How to deal with the question of spirituality in the age of the internet? The popular opinion that there is no space for spirituality in the technologized world is clearly refuted. Nevertheless we live a time in which the logic of the Net influences the way we think, learn, communicate and maybe believe and pray as well.
Spadaro here tries to identify some key issues that seem particularly relevant, starting with the popular use of certain applications and technologies.
A SINGLE QUOTE
«Technology is the organization of matter according to a conscious human design, and therefore, belongs to man’s spiritual being. We are called upon to understand its very nature as it relates to spiritual life.
Obviously, technology remains ambiguous because man’s freedom can just as easily serve evil, but it is exactly this possibility that highlights how technology’s very nature is intrinsically linked to a world of possibilities regarding the spirit.»
Antonio Spadaro (1966) is a Jesuit priest, editor of the influential Italian magazine "La Civiltà Cattolica". He is also Consultor for the Pontifical Council for Culture and for the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. He is the first Italian priest who joined Twitter (@antoniospadaro) and runs a blog about theology and cyberculture (cyberteologia.it).
The Economist wrote about him: "he noticed that hackers and students of hacker culture used the language of theological value when writing about creativity and coding, so he decided to examine the idea more deeply". Fordham University Press is going to publish his book "Cybertheology. Thinking faith in the internet age".
This title is available also in Italian.
We are incredibly saddened by the news of the passing of Daniel Pearlman. Professor of creative writing, short story and fantasy fiction writer, he passed away at the age of 77.
We would like to remember him for his wonderful stories and great sense of humor, that will be greatly missed. Our thoughts are with his wife and daughter at this sad time.
When we started to explore the possibilities for a new kind of journalism through ebooks, we began an Italian series in co-edition with one of the most interesting Italian newspaper, La Stampa. The idea was
«to move in-depth analysis articles into a more flexible reading environment with a different reading experience compared to the paper one. We think this is a challenge to be embraced with new territory to explore and lots of possibilities still waiting to be discovered.»
Considering this as a new path for journalism, one where there is space for experimenting, starting with language and techniques, we have being publishing since 2011 several titles covering different topics and kinds of journalism: from investigative reports to economy, from cooking to biography, we had the chance to try very different solutions.
We just published Benedict XVI, the resignation of a Pope, in three languages: Italian, English and Spanish.
An international eye on the news: as technology opens new perspectives on lots of different aspects, the intersection between books and news is one of the most interesting to explore.
ABOUT THE BOOK
The story behind Benedict XVI surprising decision to step down as told by the "vaticanisti" and commentators of La Stampa and its specialized site, Vaticaninsider.com. A means for grasping the ramifications of this event, a glimpse into the history of Joseph Ratzinger's papacy and an inside view of the Church's process of choosing his successor.
SEE ALSO SPANISH AND ITALIAN VERSION
If you are familiar with us, you probably won't describe our publishing house as "romantic". In fact, when we come to romance, we think about it our way.
And our way is strange.
Warren Ellis calls it weird, «one peculiar fucking book».
«Aw, C'mon Warren», tweets Bruce. «It's weird now, in 15 years all pop fiction will look like that.»
So we thought to pick some weird book for Valentine's Day. Put aside those chocolate candy (or better, give them to us!) and take a look below.
LOVE IS DOUBLE
«I love both her and them. I have come to understand that she is what they are. A woman accepts a man, expecting that he will change. A man takes a woman, expecting that she will never change. They are both disappointed. Yet within this very disappointment is the primal source of all new men and all new women.»
LOVE IS A MEMORY
«One day they would appear and offer their services, and sometime later they would leave, their coffers filled to overflowing with broken dreams and shattered hopes. Oh, they were paid in currency, lots of it-but what they really traded in was misery.
They had many names, some of their own devising, some not. The one that stuck was the Star Gypsies.»
LOVE IS A FAIRY TALE
LOVE IS SMART
«Although he did not know exactly how Delfinia had amassed her magnificent gallery holdings, he knew she had been the lover of some of the best-promoted names in current Italian painting, and friends of his even suggested that for a while she had run a most elegant upper-class brothel where artists of repute were encouraged to pay in canvas.»
LOVE IS MUSIC
«He wound his way through the curtain pulls and the old flats that lined the backstage area. The piano sat on the stage, covered in a cloth.
