technoutopianism

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pages: 372 words: 152

The End of Work by Jeremy Rifkin

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banking crisis, Bertrand Russell: In Praise of Idleness, blue-collar work, cashless society, collective bargaining, computer age, deskilling, Dissolution of the Soviet Union, employer provided health coverage, Erik Brynjolfsson, full employment, future of work, general-purpose programming language, George Gilder, global village, hiring and firing, informal economy, interchangeable parts, invention of the telegraph, Jacques de Vaucanson, job automation, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, knowledge economy, knowledge worker, land reform, low skilled workers, means of production, new economy, New Urbanism, Paul Samuelson, pink-collar, post-industrial society, Productivity paradox, Richard Florida, Ronald Reagan, Silicon Valley, speech recognition, strikebreaker, technoutopianism, Thorstein Veblen, Toyota Production System, trade route, trickle-down economics, women in the workforce, working poor, working-age population, Works Progress Administration

Carlyle, Thomas, "Signs of the Times," Edinburgh Review 49, June 1829, pp. 439-459, reprinted in abridged version as "The Mechanical Age' in Clayre, A1asdair, ed., Nature and Industrialization: An Anthology (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977), pp. 229-231. 5. Segal, Howard, "The Technological Utopians," in Com, pp. 119-120; Segal, Technological Utopianism in American Culture (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985), p. 20. 6. Howard, Albert, The Milltillionaire (Boston: 1895), p. 9. 7. Segal, "The Technological Utopians," in Com, p. 124. 8. Schindler, Solomon, Young West: A Sequel to Edward Bellamy's Celebrated Novel "Looking Backward" (Boston: Arena, 1894), p. 45. 9· Howard, p. 17· 10. Clough, Fred M., The Golden Age, Or the Depth of Time (Boston: Roxburgh, 1923), p. 34· 11. Kirwan, Thomas, Reciprocity (Social and Economic) in the 30th Century, the Coming Cooperative Age; A Forecast of the World's Future (New York: Cochrane, 19 09), p. 53· 300 Notes 12.

The pneumatic underground, says one citizen of utopia, is "like a gigantic mill, into the hopper of which goods are being constantly poured by the trainload and shipload, to issue at the other end in packages of pounds and ounces, yards and inches, pints and gallons, corresponding to the infinitely complex personal needs of half a million people."12 All of these inventions, claimed the new technological utopians, would mean freedom from "all of the annoyances" of housekeeping and work. The goal of the new order was to use increasingly sophisticated technologies to provide "everything for comfort, economy, convenience and freedom from care that a corporate intelligence could think Of"13 Most of the technological utopians thought their visions of the future would be realized in the United States and elsewhere within one hundred years. They were convinced that science and technology would replace divine inspiration and intervention, creating a new secular theology more powerful than any conceived by the men of the Church.

Later, Christian clerics held out the promise of eternal salvation in the heavenly kingdom. In the modem age, the idea of a future technological utopia has served as the guiding vision of industrial society. For more than a century utopian dreamers and men and women of science and letters have looked to a future world where machines would replace human labor, creating a near-workerless society of abundance and leisure. Nowhere has the techno-utopian vision been more passionately embraced than in the United States. It was in the fertile intellectual soil of the young America that two great philosophical currents came together to create a unique new image of the future. The first of those currents focused on the heavens and eternal redemption, the second on the forces of nature and the pull of the market. From the first century of American nationhood, these two powerful philosophical orientations worked hand-in-hand to conquer a continent.


pages: 283 words: 85,824

The People's Platform: Taking Back Power and Culture in the Digital Age by Astra Taylor

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A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, American Legislative Exchange Council, Andrew Keen, barriers to entry, Berlin Wall, big-box store, Brewster Kahle, citizen journalism, cloud computing, collateralized debt obligation, Community Supported Agriculture, conceptual framework, corporate social responsibility, creative destruction, cross-subsidies, crowdsourcing, David Brooks, digital Maoism, disintermediation, don't be evil, Donald Trump, Edward Snowden, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Filter Bubble, future of journalism, George Gilder, Google Chrome, Google Glasses, hive mind, income inequality, informal economy, Internet Archive, Internet of things, invisible hand, Jane Jacobs, Jaron Lanier, Jeff Bezos, job automation, John Markoff, Julian Assange, Kevin Kelly, Kickstarter, knowledge worker, Mark Zuckerberg, means of production, Metcalfe’s law, Naomi Klein, Narrative Science, Network effects, new economy, New Journalism, New Urbanism, Nicholas Carr, oil rush, peer-to-peer, Peter Thiel, Plutocrats, plutocrats, pre–internet, profit motive, recommendation engine, Richard Florida, Richard Stallman, self-driving car, shareholder value, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley ideology, slashdot, Slavoj Žižek, Snapchat, social graph, Steve Jobs, Stewart Brand, technoutopianism, trade route, Whole Earth Catalog, WikiLeaks, winner-take-all economy, Works Progress Administration, young professional

However imprecisely the terms are applied, the dichotomy of open versus closed (sometimes presented as freedom versus control) provides the conceptual framework that increasingly underpins much of the current thinking about technology, media, and culture. The fetish for openness can be traced back to the foundational myths of the Internet as a wild, uncontrollable realm. In 1996 John Perry Barlow, the former Grateful Dead lyricist and cattle ranger turned techno-utopian firebrand, released an influential manifesto, “A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace,” from Davos, Switzerland, during the World Economic Forum, the annual meeting of the world’s business elite. (“Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone.… You have no sovereignty where we gather.”)

