Bruce Sterling on Gothic high tech and favela chic
The next decade we’re entering into the teens. It’s a decade inhabited by digital natives, rather than digital revolutionaries, though this is something that has already happened. It’s already behind us, after 1989,when we switched from analogue to digital, from actual to virtual, from scientific to user-centric, local to global, multinationals to financial moguls.
Most of my life has been spent talking about this change. This next decade is in the hands of people who don’t care about that. They don’t know what a typewriter ribbons was. They don’t remember older ways of doing things abolished by these revolutions. Digital natives are growing up in a depression, when banks make people poor, and healthcare makes people sick. Digital natives never have to be told to digitize anything. The hardware is all around. Their immediate response is to grab for a mobile or a laptop.
The driving forces of the digital revolution continue and intensify, but there is no previous order left to rebel against. We don’t get a digital new world order. Digital culture is too fluid and inherently destabilizing, there are too many small pieces to join, and it’s always in beta form. The digital is a tool, but not a tool that interest groups can use to advance their own interests. We don’t get prosperity or governance from it. It’s not a force for good or ill but a phenomenon like electrification, the railroad, or other transformative infrastructures. Railroad natives were bored to death by people who explained railroads as if they were impressive. They’re just there once they’re there.