William Gibson Reimagines World After 2016 Election

“Agency,” Mr. Gibson’s next novel, which Berkley will publish in January. The story unfolds in two timelines: San Francisco in 2017, in an alternate time track where Hillary Clinton won the election and Mr. Trump’s political ambitions were thwarted, and London in the 22nd century, after decades of cataclysmic events have killed 80 percent of humanity. In the present-day San Francisco setting, a shadowy start-up hires a young woman named Verity to test a new product: a “cross-platform personal avatar” that was developed by the military as a form of artificial intelligence. Meanwhile, characters in the distant future are interfering with the events unfolding in 2017, through technological time travel that allows them to send digital communications to the past.”

New York Times book review »

Does William Gibson know what’s ahead?

“It’s the music of a disenfranchised, mostly white proletariat, barely hanging on in post-post-industrial America.” William Gibson’s All Tomorrow’s Parties was published in 1999 so the line above was written at least 17 years ago. More so than any other writer, I get the feeling Gibson somehow knows what’s ahead for us. Maybe he gave us a glimpse of that in The Peripheral. Perhaps that future is already here. I wish I could pick up the phone and call Mr. Gibson or Kevin Kelly or James Gleick or (insert name of really smart person here): “I’m sorry to bother you, but what do you think? Is everything going to be okay or not?”

William Gibson interview

William Gibson fans will want to read this short interview by Business Insider. Mr. Gibson talks about ‘The Peripheral,’ the power of Twitter, and his next book set in today’s Silicon Valley.

“I am able to wake up, open Twitter, and sort of glance across the psychic state of the planet.”

What does a writer do when the world gets weirder faster than you can write about it?

“…he world is already that much weirder than it was when I started writing the book. You know the level of freakiness we have experienced in 2016 is so far off the charts, I am having to go back and crank up the weirdness in parts of the book I have already written.”

And it’s only August. Worried about the Middle East? Don’t be.

“And then I see NASA’s climate projection for the Middle East in 2050 or so, when they say none of it will be livable by human beings who don’t have space suits.”

The best thing about the present

“The most fantastic thing about the present time is that we’re actually still here. In the early ’80s, people who knew what their situation was with the Cold War and nuclear armament didn’t necessarily expect that we’d make it this far. We’ve kind of lost that knowledge. Once the threat was gone, it was like we disremembered it as a species. It seldom comes up anymore, which is really odd.”

“The future will probably know more about what we’re actually doing than we do. Because if it stays history long enough, it doesn’t have to be secret anymore.”

From interview with William Gibson

Shoot all the guys wearing combat pants first

Interesting interview with William Gibson. I guess it’s about style and fashion although I doubt he’d describe it thus. “Tech Wear and the Limits of Authenticity” is a pretty good description.

My rule is that if Dick Cheney couldn’t wear it without creating a stir, I shouldn’t either. I like clothing that isn’t easily noticed. […] I’m embarrassed if I think anyone knows exactly what I paid for something, or even where I got it. I want what I’m wearing to feel good on, wear well, and to be extremely functional.

There’s an idea called “gray man”, in the security business, that I find interesting. They teach people to dress unobtrusively. Chinos instead of combat pants, and if you really need the extra pockets, a better design conceals them. They assume, actually, that the bad guys will shoot all the guys wearing combat pants first, just to be sure. I don’t have that as a concern, but there’s something appealingly “low-drag” about gray man theory: reduced friction with one’s environment.

William Gibson, NY Public Library

William Gibson is the author of ten books, including, most recently, the New York Times-bestselling trilogy Zero History, Spook Country and Pattern Recognition. Gibson’s 1984 debut novel, Neuromancer, was the first novel to win the three top science fiction prizes—the Hugo Award, the Nebula Award, and the Philip K. Dick Memorial Award. Gibson is credited with coining the term “cyberspace” in his short story “Burning Chrome,” and with popularizing the concept of the Internet while it was still largely unknown. He is also a co-author of the novel The Difference Engine, written with Bruce Sterling.

Video above recorded at New York Public Library

William Gibson Wired interview

In the old days, if you wanted to become insanely knowledgeable about something like that, you basically had to be insane — you had to travel around the world, finding other people who were sufficiently crazy to know everything there was to know about that. That would have been so hard to do, dependent on sheer luck, that it kept the numbers of those people down.

But now you can be a kid in a town in the backwoods of Brazil, and you can wake up one morning and say, “I want to know everything about stainless steel sports watches from the 1950s,” and if you really applied yourself, to the internet, at the end of the year you would have the equivalent of a master’s degree in this tiny pointless field. I’ve totally met lots of people who have the equivalent of that degree.