He crossed the stage, pushed the bench back and sat, hands resting on the keyboard cover. After a moment, he took off the cloth, and uncovered the keyboard. He rested his fingers on the keys, but didn’t depress them, simply sitting there for a moment, in the dark and silent auditorium, and closed his eyes.
He belonged here. Not on a stage, but with a piano. It was the only place he felt alive. »
«It is the best and only romance novel you should read this year.»
Best sellers, comics, television, sociocultural commentaries about transhumanist themes, he is a deep analyst of the future of pop culture.
Love Is Strange is really strange, or better: «is one peculiar fucking book».
«*Aw c'mon Warren,» tweets Bruce Sterling, «it's weird NOW, in 15 years all pop fiction will look like that.»
COMMODITY PUBLISHING, SELF-PUBLISHING, AND THE FUTURE OF FICTION
"If commodity publishing is here to stay, I can only see its future in the realm of genre fiction, because this is the area where I see sufficient reader demand to drive the kind of volume that leads to a living wage. It’s also the only area where I see authors without qualms about quality, or without any hesitation to produce as much material as possible, with the only limitation the amount of time you can keep your butt in the chair writing."
JUST BECAUSE SOMETHING HAS VALUE DOESN'T MEAN IT HAS A PRICE
"If every shred needs to be accounted for and paid for, then the harvest won't happen. Paying for every link you make, or every link you count, or every document you analyse is a losing game. Forget payment: the process of figuring out who to pay and how much is owed would totally swamp the expected return from whatever it is you're planning on making out of all those unloved scraps.
In other words, if all latent value from our activity has a price-tag attached to it, it won't get us all paid – instead, it will just stop other people from making cool, useful, interesting and valuable things out of our waste-product."
The Guardian | @doctorow
PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE MERGER BEGINS A NEW CHAPTER FOR PUBLISHING
"Publishing brands are starting to emerge as consumer brands, not in all places, but in some. And perhaps the most interesting question for the new Random Penguin merger is what they do decide to do with Penguin as a consumer brand that is not even constrained by its own publishing, but orientated to the interests of its readers more generally. In other words, can it become a home for discovery of excellent reading as well as a great publisher?"
THE E-READER REVOLUTION: OVER JUST AS IT HAS BEGUN?
"The real innovation in e-readers has been giving consumers a convenient way to buy books, wirelessly, without even having to use their computers," says Sarah Rotman Epps, a Forrester Research analyst. "Giving consumers a digital storefront right in their hands, that's what really made e-readers a phenomenon."
The Wall Street Journal
BACK TO THE FUTURE OF DIGITAL PUBLISHING
Don’t worry – this isn’t one of those shows on VH1 where washed-up pseudo-celebrities make flippant remarks about other washed-up celebrities who were famous in 1993. It’s a real look back at the past: what agents thought about digital publishing way back when. Despite what your opinion about agents’ relationships with ebooks today, in 1993 they were well-informed and perhaps ahead of the curve."
Digital Book World
"There are Futurist conferences," wrote Käthe in her review, "philosophy, fashionable Italians, Brazilian voodoo, Swedish Methodism, steampunk novelists, time travel and state secrets. Although set now, amid the ongoing international financial turmoil, I would expect this to appeal to those who enjoy all the similar sorts of elements of "The Diamond Age".
Best of all, it's a romance likely to appeal equally to men and women, tech fanciers and artists. It is amusing, quirky, earnest, and charming."
We picked some geek quotes for you:
The music business is the walking dead!
«Eliza opened her furry black satchel. She pulled out a portable CD player. “Gav, look here. Once, I loved this machine. Because it plays all my CDs. But nobody buys music in the stores any more! Even I don’t pay for music, and I’m rich! I’m carrying a zombie in my purse!”
“Well, yes, that platform is obsolete now, but a new business model will arise for music.”
“No it won’t! That’s a lie! Nobody will ever pay! The music business is the walking dead! Don’t lie to me.” Eliza stuffed her doomed device back in her furry purse.
Gavin rubbed his chin. “Your Digital Native generation really has some issues.”»
Amazon had been invented to sell sci-fi books. The least chic thing in the world.
