I went to a discussion by author Bruce Sterling last night, sponsored by the weird alliance of independent tech newsletter NTK and political rag The New Statesman (more precisely, their New Media Awards), with some sort of underwriting from organic chocolatiers Green & Black’s (now rather distressingly owned by Cadbury-Schweppes), supplying lovely samples of Maya Gold (a name I do not recommend googling) to everyone.
Sterling’s talk centered around the “intrinsic advantages” of the web as a tool for “sifting, sorting, searching, ranking and tagging” all sorts of information — web pages (Google), photos (Flickr) and more-or-less academic information (wikipedia) — all of this also known as “Web 2.0”, technologies of “commons-based peer production” that are, perhaps uniquely among human inventions “easy to build and hard to smash”. He went on to discuss the future: an “internet of things”, “spimes” trackable in space and time, material extensions of primarily virtual objects: bits made into matter.
Of course, all technology has unforeseen consequences (which is a corollary to Sterling’s dictum that “you’re not smarter than everyone else in the world”). But he touched only briefly on the frightening possibilities of such technologies when the information isn’t available to all of us, but only to (say) the state, as is the case now with London’s Oyster Card. Or the NSA.