It wasn’t that the WikiLeaks mastermind had lost faith in people to think for themselves; rather, he recognized that they lacked the time the task required and the power to legitimize and publicize the results. Motivation and resources, time and power—these are assets that are not evenly distributed, even if the Internet has removed many of the old barriers to entry. They are inequalities that we must take into account when we talk about the network’s “level playing field.” The desire to transcend earthly inequality has suffused discussions of the Internet for decades. Early techno-utopians long ago declared that even the atom was “past” and promised the “tyranny of matter” overthrown.1 The terrestrial and corporeal, they confidently predicted, would soon be abandoned for the weightless Web. Unencumbered by our fleshy selves and released from the material conditions that constrain them, everyone would be made equal by binary code, free to participate as peers on an open network.

Analysts have cited as the cause everything from chauvinism and assumptions of inferiority to outrageous examples of real-life impropriety (including sexual harassment at conferences where programmers gather) to a lack of women mentors and role models. Yet the advocates of open source production continue to insist that this culture exemplifies a new and ethical social order ruled by principles of equality, inclusivity, freedom, and democracy.21 These statistics are significant not only because they give the lie to the egalitarian claims of techno-utopians but because they indicate the relatively limited experiences and assumptions of the people who design the architecture and systems through which we navigate and use the Internet. The values of programmers and the corporate officers who employ them shape the online worlds we inhabit. The choices they make can segregate us further or create new connections; the algorithms they devise can exclude voices or bring more people into the fold; the interfaces they invent can expand our sense of human possibility or limit it to the already familiar.


pages: 171 words: 54,334

Barefoot Into Cyberspace: Adventures in Search of Techno-Utopia by Becky Hogge, Damien Morris, Christopher Scally

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A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, back-to-the-land, Berlin Wall, Buckminster Fuller, Chelsea Manning, citizen journalism, cloud computing, corporate social responsibility, disintermediation, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Engelbart, Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, Fall of the Berlin Wall, game design, Hacker Ethic, informal economy, information asymmetry, Jacob Appelbaum, jimmy wales, John Markoff, Julian Assange, Kevin Kelly, mass immigration, Menlo Park, moral panic, Mother of all demos, Naomi Klein, Network effects, New Journalism, Norbert Wiener, peer-to-peer, Richard Stallman, Silicon Valley, Skype, Socratic dialogue, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Steven Levy, Stewart Brand, technoutopianism, Telecommunications Act of 1996, Vannevar Bush, Whole Earth Catalog, Whole Earth Review, WikiLeaks

I don’t run ORG anymore, which is probably a good thing given how sceptical I became that its mission could succeed. It wasn’t that I didn’t think the techno-Utopians were onto something. I simply feared that the institutions of the old world they thought they could topple – be they corporations, media or politicians – had a lot of fight left in them. But if Barefoot into Cyberspace was intended to be a eulogy, I hadn’t figured on WikiLeaks. Almost from the moment I started collecting material for this book, their story began to trespass on mine. By the end of the year – 2010 – in which the majority of this book was written, the culture I’d been a part of for almost a decade was headline news all over the world. It’s too early to tell what effect that will have on the techno-Utopian dream. All I can say is that it transformed this project from an exercise in cultural anthropology into something more like an adventure story.

I had thought the web was where the children of the baby boomers got to have their own space, to play with their own ideas, away from the complex political legacy of gender equality and identity politics, of the cult of the individual and the advance of corporate “freedom”. But it turned out all we were doing was gardening in someone else’s Utopia. I ask Stewart if he would describe himself these days as a techno-Utopian. “The very concept of techno-Utopian”, he replies, “would be part of what we trend against. Because techno-Utopia says Brave New World. We, the technoids, know the future and are spelling it out for you. That’s what Utopia is. It’s there in Plato and it’s there in Thomas More. “Utopias in practice are invariably Dystopias. So Utopia tells you that Dystopia will happen when you try to plan ahead.” In the final paragraphs of his declaration, John Perry Barlow’s defies the ability of states to regulate the ’net, and sets out his belief in the virtual Utopia which is to come: In the United States, you have today created a law, the Telecommunications Reform Act, which repudiates your own Constitution and insults the dreams of Jefferson, Washington, Mill, Madison, DeToqueville, and Brandeis.

“We might have petered out anyway but that was a real kind of angry activist split in my life where I felt like these people, who had said to us: ‘Our mission is to turn you into our successors and we recognise that young people have the capacity to do anything in the world,’ had then said: ‘Actually, that was just bullshit. Young people can’t really do anything, you know. Young people are just kids. You guys are just kids.’” * * * Bound up in the lifted copies of the Whole Earth Catalog, Cory took his techno-Utopianism with him when he left Grindstone. But it didn’t always go down well in eighties Canada. “Being a technology fan among lefties of that era means that you were kind of a pariah,” he explains, “Techno-Utopianism was not widely understood and technology was seen as, well… I was out there protesting cruise missile guidance systems, but the internet came from [the US military research agency] DARPA.” Nonetheless, Cory spent his late teens and early twenties working with activists and other non-profit organisations, attempting to switch them on to the potential of the new networked communications space.


pages: 527 words: 147,690

Terms of Service: Social Media and the Price of Constant Connection by Jacob Silverman

