Pit Schultz (by way of Pit Schultz <pit@is.in-berlin.de>) on Mon, 8 Jan 96 23:27 MET

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an Interview of dialectrique with R.U. Sirius


   R.U. Sirius, a veteran of the San Francisco Bay Area cyberpunk scene,ur]
   joined us in Club Wired on Thursday, 23 February 1995, to discuss his
   status as Icon-At-Large for Mondo 2000, his perspectives on being
   wired, and on technopolitics. R.U. Sirius is also a regular
   contributor to WIRED, and a Contributing Editor for io, bOING bOING
   and Future Sex magazines. Sirius discussed his role as lead
   conceptualist for Mondo Vanilli, with whom he's recorded the CD IOU
   Babe for Nothing/Interscope Records, scheduled for release some time
   in 1995. R.U. Sirius is also working on an upcoming novel, How to
   Mutate & Take Over the World, due out in the Fall of 1995.

   bemorgan asks: I'm in the industrial software market, R.U. ....
   Industry is changing drastically, becoming more information-based. It
   reflects the culture, and drives it. Do you see the incorporation of
   computers in industrial settings as a major force in altering the
   public perception about computers, computing, and information

   Ubiquity of computer technology inevitably changes public perception
   about info-tech. Talking about computers and culture was REALLY
   obscure when we started Mondo 2000, 5 years ago. When I toured on
   behalf of A User's Guide to the New Edge convincing people that high
   tech culture exists and is important was my entire job...and that was
   just 2 years ago.

   gustavejava asks: What do you think of Greg Ullmery's Teletheory?

   Greg Ullmery's Teletheory??? Any relation to James Blood Ulmer?

   gustavejava asks: Greg Ullmery is at the University of Miami, playing
   with MOOs, deconstruction, etc.

   Sounds interesting. Send me something at rusirius@well.sf.ca.us.

   kreth asks: So, once one mutates and takes over the known world, then

   One buys the CD ROM...and the next book, "Now That You Have The World,
   Why Do You Feel So Shitty? A Self-Help Manual."

   sean asks: Do you see the Web evolving into a substantive medium on
   par with cable, or do you think it'll remain a novelty with a small,
   but hard-core base of users?

   No, I think the Web is the multilevel multi-user extension of the
   telephone and it will go as far and as wide as our imaginations can
   hope. There'll be virtual realities and the whole shebang. Jeez, I'm
   really sort of cynical, but these questions are trapping me and making
   me act like a lala techno-optimist...

   rob2623 asks: Do you agree that in the future the Unwired will become
   "increasingly irrelevant"?

   To whom? Lots of people will drop out of the Wired World, and more
   power to them. Any trend engenders a reaction.

   bemorgan asks: I for one, have heard of you, but only in passing.
   (Sorry.) What can you tell us about the overriding themes of your

   I basically deliver an irreverent surreal take on the digital present
   and future...and try to offend people whenever I can. Mondo 2000 was
   progenitor of WIRED.

   bemorgan asks: Do you anticipate a Luddite reaction to technologies?

   There's already a Luddite reaction to technologies. This is
   unfortunate, because in a world of 8 billion-some-odd people, the only
   hope for avoiding disaster is in the evolution of self-replicating
   production technologies. But the romanticization of technologies that
   are counterintuitive and not yet ready, in itself, engenders a
   backlash. Mondo 2000 and WIRED are both responsible for that, in a
   sense. Before Mondo, people used to see new communications tech like
   virtual reality and be astounded. Now they complain because it doesn't
   grant them instant psychedelic enlightenment and clean out their
   arteries with nanobytes.

   sean asks: Oliver Stone: to be taken outside and beaten?

   Oliver Stone to be beaten? Uh, sure... what the hell. Stop him before
   he does another film from the sixties AGAIN!

   dwoo asks: There's a thread in HotWired about the Web being a "sexy"
   medium...Should sexiness be the goal of a medium so powerful?

   Sexiness is the goal and the reality of everything in life of course,
   although I think that computer technology is pretty unsexy. I think
   getting off the computer to get off is better than getting off through
   the computer.

   hodges asks: How do you hack into AOL?

