Hottest June Ever!


“June was the 352nd consecutive month in a row with temperatures that were above the global average,” per Climate Central.


“The lengthy stretch of hot months is being driven primarily by the rise of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Human activities are responsible for much of that rise and with recent carbon dioxide milestones passed, emissions show no sign of slowing.”


The Internet inherits war

Bruce Schneier at Technology Review:

Arms races are fueled by two things: ignorance and fear. We don’t know the capabilities of the other side, and we fear that they are more capable than we are. So we spend more, just in case. The other side, of course, does the same. That spending will result in more cyber weapons for attack and more cyber-surveillance for defense. It will result in move government control over the protocols of the Internet, and less free-market innovation over the same. At its worst, we might be about to enter an information-age Cold War: one with more than two “superpowers.” Aside from this being a bad future for the Internet, this is inherently destabilizing. It’s just too easy for this amount of antagonistic power and advanced weaponry to get used: for a mistaken attribution to be reacted to with a counterattack, for a misunderstanding to become a cause for offensive action, or for a minor skirmish to escalate into a full-fledged cyberwar.


Jamais Cascio at Inkwell

Jamais Cascio

Jamais Cascio

Futurist Jamais Cascio is holding forth about scenarios, foresight, and climate change at Inkwell on the WELL. If you have comments or questions for the conversation, send to inkwell at

So here’s one of the nasty, generally unstated truths about climate disruption: by and large, the rich countries (the primary historical source of greenhouse gas emissions) will very likely weather climate disruptions much more readily than poor countries (historically *not* greenhouse powerhouses). This is in part due to geography — the equatorial region’s going to get hammered by global warming, and the closer-to-the-poles regions less so — but mostly due to money. The US, Europe, and Japan will be more able to afford to adapt than will China, India, or other up & coming developing nations. Australia is an exception on the geography side, and a test case in how well a rich nation can adapt.

At least in the near-medium term; left unchecked, climate disruption hoses everyone by the end of the century.

Your sense that the Pacific Northwest is one of the better places to go in the US is probably accurate. Not sure that Seattle itself is a good spot, simply due to how close it is to sea level. Portland’s a decent option, though.

Texas residents should pay close attention to what’s happening in Australia right now — that’s your likely (uncomfortably near) future.

As a general rule, you want to be further north and well above sea level. Storm systems in the western Atlantic seem to be getting charged by climate disruption more so than storms in the eastern Pacific, so you’ll probably want to be well away from the coastline in the US Northeast. Also, bear in mind that global warming means increased (a) energy in the atmosphere (driving storms) and (b) ability for the atmosphere to hold moisture, so winter storms will probably be bigger deals.

Europe’s problem is that most of the northern cities and regions aren’t accustomed to very hot summers, and don’t have the necessary infrastructure to withstand the heat (remember the heat wave that killed thousands in Europe a few years ago — they were by and large killed by the lack of air conditioning). That’s not impossible to fix. Power lines/stations that aren’t built for the heat may be a bigger issue.

To be clear, nobody gets a pass on the impacts of global warming. Water access, loss of farmland, internal population displacement*, novel pests & diseases will be big problems in the rich countries as well as the poor — it’s just that the US, etc., will have more resources to draw from to deal with these problems.


Dawkins on fundamentalism

Dr. Richard Dawkins challenges global religious superstition and anti-science fundamentalism. In this video from Slashdot, he makes a point similar to one I was proposing in Google+ recently: “Freedom of speech is something that Islamic theocracies simply do not understand. They don’t get it. They’re so used to living in a theocracy, that they presume that if a film is released in the United States, the United States Government must be behind it! How could it be otherwise? So, they need to be educated that, actually, some countries do have freedom of speech and government is not responsible for what any idiot may do in the way of making a video.”


Bruce Sterling at SXSW Interactive 2012

After introducing Bruce I dove into Twitter and live tweeted his talk. People told me afterward that they thought it was too cheerful – see what you think from these short bursts (I was typing faster than I could think.) Comments encouraged.


