There’s Only One Planet B: Mongo

The science fiction writer William Gibson has an interview in the Financial Times February 13th (paywalled) in which the prophet of cyberspace talks AI and climate collapse.”

It’s a long time since I read sci-fi. My taste goes back to the Golden Age, when he-men wearing goldfish bowls and long underwear battled with aliens, armed with nothing but an atomic raygun and a delectable lightly-clad sidekick called Doris.

…his latest novel Agency is partly set in a post-apocalyptic London a century in the future. It is also about the intertwined fates of a group of characters in San Francisco in 2017 living in a reimagined past in which Hillary Clinton became president and Brexit never happened.

Normal middle class Londoners and San Franciscans, in other words. Where’s the sci-fi in that?

Concerned though he is by some aspects of technology, Gibson is far more alarmed by the dangers of pandemics and irreversible, destructive climate collapse, which he speculates may become the biggest driver of change in human history. He fears that the world’s FQ — or F***edness Quotient, as he calls it — is rising to a worrying degree. He laments the fact that the Trump administration has gone “deliberately and horrifically backward” on climate policy. “Denial of impending climate collapse has become an extra leg on the rightwing stool and I suspect it will stay that way,” he says.

Whereas belief in impending climate collapse is limited mainly to those living in a reimagined past in which Hillary Clinton became president and Brexit never happened.

Gibson continues:

Rightwing nationalists will always resist the “optimal solution” to climate change, which would be to form an effective and benign world government, as imagined in the backdrop to the original Star Trek series.

This is the man hailed as a prophet for having invented the word “cyberspace.” And where does he look for the solution to impending climate collapse? Star Trek (with the abolition of democracy as an unmentioned corollary.)

Without wishing to go “full Greta”, he argues that the science on climate change is black-and-white and absolutely grim.

Well of course, no expert on science at the forefront of the technological revolution would want to go the full Greta. So he makes do with a half Greta, reasoning like a child of eight and a half.

He envisages a world in which “the entire equator becomes unliveable without a space suit” and millions of people will be driven towards the poles. “That would play into ethno-nationalism and xenophobia, fear of immigrants in increasingly ugly ways.”

Call me old-fashioned, but I prefer Flash Gordon. His sufferings at the hands of Ming the Merciless and the possessive (though captivating) Queen Azura on the planet Mongo have a Flaubertian profundity lacking in the dreams of a San Francisco Democrat praying for the return of Hillary. More realistic too.


  1. I loved Gibson’s writing back in the day. Today, however, he should check his own FQ, because it appears that he has fallen into the worst trap for a yarn spinner: Believing his own bullshit; confusing narrative with reality.
    He was stone cold dumbass ignorant about how the internet would work, but he told fun stories about it. And they were brilliantly original. His concept of voodoo God runaway AI’s haunting the web or living as a morose angst riddled artist was great fun, but was bullshit. His current, apparently mercenary and derivative, is a sad reminder that his best writing is long behind him.


  2. the UK climate assembly comms unit (ECIU) are trying to persuade people that they really don’t love gas boilers, and how the public really think heat pumps are great (after some they are coming for your gas boilers stories in the media)

    They have a nice survey to show politicians the evidence of this.
    (but at no point does the survey, tell the public the cost of an air heat pump…

    I have added a comment (not approved yet) but unlike sceptical bloggers they only work when they get paid? – so it might take a while to get approved..?

    meanwhile my comment here updating them on prices..

    ..some orwellian language.. trying to prep people for taxes on domestic gas.

    “A recent report from the centre-right Onward think tank showed that, by rebalancing policy costs across fuels, the move from boiler to heat pump could take place without an overall increase in energy bills.

    Ending the ‘effective subsidy’ of gas through a lower rate of VAT than other fuels, as noted by the Oxford Institute of Energy Studies, could also help cut the difference between fuel costs.”

    translation rich people that get air heat pumps first, will benefit, whilst poorer people that can’t afford to replace the gas central heating and hot water system, have their their fuel costs (domestic gas) raised by taxes..

    this will not end well.


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