   How to hack AOL? Those who know don't say and those who say don't know
   and I don't know or say. Who'd wanna hack AOL? I use it to pass large
   documents back and forth... my friend Kathy Acker was kicked off for
   being obscene!

   rob2623 asks: How about this porn/censorship bill on the Senate floor?
   Should we worry?

   Always worry... particularly about the activities of our government in
   these times. It's a safe bet to predict astonishing assaults on
   personal freedom, dignity and common sense from puritans of the left
   and the right. this is what our book How to Mutate & Take Over the
   World is about. I predict that before they're done, pornography,
   encryption, fur, tobacco, and steak and french fries will be criminal.

   bemorgan asks: Speaking of obscenity, being kicked off, and all that:
   what's your take on the Michigan student who got busted for
   threatening a classmate on USENET? Was he simply being stupid, or are
   the powers that be over-reacting?

   As a fiction writer, I know that when you're writing something, you
   search your memory for real incidents or names of people who may have
   nothing whatsoever to do with what you're writing... i think that
   perhaps it wasn't intended specifically as an assault on the person

   conlaoch asks: Well what about the government intervening with the
   world according to Microsoft? Would that be viewed as a perpetuation
   of free market? Or as a heavy government hand?

   I have mixed feelings about government intervention of all sorts. It's
   a slippery slope. Nevertheless, as a LEFT libertarian, I have to admit
   that government is sometimes a temporary wedge against the abuses of
   big capitalism and multinationalism, etc. I wouldn't object to doing
   to Bill Gates what we just did to Oliver Stone.

   rob2623 asks: Wireless or fiber: which has the best future?

   Wireless or fiber? Fuck if I know, man. I tend to think that lots of
   things will happen simultaneously in different domains... very little
   and/or in the future.

   rob2623 asks: What's biggest challenge in your job today?

   I'm down to answering what's the biggest challenge... My job
   today--this VERY day--is trying to complete a 300-page novel that has
   about 6 intersecting plots in different times, and includes rants and
   essays and informational pieces from about 20 game-playing
   participants. It's hard, but it beats hell out of having to go to an
   office in the morning.

   scamp asks: The title of your upcoming book is How to Mutate & Take
   Over the World. What does that mean?

   Well, I believe that we're about a process that is actually going to
   change the human organism. I'm interested in replaceable parts,
   nanotechnology, intelligence increase--all that Extropian stuff. But
   the book is also taking the piss (as the Brits like to say) out of all
   that. Taking over the world is just a megalomaniacal fantasy to base
   the book around. I've been reading the biography of Chairman Mao...
   most instructive... political power comes out of the wires of a modem!
   Right On!

   sean asks: OK, as a "left libertarian" what's your take on universal
   service and what it means in the new info-economy?

   So glad you asked. Unlike Newt, I'm not in favor of giving everybody a
   modem by taking away their food, but... I think we have a
   responsibility to provide universal access, yes. The big question that
   a libertarian or anarchist must ask is whether PROPERTY is a right, or
   if it requires the intervention of the State.. and the answer is... it
   depends. (Actually, I'm a libertarian centrist... but that gets arcane
   and complicated.)

   dwoo asks: Is there a lack of leadership in America -- or for that
   matter, the world -- today? Who today points to a vision, and not
   merely an anti-vision?

   I was recently asked whose vision I respect politically today, and I
   couldn't think of anybody. I'm trying to put together a post-scarcity
   info-comm era political statement right now, and find it difficult to
   get much help or feedback. I suspect that zero-sum economics are
   obsolete in a cybernetic culture and that a new economy could be based
   around complexity theory. I asked Ralph Abraham about this, but he
   evaded the question and told me about how beautiful Hawaii is... maybe
   he's right.

   rob2623 asks: So how long till we all get to telecommute?

   I telecommute. Almost everything I do is done by email, telephone,
   fax, etc. Lots of people telecommute already. I guess more people will
   when we run out of gas.

   rob2623 asks: Er, the Hawaii thing... your answer is unacceptable,
   when we run out of gas... sheesh.

