The Extreme Futurist Festival organizers held a fund raiser tonight in SF along with DorkbotSF at RallyPad to pay for bleachers so that we can see SRL do it’s thing at the XFF. This event had some counter-culture undertones that are missing from most futurist events that I attend. The night started out with a panel discussion supposedly about cyberpunk between Val Vale, R.U. Sirius, and Rachel Haywire.
I guess Vale started Re/Search magazine. I remember seeing the Modern Primitives book they put out in the early 90’s. It introduced us hillbillies in Buffalo, NY to the idea of voluntary genital mutilation, which was helpful. Vale brought up some of the ideas that often concern futurists such as the problems content creators face getting paid in the digital realm. He seemed somewhat saddened by the idea that young people must turn to startups to pay the rent. This must be what it means to live in the Silicon Valley bubble. Even here in the Bay Area, only a small number of people are resorting to start-ups. Vale suggested that people will need to create stores to sell paper and tangible media to make a living… Uh, Lanier he ain’t. But I sympathize with his pain. I guess Re/Search couldn’t hang with the digital disintermediation.
Vale pulled out a J.G. Ballard quote: sex * tech = the Future, which really makes no sense to me unless “the Future” = “internet porn.” Still, I guess I will look him up and skim some of Ballard’s work. I did like how Vale compared the Web 2.0 idea of user-contributed content to the DIY and “anyone can do it” ethic of Punk Rock. A lot of my cherished 80’s British New Wave bands were inspired by how crappy the Sex Pistols were. “Hell if they can do it, why not us?” Are blogs, tweets, and user comments the natural cousins of punk rock? I can see a parallel between the punk degradation of music and the bloggers degration of journalism anyway.
Rachel Haywire is organizing the XFF and she spoke a bit about her love of transgressive hyper-intelligent “counter-counter-culture”(sic). Rachel lamented that the Nazi’s ruined Eugenics for the rest of us. “Total Fail.” (She must be going for understatement of the year award.) Pearce and others brought up the potential for genetic engineering to reduce suffering at the Humanity+ conference but I worry about the risks. In closing, Rachel threw down a funny poem about sexbots in the future using “let me tell you about my Ted talk” as a pickup line.
R.U. Sirius edited cyberpunk magazine, Mondo 2000 which was quite dear to me in the late 90’s when I arrived in the Bay Area. It first introduced me to the idea of smart drugs (but not where to get them unfortunately.) William Gibson was probably my favorite Science Fiction writer at that time and he really was the founder of cyberpunk in my mind. Cyberpunk is dark and gritty. It is cynical about the dominance of corporations and explores how tech can be repurposed by hackers and criminals. “The street finds its own uses for things” as Gibson says. But Sirius offered that Gibson himself never considered his novels to be dystopian. Would today’s world seem dystopian to our agrarian ancestors?
R.U. Sirius was quite funny and talked about cyberpunk as a memeplex that included conceptual, industrial, and performance art along with hacker culture. “Drug influence cyber hippies dancing on the edges of corporate culture.” He even suggested the wild idea of using genetic engineering as a drug by adding schizophrenic genes to go on an insanity trip. Nice. In his mind, Mondo 2000 really imagined the future while Wired focuses on the prosaic and dull reality of today. But it seems to me that Wired figured out how to work in the online format while Mondo simple did not. That’s too bad.
My coverage of and commentary on the XFF pre-party continues here.