I’ve been reading Tomorrow Now, the new non-fiction book by Bruce Sterling. It’s seven chapters organized around the seven ages of man from Shakespeare’s “all the world’s a stage” speech. In it Sterling tries to suggests possibilities for the future. Two recent articles reinforced some of the points he made.
Robert Kuttner sounded off today in The American Prospect about the unseemly media frenzy surrounding the crash of the Columbia space shuttle over the weekend. Kuttner’s critique is two fold, first that the value of manned space exploration goes unchallenged and second that the media are prone to overblow a tragedy. He’s right on with the second point:
Here is the broader concern: We live in an era when democracy is eroding, when dialogue between leaders and citizens is closer to one-way spectacle than the deliberation of a free people. The extreme valorization of the space shuttle and the choreographed pageantry of, say, the recent State of the Union speech seem disconcertingly of a piece.
Sterling describes much the same thing when he talks about politics in the future falling into three categories: technocratic, nostalgic and bizarre. The feeding frenzy of the media over these instant tragedies (Columbia, the Washington sniper, 9-11) are exmples of the bizarre. The actual business of governing continues to be technocratic and basically boring according to Sterling and the only thing that can keep us entertained are the sportlike tragedies occasionally thrown up by the vagaries of history.
In another chapter Sterling talks about economic power and jobs moving away from the United States and into the third world. Business Week has a major story on this trend this week. Overseas operations in India, Hong Kong and the rest of Asia are on a mad growth path. Globalization may have sent blue collar jobs overseas first but the white collar, knowledge worker, jobs don’t seem far behind if you believe this story. Personally I think this is a good thing. America can safely share some of its prosperity with others and, at least for now, I’m not worrying about losing my own job.