For BERG, My London Launchpad

I named them.  Probably by accident.  They were still Schulze & Webb back then, but Jones was joining, and they needed a new name.  They all loved science fiction.  So I told them they should become the British Experimental Rocket Group, from the old QUATERMASS serials.  British science fiction, and also that antique British fantasia that we could lead the world in the field of mad science.  So they became BERG, a cultural invention unit.   They made, and did, great things.  They were techne and culture and politics, and their test flights dazzled their field.

When Bruce Sterling commissioned me to write a piece for MIT TECHNOLOGY REVIEW, he had a specific brief: imagine a future where BERG won, and launched the future from the back of their Brutalist gulag in Shoreditch.  I dragged Schulze and Webb into the pub — Jones was gone by then, in his constant search for the next new thing, off to Google to direct larger launch facilities — and poured beer into them in an attempt to get them thinking about what was next.  This was late BERG.  They were a products and services company by then, and life was difficult.

BERG closed today.

It’s not like Schulze and Webb are dead, and neither is Timo, and all the other great minds in BERG’s orbit.  But it feels like a significant moment: as significant, I think, as their turn into internet-of-things products and services, which had its own sadness for a lot of people.  I imagine there’s a chill wind in Shoreditch today.  I hope they will all go off in search of the next new thing, as they used to, and fly more innovations.  I get to be sad, though, because I’m always sad when a launchpad gets decommissioned.  I wish them all the very best.

Never let me name anything.