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23andMe, 4chan, A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, Airbnb, airport security, Amazon Mechanical Turk, augmented reality, basic income, Brian Krebs, California gold rush, call centre, cloud computing, cognitive dissonance, commoditize, correlation does not imply causation, Credit Default Swap, crowdsourcing, don't be evil, drone strike, Edward Snowden, feminist movement, Filter Bubble, Firefox, Flash crash, game design, global village, Google Chrome, Google Glasses, hive mind, income inequality, informal economy, information retrieval, Internet of things, Jaron Lanier, jimmy wales, Kevin Kelly, Kickstarter, knowledge economy, knowledge worker, late capitalism, license plate recognition, life extension, lifelogging, Lyft, Mark Zuckerberg, Mars Rover, Marshall McLuhan, mass incarceration, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Minecraft, move fast and break things, move fast and break things, national security letter, Network effects, new economy, Nicholas Carr, Occupy movement, optical character recognition, payday loans, Peter Thiel, postindustrial economy, prediction markets, pre–internet, price discrimination, price stability, profit motive, quantitative hedge fund, race to the bottom, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, rent control, RFID, ride hailing / ride sharing, self-driving car, sentiment analysis, shareholder value, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley ideology, Snapchat, social graph, social web, sorting algorithm, Steve Ballmer, Steve Jobs, Steven Levy, TaskRabbit, technoutopianism, telemarketer, transportation-network company, Turing test, Uber and Lyft, Uber for X, universal basic income, unpaid internship, women in the workforce, Y Combinator, Zipcar

It’s also a response to cyber-libertarianism, the reigning industry philosophy, which holds that large corporations, freed from the shackles of government regulation, claim to know what’s best for us and that digital life is inherently emancipatory. (Mostly, we’re only surrendering ourselves, in the form of data and personal autonomy, to oligarchic platform owners, who sell us to advertisers, data brokers, and intelligence agencies.) Popular tech writing tends to fluctuate between the two poles of Luddite rejection and unvarnished techno-utopianism. The former is generally considered far less respectable and easily stigmatized. As Richard Byrne wrote in The Baffler, “In the straitened and highly ritualized discourse of tech boosterism, ‘Luddite’ has become a catchall dirty word for anything that stands in its way.” Byrne’s smart essay about the history of Luddism offered a necessary revisionist take, showing how it really began as a labor movement concerned with workers’ rights and how automation would deprive skilled workers of their livelihoods.

Byrne’s smart essay about the history of Luddism offered a necessary revisionist take, showing how it really began as a labor movement concerned with workers’ rights and how automation would deprive skilled workers of their livelihoods. In other words, it’s a surprisingly contemporary, flexible belief system, not the rigid extremism of the Unabomber. But even if this book is fated to be categorized as the work of a digital skeptic or neo-Luddite, I would argue in return that such perspectives are needed. Techno-utopians have plenty of allies—in business, in government, in media, in every celebrity with a million hard-earned followers or the fanboys who wait in line to buy a new Apple product on the day it drops. If there is actually some recurrent dialectic between technological skepticism and utopianism that we are locked into as a culture, then all the better that the people belonging to the former should be able to launch volleys such as this one.

In reality, the old powers still have standing in this world; they have the money and the guns. Their influence remains formidable and won’t be pushed aside by a popular hashtag. As the scholar Trebor Scholz notes, “The essence of technology is not solely technological.” Technology cannot be looked at outside of its relationship to politics, sociology, economics, or culture. Nor is technology something neutral, just a tool that can be put toward good or bad uses, as so many techno-utopians are fond of claiming. Digital technologies have certain capacities built into them, though some of them, as the U.S. military might say, are dual use. The GPS chip in a smartphone can help you find a local restaurant; it can also be used to track all of your movements. Other digital technologies are more obviously beneficent or pernicious. E-mail is mostly a useful, private communication tool—or it was private, until Gmail and the National Security Agency (NSA) got their hands on it.


pages: 299 words: 98,943

Immortality: The Quest to Live Forever and How It Drives Civilization by Stephen Cave

Albert Einstein, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, back-to-the-land, clean water, double helix, George Santayana, invention of the printing press, Isaac Newton, Lao Tzu, life extension, planetary scale, Ray Kurzweil, stem cell, technoutopianism, the scientific method

Rumors of such cases were rife in the 1800s—such as folktales from New England of how poor families struggling to feed the household through the harsh winter months would give the grandparents large quantities of homemade liquor, lay them in a coffin and bury them in a snowbank. When spring finally came they would be hauled out, defrosted and (allegedly) revived—perhaps with the help of a little more moonshine. Whether modern techno-utopians believe these legends or not, they are convinced there is something in the idea of freezing bodies in order to ward off decay. At temperatures below –276°F, they argue, biological structures could be preserved for hundreds or even thousands of years without decomposing. Cryopreservation (that is, preserving things at extremely low temperatures) is already used for storing small samples of human tissue such as eggs and sperm.

Or, as many immortalists dream, it could be downloaded onto a new brain in a new biological body—but a superbody, immune to aging and disease. Philosophers call this “computational resurrection,” the rerunning of the software that is your mind on a new piece of hardware so that you might live again. The resulting being—whether avatar, robot or human—would be psychologically identical to you: it would remember your first day at school, support your favorite football team and think it was married to your spouse. According to the techno-utopians, it would therefore be you; after years lying dead in a freezing thermos, you would live again in a new and improved form. Mind-uploading has some important advantages over merely finding a modern elixir of life, which, as we saw earlier, would still leave you vulnerable to catastrophic accidents—your airplane crashing, for example, or being at the center of a nuclear explosion. You could make daily backups of yourself on your home computer, which would be linked to a central immortality factory.