   UNACCEPTABLE? I told you, I'm already telecommuting. I'm already outta

   conlaoch asks: Do you think that the Internet, and whatever "net"
   follows it (if any) will strengthen ties between people? Or do you
   think it will once again cause people to congeal into identifiable,
   prejudiced groups, physical distance notwithstanding... I.e., do you
   think we'll have something like Cyber KKK or the like? Or even worse,
   distinct "pride" battles of groups of people who use different

   People talk online like perhaps they used to in the public commons or
   the neighborhood bar. When you're in your 20s and live in a college
   town, for instance, you go out almost every night and engage with
   people, but as you move on you get pretty atomized... so the Net as a
   meeting place is kind of a something-is-better-than-nothing deal.
   Right wing Fascist groups already have their online conferences, and
   it's caused the Anti-Defamation League to call for censorship of the
   Net. I'm a free speech absolutist: I'm against censoring nazis but in
   favor of killing them.

   sean asks: Drugs of choice?

   Coffee, pot, DMT, Ketamine, cable television, adrenaline...

   incarnation asks: What are your thoughts about the current media focus
   on electronic relationships? Is there really any difference between
   email/chat relationships and our older snail-mail 'pen pal' style,
   other than speed?

   The speed and instantaneousness and spontaneity makes it an entirely
   different experience, I would imagine. I never got into any
   relationships that way, sexual that is, and never really tried.

   sean asks: The PFF: real thinkers or just Newtheads who should be
   taken outside and beaten with Oliver Stone?

   An excellent question. My dear friend John Barlow was among some EFF
   people who met with the Newt and came away impressed. I think that the
   "A" list of cyberculture is pretty clueless about the real effects of
   the transition to a digital economy on the formerly-working class. Ask
   them how they would hack economic marginalization of the vast
   majority, and they'll look at you like you just dipped some beef jerky
   into the wine.

   rob2623 asks: So when I read the books you mentioned tonight, will you
   be listed as RU?

   Yup... R. U. Sirius is the name. One great thing about calling
   yourself R. U. Sirius, people like Newt Gingrich don't want to list
   you as a supporter.

   conlaoch asks: About telecommuting... It's obviously impractical for a
   majority of occupations. And if you don't require people to learn it,
   they're not going to. Unless we DO require it (which I suppose isn't
   all that far-fetched), do you see the distinction between tech-heads
   and the unenlightened growing?

   Well, there are still going to be some things people will want to do
   in the flesh... like strippers and hot dog stands and so forth. I
   don't want to require much of anything of anybody.

   sean asks: You mention Barlow and the EFF. What do you think about the
   cry of "sell out!" that surrounded them after the digital telephony

   Well, I don't like the word "sell out" because it tends to eliminate
   any sort of success whatsoever. But definitely once you start thinking
   like a "beltway insider," you're in deep shit.

   julie asks: Do you want to publish Mondo into the millennium, or has
   it had its day?

   Well, I'm not the publisher of Mondo so I can't really answer that
   question. I'm just a friendly icon-supporter. I hope Mondo goes up to
   the year 2000 and I hope that it still comes up with a few letterbombs
   to the core address of consensus reality.

   cocacola asks: What's the next evolutionary step for the Net?

   Well, I'm looking forward to the multimedia stuff that's just
   beginning to become much more intuitive... broader bandwidth is
   coming, apparently... after that, VR on the Net...

   dwoo asks: What do you think a college education should include?
   There's so much talk of "Cultural Literacy." What does RU think is
   Cultural Literacy?

   College education had better include advanced weaponry, how to avoid
   brainwashing, where to find food when the jobs run out... stuff like
   that. I LIKE cultural theory but HATE political correctness. So theory
   is great so long as it's not shoved down people's throats, and other
   people are brought in to MAKE FUN of it.

   julie asks: So what's your opinion of electronic voting then?