State of the World 2012

Bruce Sterling and I are holding forth in our annual State of the World conversation on the WELL. Here’s the short url for access: If you have questions or comments for us, and you’re not a member of the WELL, just send them to inkwell at

It’s a pretty juicy year for this sort of thing; we’ll have some apocalyptic fun surveying the wreckage. (If you happen to be Lester Brown, and have practicing global prognostication much longer than we have, we especially welcome your comments.)


U.S. journalist Mona Eltahawy detained, beaten, sexually assaulted in Egypt

The whole story is at

This is the quote I wanted to blog: “The whole time I was thinking about article I would write. Just you fuckers wait.”


Ratko Mladic’s arrest

Jasmina Tesanovic posts about the arrest of Ratko Mladic here.

As a further financial twist, the state still owes the general his regular pension, which he never received (as a fugitive). Handsome lump-sums have paid by and to the other citizens of the state — mainly, blood money for his victims.

And what about the dead? Do they have a price? Gone without a name, many of them still without graves since their bodies, dismembered and scattered all over the territory are still being sought. The silence of the ghosts is loud as ever in this moment of joy and victory.


Jasmina Tesanovic: Big Day for Italy

Read Jasmina’“Big Day for Italy”: Living in Torino, Jasmina is not far from the beatification ceremonies for Pope John Paul II – a Serbian journalist writing about the Italian response to a Polish pope, now sainted, just a couple of days after the UK pompfest royal wedding. A global culture celebrates traditions that won’t quite go away. Meanwhile for May Day the “politically excluded” took to the Italian streets “with banners of feminists, pacifist, trade unions, unemployed, refugees, minorities etc…clearly stated their distance from empty Unity of Italy celebrations, not to mention the deceased Pope.”

Three different Italies, today in Italian city squares: the Nation, the Church and the Populace, all protesting, stating, showing, claiming and counterclaiming. Like 150 years ago when this young nation was united under one flag and a royal anthem, drenched in blood amid many uncertainties, today too, the classic Italian scenario repeats itself, as a farce of course.


The future of global online journalism

(Update: Alfred Hermida blogs Vivian Schiller’s 7 reasons to be cheerful about journalism at

The evolution of networked global communication infrastructures is disrupting and changing delivery of news and the way journalists work. While some publishers have been wringing hands and tearing hair over the collapse of the business model for news publishing, others in the industry get that news, and news authority, will always be relevant, that there will always be a need and a market for informed delivery of and interpretation of facts. I just spent two days (Friday and Saturday, April 1st and 2nd) at the University of Texas’ 12th Annual Global Symposium on Online Journalism, organized by brilliant, forward-looking Professor Rosental Alves. After stewing in the juices of the future of journalism for two days, I’d like to summarize what I think I was hearing.

The future of journalism and the future of Internet are intimately related. The Internet has catalyzed a democratization of knowledge, and is (in my opinion) a force beyond our control, though there are enough discussions about controlling it in some way that I’m seeing discussions of substance about how to resist that control (which are interesting, but out of scope for this post). The democratization of knowledge and the evolution of social tools on the Internet are the two aspects of intense interest on my part that have led me to seemingly diverse projects and discussions involving futurism, politics, evolving markets, participatory medicine, and online journalism. While to some I may seem all over the map, I see a consistency in all of these: they’re all part of an Internet-driven evolution. Politics, marketing, healthcare, and journalism are all experiencing disruption and difficulty as the global online information infrastructure becomes increasingly pervasive and sophisticated.


1. This might be a good place to quote P.D. Ouspensky: “In order to understand a thing, you must see it s connection with some bigger subject, or bigger whole, and the possible consequences of this connection. Understanding is always the understanding of a smaller problem in relation to a bigger problem.”

2. I don’t see “democratization of knowledge” as an inherently wonderful thing. While I’m dedicated to open and distributed knowledge systems, I recognize the relevant issues: “a little knowledge can be dangerous,” “in the wrong hands, knowledge can be dangerous,” etc. I’m also committed to participatory or democratic systems, but with the understanding that they have significant issues – democracy doesn’t scale well, doesn’t necessarily result in the best actions or decisions for all, can be little better than “mob rule,” etc. We have to be thoughtful about these things, and attend to the down sides.)