«All the Amazon guys around Seattle were also aware of the trend. They all knew that, someday, European haute couture would sell online. The problem was that feat couldn’t be done by anybody from Amazon. Because Amazon guys were hacker geeks and cheesy hicks. Amazon had been invented to sell sci-fi books. The least chic thing in the world.
The European couture biz would never go anywhere near a dorky sci-fi geek like Jeff Bezos. As for Jeff himself, Jeff would much rather conquer outer space with his private rocket than ever dress the First Lady of France.»
World of Warcraft
"I'm Level Eighty on Warcraft."
The clerk was stunned. "You're Level Eighty?! Are you Horde, or Alliance?"
"What, are you kidding me? I'm Horde, of course! I'm a Level Eighty Undead Priestess. What Guild are you in?"
"I'm a Horde Blood Elf Paladin. Level 30. I'm in the Blood Roses Guild."
"Have you ever seen a 'Spectral Tiger' loot card? I bet you never have."
The museum clerk thought about her situation. The psychic pressure was mounting on her. She was in a state of moral anguish. "Look, Signora, I'd love to help your American clients there... But if my director knew I was Warcrafting here at work, she'd kill me! Besides, you don't have any 'Spectral Tiger' in your purse, I bet."
Jeff Bezos and his private space rocket
«“So, Sally, what’s new around here?”
“Jeff Bezos just sold off two million shares.”
“So, why would our sci-fi paperback bookseller need to sell that much Amazon stock?”
“I think Jeff needs the cash for his private space rocket.”»
The Internet would crack these nuts
«She had Google, and she had Wikipedia. She could look up anything obscure, any words or phrases that she didn’t understand. A romance novel was just a book, while the Internet was the Internet. The Internet would crack these nuts for sure.»
I may dress like a nerd
«Look, Brixie, I may dress like a nerd, but I can read trends. Yeah, I can tell you what to do.»
Optimistic startup guys
«Gavin did not enjoy his hard work. The optimistic startup guys sending in these crazy proposals were guys who enjoyed their work. Gavin had the solid, old-fashioned idea that work should be painful, so that people would pay you for doing it. If the “work” was fulfilling, then work was a form of entertainment. The workers should be paying people for being entertained.»
She was such an Internet fiend ...
«Brixie wasn’t talking to him, or listening to him. Nothing like that at all. Brixie was off in her own world, flaming away like a blowtorch. She was such an Internet fiend that she had never learned any other way to behave.»
«Brixie’s blog was huge. That had to be it. Brixie had a monster fashion blog. All those Los Angeles girls with their feet on the pedals of daddy’s sports car... Speedometers twitched in Milan whenever those girls changed their shoes... And Brixie knew how to make the girls in L.A. change their shoes.
Dr. Gustav Y. Svante had warned him about this. This was an Internet thing: “disintermediation.”»
«Once, I went to this little meeting of Microsoft kids. Like, this high-school trip thing, but it was very exclusive. We met the world’s greatest Futurist there. Dr Gustav Y. Svante. Nobody knows who he is. That’s why he’s the world’s greatest Futurist. He told us... He said that the future was already here, but nobody listens to the future. The future is all around us, but we don’t see the future yet. We don’t hear it or see it, so we can’t tell it.”»
«“I meant, tell me all about this steampunk thing!” Gavin broke in. “How does that concept work out for you people, here in Brazil?”
“You don’t know about steampunk?” shouted Xavier, dubiously.
“Well, I don’t read many novels! Because I’m kinda fully-booked already! But, obviously, you’re a science fiction writer at a Futurist conference! And I can see that you’re all dressed up like some fancy guy from the past, from the 19th century! So what gives with that? What is all that about?”»
«“Looks like your sci-fi prediction came true right away, Xavier.”
“That can be gratifying,” mused the novelist. “But not all the time.”»
Facebook is like his new drug
«“Everybody is in trouble with my dad. My dad only sort of gets the Internet. My dad started looking up all his old enemies on Facebook. My dad picks big flamewar fights. It’s like my dad just discovered that people can talk about politics without his permission. Facebook is like his new drug, he’s getting all sweaty and manic... Farfalla, is Facebook the work of the Devil? Google is ‘not evil,’ but nobody ever said that Facebook was ‘not evil.’”»
We just published the brand new novel by Bruce Sterling, Love Is Strange.
Cory Doctorow: Do you feel that the world is, on balance, improved by technology?