Being all-knowing, DigiGod would also have the information required to create beings with psychologies identical to those of all the humans who have ever lived, and being all-powerful, he would also have the capacity to do so. DigiGod, according to these optimists, would therefore resurrect all of us—and create a fine paradise in which we can all live happily ever after. This is the most extreme version of techno-utopianism, and its debt to the Judeo-Christian tradition is obvious. It is a wonderful demonstration of human ingenuity in weaving an immortality narrative from scraps of science, myth and speculation. This vision has reached its clearest expression in the work of the theoretical physicist Frank Tipler, who has gone as far as arguing that something like DigiGod is inevitable according to the laws of physics, and that he will be able to take advantage of certain specific features of the final stages of the universe to create the perception of living for eternity for the universe’s inhabitants (Tipler calls this “the Omega Point”).


pages: 339 words: 57,031

From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism by Fred Turner

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1960s counterculture, A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, Apple's 1984 Super Bowl advert, back-to-the-land, bioinformatics, Buckminster Fuller, Claude Shannon: information theory, complexity theory, computer age, conceptual framework, Danny Hillis, dematerialisation, distributed generation, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Engelbart, Dynabook, Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, From Mathematics to the Technologies of Life and Death, future of work, game design, George Gilder, global village, Golden Gate Park, Hacker Ethic, Haight Ashbury, hive mind, Howard Rheingold, informal economy, invisible hand, Jaron Lanier, John Markoff, John von Neumann, Kevin Kelly, knowledge economy, knowledge worker, market bubble, Marshall McLuhan, mass immigration, means of production, Menlo Park, Mother of all demos, new economy, Norbert Wiener, peer-to-peer, post-industrial society, postindustrial economy, Productivity paradox, QWERTY keyboard, Ralph Waldo Emerson, RAND corporation, Richard Stallman, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Ronald Reagan, Shoshana Zuboff, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley ideology, South of Market, San Francisco, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Steven Levy, Stewart Brand, technoutopianism, Ted Nelson, Telecommunications Act of 1996, theory of mind, urban renewal, Vannevar Bush, Whole Earth Catalog, Whole Earth Review, Yom Kippur War

Like their brethren in Silicon Valley, conservative author and media analyst George Gilder, futurist Alvin Toffler, and Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich were working to bring about individual liberation and government by contract and code. Together, Wired seemed to suggest, these two communities had set about to free America and the world from the rigid, oppressive corporate and government bureaucracies of the twentieth century. In 1998 Richard Barbrook and Andy Cameron named Wired’s particular blend of libertarian politics, countercultural aesthetics, and techno-utopian visions the “Californian Ideology.” As they pointed out, by the end of the decade, its tenets had become the day-to-day orthodoxy of technologists in Silicon Valley and beyond. But this ubiquitous set of beliefs did not in fact grow out of the legacy of the New Left, as Barbrook and Cameron suggested. Rather, a close look at Wired’s first and most influential five years suggests that the magazine’s vision of the digital horizon emerged in large part from its intellectual and interpersonal affiliations with Kevin Kelly and the Whole Wired [ 209 ] Earth network and, through them, from the New Communalist embrace of the politics of consciousness.4 Although Louis Rossetto and Jane Metcalfe founded Wired, and although Rossetto’s libertarian politics exerted a substantial influence on the magazine, Rossetto and Metcalfe also drew heavily for funds and, later, for subjects and writers, on the Whole Earth world.

CHAPTER 8 The Triumph of the Network Mode Looking back on the dot-com bubble’s spectacular collapse, we can be tempted to dismiss the millenarian claims that surrounded the Internet in the 1990s as little more than the cunning hype of those who stood to profit from the building of broadband pipelines, the sale of computers, and the distribution of soon-to-be-worthless stock. But that would be a mistake. Although Kevin Kelly, Peter Schwartz, and Wired magazine certainly helped fuel the raging optimism of the period, their technoutopian social vision in fact reflected the slow entwining of two far deeper transformations in American society. The first of these was technological. Over the previous forty years, the massive, stand-alone calculating machines of the cold war had become desktop computers, linked to one another in a vast network of communication that reached into almost every corner of the civilian world. This shift in computing technology took place, however, alongside a second, cultural transformation.

They also produced new social networks and, in Brand’s case, new information systems, such as catalogs, meetings, and online gatherings. These systems in turn hosted and helped to create new social and professional networks and at the same time modeled the networks’ governing ideals. By the 1990s, each of these elements had come to play an important role in building the rhetorical and social infrastructure on which the technoutopianism of the decade depended. But they also represented a new, networked mode of organizing the production of goods, information, and social structure itself. Fifty years earlier, across the military, industry, and academe, the dominant mode of organizing work was bureaucratic. Universities, armies, corporations— outside their research laboratories and designated think tanks—all featured vertical chains of command, long-term employment prospects, clear distinctions between individuals and their professional positions, firm boundaries between the organization and the outside world, and reward systems based on some combination of merit and seniority.1 By the end of the twentieth century, however, these bureaucratic organizations had begun to lose their shape.


