Friday, January 30, 2009

Bruce Sterling: 2009 Will Be a Year of Panic
From the fevered mind of Bruce Sterling and his alter-ego, Bruno Argento, a consideration of things ahead.

"As 2009 opens, our financial institutions are deep in massive, irrational panic. That's bad, but it gets worse: Many other respected institutions have rational underpinnings at least as frail as derivatives or bundled real-estate loans. Like finance, these institutions are social constructions. They are games of confidence, underpinned by people's solemn willingness to believe, to conform, to contribute. So why not panic over them, too?
Let's consider seven other massive reservoirs of potential popular dread. Any one of these could erupt, shattering the fragile social compact we maintain with one another in order to believe things contrary to fact.
1. The climate. People still behave as if it's okay. Every scientist in the world who isn't the late Michael Crichton knows that it's not. The climate is in terrible shape; something's gone wrong with the sky. The bone-chilling implications haven't soaked into the populace, even though Al Gore put together a PowerPoint about it that won him a Nobel. Al was soft-peddling the problem.
It's become an item of fundamentalist faith to maintain that the climate crisis is a weird leftist hoax. Yet, since the rain falls on the just and the unjust alike, an honest fear of the consequences will prove hard to repress. Since the fear has been methodically obscured, its emergence from the mists of superstition will be all the more powerful. Unlike mere shibboleths of finance, this is a situation that's objectively terrifying and likely to remain so indefinitely."

The rest of this is pretty good, too, and sums up a lot of what I've been thinking about from reading economic blogs like Calculated Risk, The Big Picture and Ian Walsh's work over at Firedoglake blog.
I'm starting to think about buckling up for the ride, but with a four point harness like a stunt flier.
I also feel sorry for anybody who bought into the idea that they'd have any investments to retire on.
Looks like the grasshopper might come out about even with the turtle by the time this shakes out. And we'll be buying a lot less crap we didn't need in the first place.
The Big Picture:

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"Sometimes a scream is better than a thesis." Ralph Waldo Emerson