   I think it's groovy... but seriously, uh... electronic democracy is a
   great and an awful idea. Noam Chomsky points out that voters elect
   politicians but POLICY is created by the politicians' sponsors, the
   megacorps and their think tanks. So electronic democracy could put
   that power into the hands of the people. On the other hand, a recent
   poll shows that 90% of the American people don't even believe in
   evolution. I'LL SAY! Hey, we're so dumb we don't believe in evolution,
   so how can you expect us to believe in evolution? Sorry, I digress...

   julie asks: What do you think of Noam Chomsky?

   Chomsky's uncovering of real statistics and so forth is devastating. I
   think he's doing great work. I DON'T think he has much of a vision,
   but he has a great critique. I'm thinking that I wish that the Jerry
   Brown of the 90s would meet the Jerry Brown of the 70s... and take a
   strong dose of civil libertarianism too boot.

   lifespan asks: Broad Question: what do you think is the main threat to
   Internet expansion?

   The biggest threat to Internet expansion would be a puritanical
   reaction that tries to slow it down.

   sean asks: Given that the commercialization of the Internet is pretty
   much inevitable, what do you think we can do to preserve some of the
   "frontier spirit" in the new Internet (tm)?

   Gunfights at dawn might do the trick. Brothels were really big in the
   old west. Really, though, massification and commercialization are
   unstoppable, but unlike real territory, this terrain keeps on
   expanding exponentially. So you find the frontiers within this popular
   medium--if they can get away with putting turnstiles everywhere, of
   course-- then make like Woodstock...one... and cut the fence.

   conlaoch asks: What about these "interview/discussions"? In my little
   channel here, I am having a very, um, well, "animated" chat with the
   others in here while you seem so distant. Is this the intent?

   Am I being cold? Actually, it's not as fast and intuitive as I would
   like. I really enjoy live, in-person lectures, even though I have to
   drink two glasses of wine before I can do it.

   julie asks: Nice metaphors on the Net frontier, but what if you are
   really concerned about being able to do your own thing on the Net,
   say in 2 years, do you worry about this at night when you're in bed?
   What does cutting the fence really mean to you?

   I worry about REAL jackbooted motherfuckers kicking down my door, so
   intervention on the Net seems like small potatoes. I was a Yippie in
   the early 70s, so paranoia is kind of a casual drug for me. But yes, I
   do worry about it, and while I think that guerrilla tactics can be
   used by a small cypher/cyberpunk elite, it's also important to defend
   freedom and the existence of a non-commercial commons on the Net...

   sean asks: Tell us a little about "Mondo Vanilli"....

   Ahh, now there's a GOOD question... Mondo Vanilli played Milli Vanilli
   backwards... Milli Vanilli started off pretending to be real but
   proved to be fake. Mondo Vanilli pretended to be entirely virtual but
   now we've recorded an album and are planning performances. My favorite
   comment about the album we've made is someone who said "this is what
   would happen if Frank Zappa, Bowie and the Residents were locked in a
   studio and FORCED to make industrial/techno/house music."

   julie asks: Kevin Kelly says there's no such thing as privacy, and he
   could care less if people scooped up his digital droppings. How would
   you respond to him?

   I just said today on the well that I don't give a fuck if Mitnick is
   reading my mail. I have no credit, I have nothing online to hide. The
   government, however, is another case. I'd rather NOT have them into my
   business. Of course, Kevin, who's a good friend of mine, probably has
   nothing to fear from the government... as he admits to being the least
   hip person alive.

   cypherpunk asks: What do you think of s.314 (the communications
   IN-decency act)?

   I'm really pissed that these congresscritters have their Human
   Anti-Degradation League legislation going before I get my novel out.
   People are playing characters in my book... like this Dick Nazi guy...
   uh Dick Armey... SHIT! FUCK! I didn't say that!

   In closing:

   I've got to go home now. It's been fun talking to y'all, and I hope
   that you'll look for all these stoopid products... like the book and
   the album and all... CONSUME! CONSUME!! CONSUME! And I'd like to thank
   WIRED for stealing my idea... uh, nonononono... I'm kidding... I'd
   like to thank WIRED for having me on like this.... see ya around.