pages: 50 words: 15,603

Orwell Versus the Terrorists: A Digital Short by Jamie Bartlett

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augmented reality, barriers to entry, bitcoin, blockchain, crowdsourcing, cryptocurrency, Edward Snowden, ethereum blockchain, Kuwabatake Sanjuro: assassination market, Satoshi Nakamoto, technoutopianism, Zimmermann PGP

fn2 Following the murder of Lee Rigby, it was revealed that Michael Adebowale, one of the two killers, had communicated his desire to murder a soldier via a social network platform (later revealed to be Facebook). Why, charged the Intelligence and Security Committee, who conducted an investigation into the affair, hadn’t this been picked up? Because of the processing power of modern computing and the explosion of data, people have come to expect that every bit of information and data can be collected and analysed, and things can be spotted in advance. This sort of techno-utopianism is questionable in principle and unworkable in practice. There are thirteen billion direct messages sent on Facebook alone every single day. Trying to spot the one that clearly hints at criminal intent is not an easy task – less like spotting the terrorist needle in the haystack, and more like finding a specific piece of hay. And there will always be an expert after the event retroactively predicting what happened and pointing the finger at the people who missed it.


pages: 494 words: 116,739

Geek Heresy: Rescuing Social Change From the Cult of Technology by Kentaro Toyama

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active measures, Albert Einstein, Berlin Wall, Bernie Madoff, blood diamonds, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, Cass Sunstein, cognitive dissonance, commoditize, computer vision, conceptual framework, delayed gratification, Edward Glaeser, en.wikipedia.org, end world poverty, epigenetics, Erik Brynjolfsson, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, fundamental attribution error, germ theory of disease, global village, Hans Rosling, happiness index / gross national happiness, income inequality, invention of the printing press, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Khan Academy, Kibera, knowledge worker, liberation theology, libertarian paternalism, M-Pesa, Mahatma Gandhi, Mark Zuckerberg, means of production, microcredit, mobile money, Nicholas Carr, North Sea oil, pattern recognition, Peter Singer: altruism, Peter Thiel, post-industrial society, Powell Memorandum, randomized controlled trial, rent-seeking, RFID, Richard Florida, Richard Thaler, school vouchers, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, Simon Kuznets, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, technoutopianism, The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, Upton Sinclair, Walter Mischel, War on Poverty, winner-take-all economy, World Values Survey, Y2K

In the long run, there are no unintended consequences.35 Deus in Machina The Law of Amplification explains how technology can be both good and bad, and how its effect is ultimately up to individuals and societies. The law’s corollaries dispel myths about technology’s inherent powers, whether to lower costs, improve organizations, or decrease inequality. Amplification also pegs the responsibility for technology’s impact squarely on us. Techno-utopians see a world where technology saves us from ourselves. Cyber-skeptics imagine our creations running rampant. And contextualists often sound like apologists for luck. All of these views, however, smack of humanity’s naïve youth, when we thought our lot was up to the Fates, to nature, or to God. Both excessive faith in and frantic fear of technology are regressions to childhood, denials of human responsibility.

We’re obsessed with what works today, and what might be tomorrow, but we learn little about what came before. So at the University of California, Berkeley, I met with dozens of professors who had studied different aspects of technology and society. I spent hours tracking down dusty, bound volumes in the stacks of libraries across campus. And here is what I learned. Theorists, despite many fine shades of distinction, fall roughly into four camps: technological utopians, technological skeptics, contextualists, and social determinists. These terms will be defined in a moment, but one thing that jumped out was that the scholars fought like Furies. For example, the economic historian Robert Heilbroner wrote, “That machines make history in some sense . . . is of course obvious.”2 This view is called technological determinism, because it implies that technology determines social outcomes.

(That’s why the series needs an ample supply of aliens as plot devices.) As Captain Jean-Luc Picard explains in the movie First Contact, “the acquisition of wealth is no longer the driving force in our lives.”4 That is to say, in a few more centuries, advanced technology makes economics itself obsolete. Instead, people are free to focus on greater ends: “We work to better ourselves and the rest of humanity.” Star Trek is fiction, but its technological utopianism is very real. MIT Media Lab founder Nicholas Negroponte clearly shares it. So does Google chairman Eric Schmidt. In The New Digital Age, he and coauthor Jared Cohen wrote, “The best thing anyone can do to improve the quality of life around the world is to drive connectivity and technological opportunity.”5 And then there are technology cheerleaders like Clay Shirky, who shakes pom-poms for Team Digital in a book subtitled How Technology Makes Consumers into Collaborators.6 Many engineers and computer scientists also hold this view.


pages: 252 words: 73,131

The Inner Lives of Markets: How People Shape Them—And They Shape Us by Tim Sullivan