Well, if you ask that question from the point of view of almost anything in this world that's not a human being like you and me, the answer's almost certainly No. You might get a few Yea votes from the likes of albino rabbits and gene-spliced tobacco plants. Ask any living thing that's been around in the world since before the Greeks made up the word "technology," like say a bristlecone pine or a coral reef. You would hear an awful tale of woe.
Matthew Battles: Concern for the future is a perennial human predicament; what (if anything) is peculiar about the modern fascination with futurity?
Well, for us moderns, this perennial predicament isn't entirely in the charge of priests, as it generally has been for all history. Actually, there's quite a lot of stuff that's peculiar about our recent version of futurity. Number one is that we no longer know what "progress" is, so our "conservatives" have become our radicals while our "progressives" are our conservatives.
We're also a lot keener on big data and social mapping than anybody ever was before, because we've got really large big data and we more or less just invented social maps. We're alway excited by breakthroughs that haven't bored us and become banal and useful yet.
I can pick the trends, but you'll only really watch them if they somehow capture your imagination. The number one trend in the world, the biggest, the most important trend, is climate change. People hate watching it; they either flinch in guilty fear or shudder away in denial, but it makes a deeper, more drastic difference to your future than anything else that is happening now.
Personally, I enjoy watching trendy developments in augmented reality, extinct forms of media, new forms of language within digital media, the Internet of Things and popular music trends in countries other than the USA. They're not the world's most important trends, but they are trends I cared enough about to study and more or less understand. That's why they're all categories on my weblog.
The world is full of "trends," thousands of them, but you have to engage with one to derive any benefit from knowing that it's happening. For instance, that trend of smoking cigarettes is going to damage your health. Everybody yells that at you, and it's even written into law and right on the packages. So that "trend" is no big secret to you, but until the day when you can wake up to it and let it matter to yourself, you won't be able to let your thoughtless addiction go. It's a trend all right -- you can watch it happening for years, as you light another, then another, and then another -- but until you engage with it, that trend owns you, and you don't own it.
Cory Doctorow: Will "electronic art" someday cease to be a meaningful distinction? Has it already become so?
Those terms are pretty elastic. When there's a bidding war over classic paintings nowadays, people are commonly bidding worldwide while looking at jpegs of the canvas.
There's one kind of electronic art that's very publicly and self-consciously "electronic" -- commonly it's got snarled wires coming out of it, to demonstrate how electronic it is -- and I'd guess that stuff's gonna have a fairly short shelf-life. But it will be very hard to say when it's over, as it is also hard to say when it started. When did "video art" start, and when will "video art" end? How about "device art" or "network art" or "software art"?
Asking if all art will someday be "electronic" is similar to asking if there will be a day when live theater is indistinguishable from cinema. I can imagine such a situation, I don't think it's impossible, but it would mean that the concepts of "cinema" and "theater" were both long obsolete, and a society like that would be very alien.
Paul Di Filippo: If you were attempting to start your career as a science fiction writer in today's milieu, rather than in the 1980s milieu when you did begin, what would your strategy be for getting a toehold and getting your name known? In other words, where are the CHEAP TRUTHS of 2013?
That's quite a tough question. It's pretty hard to have a "career" doing any single creative thing nowadays. If you really make a stir as a "science fiction writer" nowadays, you're likely to get swept up in all kinds of network-society fringe activities, such as blogging, going to conventions, comics, gaming, TV, movies, collectibles.... The days when you could be a "science fiction writer" and work exclusively on books and magazines seem to have vanished already.
I'm pretty sure that the best way to get a toehold in writing is to start writing work that you yourself want to read. Then, see who really cares about it, and try to understand why. Wasting energy trying to ace your way through collapsing industries is a drag. You should never be surprised if your most effective, most influential writing is writing no publisher will pay for.
Ted Striphas: Have you adjusted your writing style, or the substance of your writing, in light of new digital systems for producing, distributing, and communicating about books? If so, how, and with what consequences?
I'd say that my writing career has been a constant struggle with that issue since about 1980. I do a lot of writing for digital systems, "writing" that's got nothing to do with "books." It's hard to say what the consequences of this struggle are, but I can guess. I frankly think it damaged my prose style -- because I never had the chance to fully master the methods by which I express myself. But it also kept me flexible and alert in other ways. It's likely similar to the effect of digital music on contemporary musicians -- they can make a lot of weirder noises, lots faster, but they don't become virtuosos.
