valis on Sat, 28 Feb 1998 21:17:49 +0100 (MET)

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<nettime> What hath Wired wrought?

[Originally posted to a left academic list]

What have we here?

   Welcome to Wired Reprints
   Special Offer! "The Long Boom," Wired 5.07
   This is no ordinary economic boom. The world is in the early
   stages of an unprecedented global boom that will continue to surge and
   transform the planet in the next 25 years.
   Don't miss the opportunity to purchase color magazine reprints of the
   seminal Wired 5.07 cover story, "The Long Boom" co-written by Wired
   Managing Editor, Peter Leyden and Global Business Network Chair, Peter
   Schwartz. Limited quantities are currently available for US$5/per
   copy! Take advantage of this Special Offer now!
   "The Long Boom" Color Reprint US$5. Order below.
   New Wired E.prints!
   Reprints and E.prints Order Information
   From 5.07: "The Long Boom" Color Reprint US$5.
   Quantity: ____

We have one happy spin-off of a major magazine's successful cover story,
that being a demand for reprints being addre$$ed.
Late last June, while most of you were either repairing your tissue in 
some remote bivouac or facing the frenzied pace of summer courses,
Wired magazine was offering its own Y2K balm: The Long Boom, a Wired 
millennium of unending expansion and creativity for the whole world
(save Africa, perhaps, which would continue to get a helping hand from 
its booming sister continents), with a doubling of the global economy
every decade or so after ~2005.  That's some fireworks for we poor  
superstitious natives; do we drop our culture and just scurry aboard
with shameless alacrity?

The July cover showed, against a background of sunny yellow, a happy
globe (wearing our hemisphere to the front) chewing on a daisy-like
flower. Beneath, in caps: 

                         We're Facing 25 
                      Years Of Prosperity, 
                         Freedom, And A
                      Better Environment
                     For The Whole World.

                       You Got A Problem
                          With That?

Likely this last bit was a rhetorical flourish unrelated to the problem of
our sort with this splashy forecast, which is that we just don't buy it,
but all prophets - no matter how daft - should have a day in court.

The Long Boom runs about 15 pages of text and some feel-good graphics,
but its most cogent part is a 4-page fold-out time line called The Future   
History Of The World, which covers 40 years, beginning with 1980.
It is layered in five tracks of development, with Technology, at the 
bottom, and Globalization next, driving the others; in turn, these are 
New Economy, Social/Political and Civilization.
The Technology track is itself divided into five sub-tracks.  Computers
and Telecommunications form a golden river of high-tech that debouches 
into the Globalization track just about now and into the next two in the  
following decade.  This golden river culminates in the top track, bringing
in "the beginning of a global civilization of civilizations" (including
the Hopis and the Kalahari Bushmen?) roughly at 2018.  I'm out of breath!
Unsurprisingly, all this begins with the appearance of the IBM PC in 1981
and the brutal romps of Thatcher and Reagan on a different track.

OK, you should not discern unalloyed levity here.  There is indeed some 
food for thought, but not much tossed in for balance, for the 50-50 breaks 
that have persisted through all the race's big dreams since Plato. 
OTOH, the authors trouble us with little in the way of concrete utterances
on the workings of the economy.  Clearly it's understood that this boom is
the very essence of the global free-for-all; they are indeed coextensive.
Endlessly increasing creativity, productivity and weapons-grade wealth for
everyone are promised, apparently because it would be nicer that way.

However, the two penning Peters are not totally manic in their vision:  
they include a half-page rogues' gallery of 10 "scenario spoilers" that
might cost us this land of lollipop trees in its early bloom.
In one spoiler, the abandonment of fossil fuels and the application of
biotech fail to halt environmental collapse and famine.  In another,
Europe's unification process decisively breaks down.  Others feature
the US and China in a new Cold War and a plague that kills about
200 million people.  Two spoilers at least approach the economic
dimension: "2. New technologies turn out to be a bust. They simply don't
bring the expected productivity increases or the big economic boosts"
and "8. Energy prices go through the roof. Convulsions in the Middle East 
disrupt the oil supply, and alternative energy sources fail to 
materialize."  The authors did not expect or fancy the calculated savaging
of the East Asian tigers that was only a few weeks in the future, nor does
anything so basic as a world production glut cross their minds.  They have 
simply given wings to their hopes, which lie in Capitalism Unchained.

I have witnessed some impenetrable arguments on this list lately,
and I can only wonder whether any of them could approach the public impact 
of this engaging fairy tale decanted from the greatest of geek magazines.
Marxists seem to intend a polity populated exclusively by economists and
political scientists, and although the fevered scope of identity politics
today puts this well within possibility, I would rather see them put such
fare as Wired's $5 Long Boom reprints firmly on the remainder table.


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