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Airbnb, airport security, Al Roth, Alvin Roth, Andrei Shleifer, attribution theory, autonomous vehicles, barriers to entry, Brownian motion, centralized clearinghouse, Chuck Templeton: OpenTable, clean water, conceptual framework, constrained optimization, continuous double auction, creative destruction, deferred acceptance, Donald Trump, Edward Glaeser, experimental subject, first-price auction, framing effect, frictionless, fundamental attribution error, George Akerlof, Goldman Sachs: Vampire Squid, Gunnar Myrdal, helicopter parent, information asymmetry, Internet of things, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, iterative process, Jean Tirole, Jeff Bezos, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, John Nash: game theory, John von Neumann, Joseph Schumpeter, Kenneth Arrow, late fees, linear programming, Lyft, market clearing, market design, market friction, medical residency, multi-sided market, mutually assured destruction, Nash equilibrium, Occupy movement, Pareto efficiency, Paul Samuelson, Peter Thiel, pets.com, pez dispenser, pre–internet, price mechanism, price stability, prisoner's dilemma, profit motive, proxy bid, RAND corporation, ride hailing / ride sharing, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Ronald Coase, school choice, school vouchers, sealed-bid auction, second-price auction, second-price sealed-bid, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, spectrum auction, Steve Jobs, Tacoma Narrows Bridge, technoutopianism, telemarketer, The Market for Lemons, The Wisdom of Crowds, Thomas Malthus, Thorstein Veblen, trade route, transaction costs, two-sided market, uranium enrichment, Vickrey auction, Vilfredo Pareto, winner-take-all economy

Essentially, once you find yourself outside the frictionless world of perfect markets, there’s a potential role for an intermediary to sit between the two sides.14 Lots of market evangelists have taken the notion that better technology and more nuanced feedback algorithms will end the informational problems that were the focus of Akerlof, Spence, and other information economists. One article on the libertarian Cato Institute’s website recently trumpeted in its title that we are approaching “The End of Asymmetric Information.” We doubt it. They’re confronting some pretty thorny information and enforcement challenges, and it’s far from clear that the techno-utopians will win the day. A wronged textile merchant from medieval times or a disgruntled homeowner from 1980 has nothing on the parental anxieties of the twenty-first century. This has led to enormous inefficiencies in the market for babysitters, with parents focused on a narrow set of sitter options: the neighbors’ kids, a friend’s sitter, or a bonded babysitting service. Would-be babysitting platforms like Urbansitter and Care.com argue that some combination of background checks, customer feedback, and social network connections will be sufficient to get you to leave your toddlers alone with a sitter or nanny you’ve never met.

But to get your $60 billion valuation, you need to create as many frictions as possible for everyone else. Although proponents of the sharing economy tout its ability to reduce market frictions, the only way they’re going to make the kinds of profits they (and their investors) want is to create new ones. That’s something they’re not interested in talking about to the public at large, or to their representatives in government. This leaves a bit of a paradox in the techno-utopian free-market narrative. A great entrepreneur will use technology to create a fantastic new market, then will use technology to set up market frictions to protect it. As entrepreneur and venture capitalist Peter Thiel wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “Competition Is for Losers.”12 Don’t get us wrong. We’re not faulting the market makers of Silicon Valley nor begrudging them for the profits they’ve generated and captured.

The Techno-Human Condition by Braden R. Allenby, Daniel R. Sarewitz

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airport security, augmented reality, carbon footprint, clean water, cognitive dissonance, conceptual framework, creative destruction, Credit Default Swap, decarbonisation, facts on the ground, friendly fire, industrial cluster, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Jane Jacobs, land tenure, life extension, Long Term Capital Management, market fundamentalism, mutually assured destruction, nuclear winter, Peter Singer: altruism, planetary scale, prediction markets, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Ray Kurzweil, Silicon Valley, smart grid, source of truth, stem cell, Stewart Brand, technoutopianism, the built environment, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, transcontinental railway, Whole Earth Catalog

In our line of work, however, the most common prescription is the further pursuit of Enlightenment rationality, achieved through some combination of two options: (1) "Do more research, reduce uncertainty, take action" and (2) "Educate the unwashed and the opposition." After all, if only everyone understood the facts, then the right course of action would become obviousthat is, either (a) embrace and promote technological change or (b) embrace and promote essential humanness. We see these sorts of approaches (the utopian, the hard-ass, the rational techno-utopian, the rational techno-dystopian) as further symptoms of the world we have struggled to describea world unable (and perhaps increasingly unable) to come to grips with what it does to itself. We will take a different tack and offer up a modest set of attributes, for institutions (ranging from governments to research organizations) and for individuals, that we think would help constitute a world better able to manage the complex consequences of its own ingenuity.

., 97 Soviet Union, 114 Space-time compression, 74 Spice Islands, 129 Stalinism, 31 Stem cells, 3 Steppe warriors, 129 Stirrups, 84 Stock, G., 19 Struldbruggs, 83 Swedish Ministry of Sustainable Development, 122 Synthetic biology, 68ff Synthetic reality, 82 222 Index Taylorism, 79 Techno-dystopianism, 160 Technological Society, The, 44 Technological sublime, 198 Technology as cultural competitive advantage,84 as earth-system state, 84 and geopolitical dominance, 27 Technology clusters, 79££ Techno-optimism, 7 Techno-utopianism, 160 Telegraph technology, 72 Telepathic control, of avatars, 82 Terraforming,10 Terrorism, 125 "Think globally, act locally," 105,110 Time, measured differently, 72 Tour de France, 3, 4 Toxic chemicals, in manufacturing, 51 Transhumanism, defined, 5, 6 Treaties of Westphalia, 13 7 Trojan horse, 127 Twitter, 81, 144, 148 Umesao, T., 168 Uncertainty about future, 88££ United Kingdom, 144 United Nations, 112, 164 United States, 139, 183 and brands, 134 and climate change, 113 and geopolitical dominance, 27 and higher education, 134 and venture capital, 134 Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), 139, 141, 151 Vaccines, 40ff, 46, 49ff, 60, 63, 98,107,174 Values, conflict of, 88££ Van der Leeuw, S., 9 Venter, C., 68 Vietnam, 131 Vietnam war, 136, 139 Vishnu, 10,78,119 Visvanathan, S., 66 War, laws of, 152 War Made New, 130 "War on drugs," 125 "War porn," 155 Watches, 34 Webber, M., 109 Webster, D., 74 Whitman, W, 74, 77 Whole Earth Catalog, 10 Wilson, E. 0., 122 Winner, L., 44, 45 Wired for War, 141 Wolfpack sensor system, 143 Woodhouse, N., 56 World Charter for Nature, 181 World Economic Forum, 49 World Health Organization, 48 World Trade Organization, 135 World Transhumanist Association, 5 World War I, 76,127,151 World War II, 127, 131 Xe,141