It changed my work profoundly when I realized I could talk to a global audience on the Internet, although I was legally limited from doing that by national publishing systems. The lack of any global book market has much reduced my interest in publishing books. National systems don't "publish" me, but rather conceal me. This especially happens to writers outside the Anglophone market, but I know a lot of them, and I've become sensitized to their issues. It's one of the general issues of globalization.
Ted Striphas, John Sundman: Some have suggested that the age of the long form novel is nearing an end, and that shorter, strung-together narrative chunks represent the future. How would you respond to this claim?
I'd suggest trying to imagine somebody in the year 2062 sitting down to read "the best tweets of 2012." Does that prospect sound at all plausible to you? I'm a blogger and I'm very keen on randomly-assembled narrative chunks, but I've always known that blog content has a short shelf-life. It's like doing stand-up comedy.
Ted Striphas: Like many science fiction writers (or, like many of the best science fiction writers), you've introduced several neologisms into the English language—words and phrases like "buckyjunk," "major consensus narrative," "spime," and a host of others. Beyond the fact that neologisms can make for lively writing, why push the limits of language this way?
I know that can sound like "pushing" language, but from my point of view, social change reveals gaps in language. For instance, the idea of an "Internet of Things" leaves, to my eye, an obvious verbal hole for a "thing" that's created specifically to exist within an "internet of things." What kind of "thing" is that "thing?" "Spime" is not a great word, but it's there if anybody needs it.
If there's an issue that needs discussion, but there's no way to discuss it without some clumsy workaround, then why not just make up a word for it? Thousands of slang terms are invented in many dialects of English every day. The English language isn't going to buckle and collapse because I made up the term "buckyjunk," which prophesies the pollution problems involved in making items from semi-indestructible "buckminsterfullerene."
Some people think I made up other colorful terms such as "blobject" and "junkspace," but I didn't, I was quite happy just to find these neologisms and do my part to spread them around. Where is my downside? I'm a science fiction writer, I'm not going to get arrested for using new words.
Matthew Battles: What are some of the more unexpected ways our things might outlive us?
Actually it's mostly the past's things that will outlive us. Things that have already successfully lived a long time, such as the Pyramids, are likely to stay around longer than 99.9% of our things. It might be a bit startling to realize that it's mostly our paper that will survive us as data, while a lot of our electronics will succumb to erasure, loss, and bit rot.
If we're like most civilizations, we're going to leave some of our most effective clues to ourselves in our garbage. We've got plenty of it, too. We've got Pyramids of garbage.
Richard Nash: I once heard you note that they only thing you knew for certain about the future is that we were growing older. What would you say are the key changes in culture from the increase in life expectancy?
That future's here already in today's retirement communities. Genoa is one of the "oldest" cities in Europe, in terms of Genoa's aged population. You can see that reality in little things in Genoa, like how long the buses dawdle at the stops as the aged passengers climb painfully on and off. There are elderly in the cafes, the cafes are quiet and solemn, the customers don't yell, gesture or move around much. Kids in Genoa seem to instinctively gather in self-protective packs. There are a lot of little old ladies in Genoa -- as lifespans extend, the gender balance changes.
An older world is not a shocking difference, but compare Genoa to Moscow, where the people have a lousy life expectancy. Moscow is pretty tough, loud, sexy and raucous by comparison to Genoa.
Richard Nash: What would you say are the key changes in culture from the increase in life expectancy to date, and from now on? And to follow on, how does this intersect with the much debated topics of abundance on the one hand, and declining fertility on the other?
You can only have declining fertility for so long, until whichever groups are declining are replaced by other groups that aren't declining. In other words, if rich guys don't breed, you're gonna get a new breed of rich guy.
One could argue that if longevity was increasing fast enough, then old people would make up for the birth deficit in young people, but the math has never worked that way to date. It's pretty easy to increase the number of people surviving to old age, but we've done very little in increasing the absolute human lifespan. I don't doubt that it's possible, and I've written a lot of science fiction about it, but it's not in fact happening yet as a fact on the ground.
If we start seeing "Methuselah mice" with five or ten times the normal mouse lifespan, then my attitude would change immediately, and I would be gravely concerned. We would be in for massive, irrevocable changes in politics, law, ethics, economics, society, most everything we know.