Internet forces have undermined business models for publishing and news delivery – enough’s been said about that. The UT conference I attended looks beyond that disruption and focuses on the new reality of technology-mediated news dissemination and a new more symmetrical relationship of news organization with news reader. Readers have similar access to the means of production as news organizations, and have the expectation of an environment where they can readily provide feedback on news, if not participate in gathering and disseminationg news stories. Bloggers and small independents are breaking stories and conducting deep investigation. Journalism is becoming a partnership of the news professionals with their more or less informed audiences.

Here are some thoughts and questions I’m having, inspired by the conference (and to some extent by the Future of Journalism track at SXSW Interactive that I helped curate).

  • Today’s newsroom is a high technology operation. The new journalist understands code, and there’s a new breed of developer (in the hacks hackers, program or be programmed mode) who understands journalism well enough to be an effective partner in application development. In this context, there’s an evolution from “shovelware” to apps that effectively leverage diverse platforms, especially mobile platforms.
  • Will the web and the browser continue to be primary platform for news delivery, or will mobile apps be more prominent and effective? Or (more likely) are we looking at an ecosystem where both will be adopted and used? The web has advantages, including ubiquity, existing infrastructure, linkability, bookmarking and social tech.
  • How important are aggregation and curation vs reporting? Are aggregators practicing journalism, or “making sense of the Internet.”
  • Many publications are integrating social media, becoming more conversational. How well can conversations scale? Does this have a democratizing effect?
  • Revolution in Egypt wasn’t driven by social media alone, but also (if not more so) by Egypt’s independent press.
  • How polarized are we, how do we become less polarized, what is the relationship of news to politicization and polarization, and is there a relationship between polarization and credibility?
  • What is the impact of moving from a workflow heavily based on editing to real-time publishing models?
  • What’s the relationship of news to engagement? How can you both engage and scale?
  • New concept: “newsfulness,” or likelihood of a device to be used for news access.
  • Is public journalism a public good? Does it make more sense for investigative news organizations to be nonprofit rather than for-profit?
  • How do news organizations use, and monetize, Twitter?
  • “Gatejumping” vs gatekeeping. Twitter allows early gatekeepers to jump the gates, deliver news directly and immediately.
  • Do online journalists have more autonomy than their offline counterparts?
  • Open APIs catalyze developer communities, potentially bring new revenue potential, speed up internal and external product development.
  • How do news organizations keep up with increasing R&D demands with decreasing budgets?
  • What is the impact of pay walls, and how well will they succeed? What makes paywalls viable: scale still matters, but brand is back. Users are depending more on brand authority, advertisers are getting back to basics.

Link to my tweets from the conference.


Bruce Sterling’s talk via live tweet

Bruce Sterling at SXSW 2011

Bruce Sterling at SXSW 2011

I live-tweeted Bruce Sterling’s talk at SXSW Interactive. Here are the tweets… in reverse chronological order, so read ’em backwards.