pages: 222 words: 70,132

Move Fast and Break Things: How Facebook, Google, and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy by Jonathan Taplin

1960s counterculture, 3D printing, affirmative action, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Airbnb, Amazon Mechanical Turk, American Legislative Exchange Council, Apple's 1984 Super Bowl advert, back-to-the-land, barriers to entry, basic income, battle of ideas, big data - Walmart - Pop Tarts, bitcoin, Brewster Kahle, Buckminster Fuller, Burning Man, Clayton Christensen, commoditize, creative destruction, crony capitalism, crowdsourcing, data is the new oil, David Brooks, David Graeber, don't be evil, Donald Trump, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Engelbart, Dynabook, Edward Snowden, Elon Musk, equal pay for equal work, Erik Brynjolfsson, future of journalism, future of work, George Akerlof, George Gilder, Google bus, Hacker Ethic, Howard Rheingold, income inequality, informal economy, information asymmetry, information retrieval, Internet Archive, Internet of things, invisible hand, Jaron Lanier, Jeff Bezos, job automation, John Markoff, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, John von Neumann, Joseph Schumpeter, Kevin Kelly, Kickstarter, labor-force participation, life extension, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, Menlo Park, Metcalfe’s law, Mother of all demos, move fast and break things, move fast and break things, natural language processing, Network effects, new economy, Norbert Wiener, offshore financial centre, packet switching, Paul Graham, Peter Thiel, Plutocrats, plutocrats, pre–internet, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, rent-seeking, revision control, Robert Bork, Robert Gordon, Robert Metcalfe, Ronald Reagan, Sand Hill Road, secular stagnation, self-driving car, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley ideology, smart grid, Snapchat, software is eating the world, Steve Jobs, Stewart Brand, technoutopianism, The Chicago School, The Market for Lemons, Tim Cook: Apple, trade route, transfer pricing, trickle-down economics, Tyler Cowen: Great Stagnation, universal basic income, unpaid internship, We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters, web application, Whole Earth Catalog, winner-take-all economy, women in the workforce, Y Combinator

And even Bowie knew he was lucky to have started his career in a predigital age, before music had become a commodity, telling a reporter in 2002, “Music itself is going to become like running water or electricity. So it’s like, just take advantage of these last few years because none of this is ever going to happen again.” When you think that Bob Dylan’s first album sold four thousand copies in two years, you realize that today his contract would never have been renewed. The techno-utopians like Alexis Ohanian told us that the Internet would “kill all the gatekeepers.” But what’s really happened is that a new set of gatekeepers—Google and Facebook—has replaced the old. Google’s market capitalization is $532 billion. Time Warner’s is $61 billion. The balance of power in the world of entertainment has shifted to monopoly platforms. To understand how that happened, we need to look at the nature of monopoly capitalism and how an old and largely discredited form of robber-baron capitalism took on a new form in the digital age.

Thiel’s icon Ayn Rand defined freedom this way: “To ask nothing. To expect nothing. To depend on nothing.” How far is this from Jefferson’s great inspiration, the Greek philosopher Epicurus, who defined the good life and freedom in the following terms? • The company of good friends. • The freedom and autonomy to enjoy meaningful work. • The willingness to live an examined life with a core faith or philosophy. If we think about the world techno-utopians are envisioning, it may be hard for the average citizen to have the freedom and autonomy to enjoy meaningful work. Would a life where your daily existence relied on driving four hours a day for Uber, serving as a concierge for your Airbnb guests in the spare room, and spending your evenings doing crowdwork on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk meet Epicurus’s test? And would you have any time to live an “examined” life?


pages: 391 words: 105,382

Utopia Is Creepy: And Other Provocations by Nicholas Carr

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Air France Flight 447, Airbnb, Airbus A320, AltaVista, Amazon Mechanical Turk, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, Bernie Sanders, book scanning, Brewster Kahle, Buckminster Fuller, Burning Man, Captain Sullenberger Hudson, centralized clearinghouse, cloud computing, cognitive bias, collaborative consumption, computer age, corporate governance, crowdsourcing, Danny Hillis, deskilling, digital map, Donald Trump, Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, Elon Musk, factory automation, failed state, feminist movement, Frederick Winslow Taylor, friendly fire, game design, global village, Google bus, Google Glasses, Google X / Alphabet X, Googley, hive mind, impulse control, indoor plumbing, interchangeable parts, Internet Archive, invention of movable type, invention of the steam engine, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Jeff Bezos, jimmy wales, job automation, Kevin Kelly, lifelogging, low skilled workers, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, Marshall McLuhan, means of production, Menlo Park, mental accounting, natural language processing, Network effects, new economy, Nicholas Carr, Norman Mailer, off grid, oil shale / tar sands, Peter Thiel, Plutocrats, plutocrats, profit motive, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, Republic of Letters, robot derives from the Czech word robota Czech, meaning slave, Ronald Reagan, self-driving car, SETI@home, side project, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley ideology, Singularitarianism, Snapchat, social graph, social web, speech recognition, Startup school, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Steven Levy, technoutopianism, the medium is the message, theory of mind, Turing test, Whole Earth Catalog, Y Combinator