I never wanted to be a collector of anything; I just wanted to pointlessly know really a lot about one thing

My friend Doug Coupland recently tweeted something to the effect that he was once again trying to get into Facebook but he said, “It’s like Twitter but with mandatory homework.” That might be another good way to describe it. With Twitter you’re just there; everybody else is just there. And its appeal to me is the lack of structure and the lack of — there’s this kind of democratization that I think is absent with more structured forms of social media.

Now, last week, 30 years ago? What’s the difference? What does it matter? It’s all there on YouTube. And so I find myself discovering things like a decade late, or I discover things before very many people have found them. It’s atemporal. It’s just all over the long calendar, and that’s going to make things different. But that’s been going on for a long time.

Full interview

Distrust That Particular Flavor

From collection of William Gibson’s articles, talks and book forwards.

I belong to a generation of Americans who dimly recall the world prior to television. Many of us, I suspect, feel vaguely ashamed about this, as though the world before television was not quite, well, the world. The world before television equates with the world before the Net—the mass culture and the mechanisms of Information. And we are of the Net; to recall another mode of being is to admit to having once been something other than human. pg 11

But I’m not sure I really enjoy the music any more than I did before, on certifiably low-fi junk. The music, when it’s really there, is just there. You can hear it coming out of the dented speaker grille of a Datsun B210 with holes in the floor. Sometimes that’s the best way to hear it. pg 13

I’m sometimes asked whether or not I think the Net is a good thing. That’s like being asked if being human is a good thing. pg 14

Nobody predicted commercials, Hollywood Squares, or heavy-metal music videos. pg 15

“Yet once admitted to the culture’s consensus pantheon, certain things seem destined to be with us for a very long time indeed. This is a function, in large part, of the Rewind button. And we would all of us, to some extent, wish to be in heavy rotation.”

The end-point human culture may will be a single moment of effectively endless duration, an infinite digital Now.

Had nations better understood the potential of the Internet, I suspect they might well have strangled it in its cradle. Emergent technology is, by its very nature, out of control, and leads to unpredictable outcomes.

In terms of the future, however, the history of recorded music suggests that any film made today is being launched up the time-line toward end-user technologies ultimately more intelligent, more capable, than the technologies employed in the creation of that film.”

“Which is to say that, no matter who you are, nor how pure your artistic intentions, nor what your budget was, your product somewhere up the line, will eventually find itself at the mercy of people whose ordinary civilian computational capacity out- strips anything anyone has access to today.”

Genuinely evolved interfaces are transparent, so transparent as to be invisible.

Today, reliance on broadcasting is the very definition of a technologically backward society.

“In the age of the leak and the blog, of evidence extraction and link discovery, truths will either out or be outed, later if not sooner. This is something I would bring to the attention of every diplomat, politician, and corporate leader: The future, eventually, will find you out. The future, wielding unimaginable tools of transparency, will have its way with you. In the end, you will be seen to have done that which you did.”

Postindustrial creatures of an information economy, we increasingly sense that accessing media is what we do.

And that, I would argue, is what the World Wide Web, the test pattern for whatever will become the dominant global medium, offers us. Today, in its clumsy, larval, curiously innocent way, it offers us the opportunity to waste time, to wander aimlessly, to daydream about the countless other lives, the other people, on the far sides of however many monitors in that post- geographical meta-country we increasingly call home. It will probably evolve into something considerably less random, and less fun—we seem to have a knack for that—but in the meantime, in its gloriously unsorted Global Ham Television Postcard Universes phase, surfing the Web is a procrastinator’s dream. And people who see you doing it might even imagine you’re working. – New York Times Magazine, June 1996

I very much doubt that our grandchildren will understand the distinction between that which is a computer and that which isn’t.

The world’s cyborg was an extended human nervous system: film, radio, broadcast television, and a shift in perception so profound that I believe we’ve yet to understand it. Watching television, we each became aspects of an electronic brain. We became augmented.

The physical union of human and machine, long dreaded and long anticipated, has been an accomplished fact for decades, though we tend not to see it. We tend not to see it because we are it, and because we still employ Newtonian paradigms that tell us that “physical” has only to do with what we can see, or touch. Which of course is not the case. The electrons streaming into a child’s eye from the screen of the wooden television are as physical as anything else. As physical as the neurons subsequently moving along that child’s optic nerves. As physical as the structures and chemicals those neurons will encounter in the human brain. We are implicit, here, all of us, in a vast physical construct of artificially linked nervous systems. Invisible. We cannot touch it.