David Hudson on Fri, 2 Nov 2001 20:31:54 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> discussion on www.edge.org about the world after 911

Mark Stahlman wrote:

>> mark stahlman pointed me a debate between
> > edgy libertarian/nineties US tech intelligentsia
>> on john brockman's edge.org site:
>Hmmmm . . . perhaps a little CONTEXT would help . . . ?

Well, here's a bit, courtesy of Margaret Wertheim in the LA Weekly:

Scientists on the Edge

As for who's there, she offers:

"A former associate of Andy Warhol, the flamboyant Brockman sensed early
on the celebrity power of science. Warhol had the Factory, and Brockman,
who was a frequent visitor in its latter years, has with his Edge site
convened a kind of scientific equivalent, a 'place' where those at the
cutting edge of science and technology can meet to throw around their
latest and wildest ideas."

You might, as I did, scoff at that comparison at first, but on second
glance, it makes a certain sort of sense. Warhol's Factory, after all, was
anything but "a 'place' where those at the cutting edge of [art could]
meet to throw around their latest and wildest ideas." Instead, the Factory
was pretty much what the name implied: a production house pumping out
product to further the brand "Andy Warhol."

John Brockman is a literary agent and many of the people on his
"invite-only list" are clients or potential clients. So there you go.

That comparison fleshed out, though, it should be said that many of the
contributions are intriguing, thought-provoking, etc., and Margaret
Wertheim's shortish article is helpful not only for the context it
provides but also for the digest of the sheer bulk of it all.

But while I agree with you, Mark, that there's more there there than "edgy
libertarian/nineties US tech intelligentsia," I also couldn't help but
share Geert's initial reaction once I clicked and saw all those old names.
Post-9/11, they all seem so ancient and irrelevant. Or to put it another
way, who cares what all these veteran cyberfreaks think about *anything*

And, still speaking personally, that wasn't my reaction at all when, say,
the editors at The Guardian or The New Yorker, lunged for their Rolodexes
immediately after the event and called on literary heavyweights, i.e.,
celebrities to come up with 800 words or so during those days when the
running mantra was, "There are no words." I at least eagerly lapped up
those words and never once thought of the likes of, oh, Ian McEwan, for
example, as time-stamped, marked as belonging to an era suddenly
long-gone. But who would think to call on, e.g., any one of the Dysons?

As it turns out, that rather unscientific sampling serves up a fine
cross-sampling of the variety veteran cyberfreaks actually have to offer.
Esther: the terrorists are Soviets redux; let's defeat them by investing.
George: to hell with the airlines; pneumatic tubes are the future;
Freeman: well, as Wertheim tells it:

"In one of the more frank commentaries I have read on the attacks
anywhere, Dyson tells us that he can easily 'imagine the state of mind of
the young men who so resolutely smashed those planes into the buildings.
Almost I could have been one of them myself.'"

You've got to hand 'em this much: Irrelevant it ain't.

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