I just can't see it.

Well, I suppose you could be right if your metric for "good internet" is "speed" and not "can it be deployed, to large numbers of people, for reasonable capital outlay, and have manageable operational cost and competitive pricing structure". The reality is that outside of part of the industrialized world, wired services in general are not viable options (without massive government intervention and subsidies). Look at wired v wireless telephone service in Africa and South America. When I was at Bell South working with the SA deployment team, the idea of plowing through the logistical, operational, economic and bureaucratic nightmare of stringing wires (and keeping them strung) to, say, 3m people in Caracas was not ever seriously considered.
posted by kjs3 at 6:21 AM on March 28, 2013


Well, presumably the wired option wasn't considered because the wireless option, at present suffices to meet demand. But there are certain physical limits that shared-media wireless Internet access is subject to, which unshared-media FTTP systems don't have. Eventually, those places that only have wireless are going to saturate their wireless infrastructure and run into problems, if speedy Internet access really is a requirement for economic growth and participation in the modern economy and all the good things that Internet Folks like to believe it is.

While those areas that have wired infrastructure, typically built on top of legacy copper POTS stuff from decades ago, will be just fine and can continue to increase speeds by replacing the endpoint equipment on the fiber runs.

Of course, what will probably happen is that the services and applications that become popular in the "wired world" are just different than those that become popular in the "wireless world" where bandwidth becomes severely limited. Or at least applications end up being designed very differently; if you have a 100Mb FTTP line, there are certain tradeoffs that you make very differently (local caching, predictive downloads during off-peak periods, etc.) than if you have a cellular modem that drops to 128kb or less during peak periods.
posted by Kadin2048 at 3:41 PM on March 28, 2013


No. The wired option wasn't considered because it was not now, and *never will be*, viable.
posted by kjs3 at 8:49 PM on April 2, 2013


That doesn't make sense. If you look at the 'wired world' right now and consider the time that it was wired — starting in the 19th c. if you count telegraph wires, through to the mid-20th c. for telephone — it's looks not totally dissimilar to the developing world today. Pulling a shitload of copper wire around was economically viable because, despite the expense and at-the-time unsolved technical issues (which isn't an issue today; we're now pretty good at manufacturing wire, for instance), it offered a significant advantage over existing systems.

If wired infrastructure offered a similar degree of advantage over wireless systems, then there's no reason why a similar level of effort couldn't be brought to bear today. At the moment, wireless systems might be 'good enough' in many places, but eventually their scaling problems may make that untrue.

"Viability", in this case, is entirely an economic consideration which is based on factors that can, and probably will, be subject to change in the future.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:23 PM on April 2, 2013


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