Marianne de Pierres: Speaking about longevity, what do you believe is the human species’ saving grace? What gives you the most hope for our future?
I frankly take a lot of comfort in the idea that we human beings just don't know what's going on. We have a long history of stumbling over facts that are completely unpredictable and utterly outside our limited ken. The universe must have a lot more surprises for us, if we can somehow keep making fresh mistakes. So I'd say our saving grace is not our foresight but our naivete.
Nils Gilman: What is the most accomplished literary work(s) of prophesy?
Well, the monument there is almost certainly "As We May Think" by Vannevar Bush, but since that's a pop-science article, it might not be accepted as "literary." It's certainly very "accomplished," though. Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World" has a lot of prescient stuff in in that quite horrified Huxley and doesn't bother us a bit. Jules Verne's first novel, "Paris in the 20th Century," is amazingly prophetic, but since Verne never could publish it, it wasn't very "accomplished." The cartoons of Albert Robida are cartoon satires, but their prescience is truly amazing.
Giuliana Guazzaroni: How much is augmented reality important for the future of technology and web, and for fiction as well?
I'm a big fan of "augmented reality," but I think the field is going to break up into a wide variety of applications, devices and approaches, some more significant, others less. Augmented Reality is generally important because it's one of those grand, metaphysical quests in computer science -- what is reality, what can we do to reality? The answer is that "reality" is not in any particular danger from computer science, but you might find out some interesting things that would never show up if you asked simpler questions, such as, say, "how do we write some code to paste video snippets onto this handheld screen."
They're futurists in love. They don't believe in romantic happy endings.
Farfalla Corrado is a globetrotting Italian witch, trained in Brazilian voodoo. Farfalla can tell real fortunes, see real ghosts and speak real curses. Farfalla doesn't just know the future – she can feel in in the dark, twisted depths of her heart.
Gavin Tremaine is a high-tech Seattle venture capitalist. He can forecast the future, spot its trends, and invest in its business models. Gavin has a big future ahead of him – unfortunately, Gavin knows what that big future holds for the little people.
When their worlds collide, history itself begins to crumble. They already know how this love story is bound to end – and it's not what the other expects.
Length: about 137.000 words
$ 6.99: Amazon
A SINGLE QUOTE
“My premonitions are real. They are ‘real’ like the future is real. Because the future is never ‘really real.’ The future hasn’t happened yet, and the past is gone forever. The ghosts of the past and the visions of the future are the same for me.”
“I get that. You’re outside temporality. You’re beyond the narrative.”
“Yes. The narrative,that’s the word. I am the Cassandra of the narrative.”
“I’m the same way, Farfalla. Well, in my own way — but in my own narrative, I’m the same way.”
“Gavin, how did it happen to you?”
“Oh, it happened to me, all right... Once, I went to this little meeting of Microsoft kids. Like, this high-school trip thing, but it was very exclusive. We met the world’s greatest Futurist there. Dr Gustav Y. Svante. Nobody knows who he is. That’s why he’s the world’s greatest Futurist. He told us... He said that the future was already here, but nobody listens to the future. The future is all around us, but we don’t see the future yet. We don’t hear it or see it, so we can’t tell it.”
IS THERE ANYTHING YOU WOULD LIKE TO ASK TO BRUCE STERLING?
Discover how here.
Bruce Sterling lives in Austin, Turin and also Belgrade. He is married to the Serbian feminist and novelist Jasmina Tesanovic.
He is an American science fiction author, best known for his novels and his work on the Mirrorshades anthology, which helped define the cyberpunk genre.
His nonfiction works include The Hacker Crackdown: Law and Disorder on the Electronic Frontier; Tomorrow Now: Envisioning the Next Fifty Years; and Shaping Things.
(Amazon Exclusive, DRM FREE: easy to convert and read anywhere else)
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Have you heard the Big Christmas News? Tomorrow, 27th of December 2012, we are going to publish the brand new novel by Bruce Sterling, "Love Is Strange".
For the occasion, we are collecting questions for an interview to the author from many people, about science fiction, future, publishing and changes in culture.
And we were wondering: is there anything you would like to ask to Bruce Sterling?
Post your question here, we'll pick a couple of them.