R.U. Sirius, a veteran of the San Francisco Bay Area cyberpunk scene, 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 technologies? 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 email@example.com. kreth asks: So, once one mutates and takes over the known world, then what? 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 work? 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 named. 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 gas! 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 software? 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 bill? 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.