  • “Women of Italy, cast away all the cowards from your embraces.” SXSW looks like a new world because it’s got women in it.
  • Closing with a Garibaldi quote. “I offer only hunger, thirst, forced marches, battle, and death.” And people went for that.
  • This is an era of organized deception! Days of rage, baby. Be realistic, demand the impossible.
  • “Move to Austin, take over the town!”
  • You need to take power, millenials. I’ll vote for ya! You need a global youth movement.
  • Boomers, shut up! What you should study now is collaborative consumption, technomadism.
  • Young people are the victims of a decaying status qo.
  • They pretend to govern, we pretend to obey.
  • Who would save us from the BP? We’re incapable of rapid deciseve action, and the world demands that sometimes.
  • What worries me is the response to things that take courage and virtuosity and passion to work out, like disaster response.
  • Obese people in the US: “Imagine if the Statue of Liberty looked like that.” It brings out one’s inner Bill Hicks.
  • Catholic Church borgia-like devil’s bargain with Berlusconi to get the legislation they want.
  • Republicans: “a joke to anyone outside the range of Fox News.”
  • People don’t want to throw Berlusconi out, because they fear some kind of economic upheaval.
  • Talking about Berlusconi – he’s a head of state behaving like Hugh Hefner. This is a big deal in Italy.
  • ExxonMobil are not the only political malefactors, they’re just the best connected.
  • ExxonMobil is the personification of corporate evil. (applause)
  • You cn do whatever you want to a microbe and no hippie will show up with a protest sign. Microbes are not in the Bible.
  • Beautiful social network for synthetic biology: (expand)
  • Craig Ventner was at SXSW because he’s trying to reframe 20c genetic engineeering as 21stc synthetic biology.
  • In our society, we don’t have any passionate virtuosity.Our political situation is the opposite,disgusted incompetence.
  • We’ve got a series of problems that are poorly recognized.
  • Passionate virtuosity…. the ideas in Worldchanging 2.0 are passionate but lack virtuosity.
  • Bruce Sterling shows Worldchanging 2.0 (the book) at sxsw.
  • As a design critic, I criticize stuff that doesn’t exist yet.
  • Polarizing brand management. Culture wars. Politics from POV of a design critic.
  • All the political language has been rendered toxic.
  • “There are people here who are younger than the event.”
  • At Southby, science fiction authors talk like they know what’s going on.

Egypt’s fired up

Coincidentally while I’ve been at the TXGov20Camp that I’ve worked on (via EFF-Austin, along with the LBJ School), what looks like a democratic rebellion’s caught fire in Egypt; there’s people in the streets calling for the resignation of the 30-year president, Hosni Mobarak. The government tried to squash communications by shutting down Internet access, because so much of the action’s been coordinated online. Wikipedia has an overview. Gilad Lotan has created a “jan25” Twitter list where you can follow tweets from the scene. Aljazeera probably has the best news coverage, and Global Voices is aggregating citizen media from the region. Here’s a piece on the Internet shutdown.


“American soft power is vanishing”

Bruce Sterling and I are well into our annual State of the World conversation over on the WELL. Bruce, who’s traveled the world all his life and has been in unique situations (like his travels through Russia and Eastern Europe after the fall of the Iron Curtain), truly thinks globally, whereas I’m virtually global (via the Internet) though not as well-traveled. I tend to write from a U.S. perspective, which means less these days… sez Bruce,

Back in the 90s, when I was travelling in Europe, I used to get a lot of eager queries about the USA. What’s new over there, what are you doing with your lives and your riches and your technology, why is your government like that? This was considered a matter of urgency, and most Europeans I met, who were naturally from techie, artsy and literary circles, held views of America that were surprisingly like contemporary paranoid Tea Party views. They had interestingly wacky private theologies about the Pentagon, the CIA, Wall Street, the malignant military-industrial complex and so forth… Not that they ever bothered to find out much about the factual operation of these bodies. Stilll, they were sure that the USA really mattered.

Nowadays, the Europeans are just not all that concerned about Yankees. They don’t ask; they’re incurious about America, they are blase’. Being an American in Europe now is rather like being a Canadian, and it’s trending toward being a Brazilian.

American soft power is vanishing. Foreigners are much less interested in American television, movies, pop music… America once had a tremendous hammerlock on those expensive channels of distribution, but those old analog megaphones don’t matter half as much in today’s network society.

The USA has become a big banana republic; in other words, it’s come to behave like other countries quite normally behave. The upside is that we don’t get blamed for what happens; the downside is, nothing much happens. Decay and denial. Gothic High Tech.


Personal Democracy Forum’s flash summit on Wikileaks

Video archive of Saturday’s Wikileaks discussion, which was quite compelling… quite a bit about the new world of journalism and Wikileaks’ place in it. These are truly chaotic and “interesting” times.

Watch live streaming video from pdfleaks at