At it’s core Heavy Weather is a story of brotherhood and sisterhood, of estranged siblings who overcome their differences and reconnect at a higher level. Where Sterling’s book Schismatrix dazzled with it’s brillant portrayal of genetically altered and cybernetically augmented humanity aloft among the stars, in Heavy Weather I feel I get to know Bruce on more personally.
I’ve had three dreams about Bruce Sterling this year. One involved taxes. In another my dream version of Bruce told me I needed to start podcasting my fiction, something I fully intend on doing. In the third I met him on a suburban street in Austin, went to a college stadium, and then went trash picking together. (I got a cool turntable made out of stone and some weird phones.) By the third dream I knew I needed to read some more of his fiction, though I’d been following his blog Beyond the Beyond for awhile.
I’d started Heavy Weather once before, but put it down. It wasn’t the right time for me to read it and I got distracted by something else. This time was the right time to read it and I flew through it like an F6 down Tornado Alley.
The future portrayed by Sterling is unfortunately all too plausible. We are already seeing the Heavy Weather he wrote of – freak hurricanes, tornadoes, etc, all fed by global warming. The hopeful aspect of the book is the band of hackers who are researching the weather. They can’t stop it, but they can do a lot to understand it better and that might do much to assuage the difficulties when it hits. Personal dramas unfold amidst.
Jaron Lanier’s book You Are Not A Gadget has also been a recent fascination for my eyes. He gives everyone who reads the book a lot to chew on, especially those who’ve been force fed the idea that we should inherently trust computer algorithms and that mobs are “smart”. I definitely agree with his idea that physical objects should be brought back into music distribution. I listen to mp3s, but don’t love them. I do however cherish my vinyl records. …And I think that is why collectable vinyl has been on the upswing since filesharing has become so easy, with bands releasing exclusive and limited pressings of albums or alternate versions, etc. I especially like the last section of the book where he explains the concept of Neoteny, which the oxford english dictionary defines as “the retention of juvenile characteristics in a (sexually) mature individual”. He notes that the lag time between birth and when we consider ourselves “adult” is growing. Our childhood is extending. He equates Bachelardian Neoteny with a sense of wonder, as opposed to Goldingesque Neoteny (aka William Golding’s “Lord of the Flies” ) where cruelty and conormity dominate. You’ll have to read the book yourself to get the full scope and scoop. The book ends with a nice meditation on cephalopods, and his equation “Cephalopods + Childhood = Humans + Virtual Reality” and his ideas on Postsymbolic Communication.
Like Rudy Rucker he dreams of a computer that is not based on current programing protocols. He says, “The point of the project is to find a way of making software that rejects the idea of the protocol. Instead, each software module must use emergent generic pattern-recognition techniques…to connect with other modules. Phenotropic computing could potentially result in a kind of software that is less tangled and unpredictable, since there wouldn’t be protocol errors if there weren’t any protocols. It would also suggest a path to escaping the prison of predefined, locked in ontologies like MIDI in human affairs.”
I sure hope he makes a breakthrough in this regard.