It seemed clear that those who controlled the omnipresent screen would, if given their way, control culture as well. “Computing is not about computers any more,” wrote MIT’s Nicholas Negroponte in his 1995 bestseller Being Digital. “It is about living.” By the turn of the century, Silicon Valley was selling more than gadgets and software. It was selling an ideology. The creed was set in the tradition of American techno-utopianism, but with a digital twist. The Valleyites were fierce materialists—what couldn’t be measured had no meaning—yet they loathed materiality. In their view, the problems of the world, from inefficiency and inequality to morbidity and mortality, emanated from the world’s physicality, from its embodiment in torpid, inflexible, decaying stuff. The panacea was virtuality—the reinvention and redemption of society in computer code.

But in the same letter he disclosed the “large dreams” he harbored for “the bedazzlement of men.” Modern media needed its own medium, the voice that would explain its transformative power to the world, and he would take that role. The tension between McLuhan’s craving for earthly attention and his distaste for the material world would never be resolved. Even as he came to be worshipped as a techno-utopian seer in the mid-sixties, he had already, writes Coupland, lost all hope “that the world might become a better place with new technology.” He heralded the global village, and was genuinely excited by its imminence and its possibilities, but he also saw its arrival as the death knell for the literary culture he revered. The electronically connected society would be the setting not for the further flourishing of civilization but for the return of tribalism, if on a vast new scale.


pages: 364 words: 99,897

The Industries of the Future by Alec Ross

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23andMe, 3D printing, Airbnb, algorithmic trading, AltaVista, Anne Wojcicki, autonomous vehicles, banking crisis, barriers to entry, Bernie Madoff, bioinformatics, bitcoin, blockchain, Brian Krebs, British Empire, business intelligence, call centre, carbon footprint, cloud computing, collaborative consumption, connected car, corporate governance, Credit Default Swap, cryptocurrency, David Brooks, disintermediation, Dissolution of the Soviet Union, distributed ledger, Edward Glaeser, Edward Snowden, en.wikipedia.org, Erik Brynjolfsson, fiat currency, future of work, global supply chain, Google X / Alphabet X, industrial robot, Internet of things, invention of the printing press, Jaron Lanier, Jeff Bezos, job automation, John Markoff, knowledge economy, knowledge worker, lifelogging, litecoin, M-Pesa, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, Mikhail Gorbachev, mobile money, money: store of value / unit of account / medium of exchange, new economy, offshore financial centre, open economy, Parag Khanna, peer-to-peer, peer-to-peer lending, personalized medicine, Peter Thiel, precision agriculture, pre–internet, RAND corporation, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, ride hailing / ride sharing, Rubik’s Cube, Satoshi Nakamoto, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), self-driving car, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Skype, smart cities, social graph, software as a service, special economic zone, supply-chain management, supply-chain management software, technoutopianism, The Future of Employment, underbanked, Vernor Vinge, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, women in the workforce, Y Combinator, young professional

Instead of radiation from an external source, which damages healthy living tissues along with cancer, these robots release a radio beam inside the body that emits radiation into cancer cells with pinpoint accuracy. Using 3D printing, a medical engineer can even create a customized implant that can travel through a patient’s body to fit perfectly where it’s needed. Despite the promise of robot-assisted surgery, it is important not to jump to techno-utopianism. Allegations of unreported injuries from robotic surgery are troublingly common. The Journal for Healthcare Quality has reported 174 injuries and 71 deaths related to da Vinci surgeries. With the pressure on insurance companies and health care providers to lower costs, I worry that there will be market forces pushing robots into the operating room at times when a patient is better served by a human being.

At last measure, the estimated size of the global sharing economy was $26 billion, and it’s growing fast, with some estimates projecting it will be more than 20 times larger in size by 2025. Part of why Chesky’s story is cloying is that Airbnb is now a destination for castles in addition to couches. When I last checked, there were more than 600 castles available, with prices often approaching $10,000 a night. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this, but the techno-utopianism behind its origins and narrative has long been passed by economic reality. In some cases, the sharing economy has turned what might have once been a casual favor into a financial transaction. That is hardly the stuff of “sharing.” In most cases, sharing-economy businesses are just businesses. Brian and Joe didn’t share their spare air mattresses; they rented them out. To the extent that there is an underlying ideology, it is not about sharing or creating community around the breakfast table; it is the economic theory of neoliberalism, encouraging the free flow of goods and services in a market without government regulation.


pages: 121 words: 36,908

Four Futures: Life After Capitalism by Peter Frase

3D printing, Airbnb, basic income, bitcoin, call centre, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, carbon footprint, cryptocurrency, deindustrialization, Edward Snowden, Erik Brynjolfsson, Ferguson, Missouri, fixed income, full employment, future of work, high net worth, income inequality, industrial robot, informal economy, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), iterative process, job automation, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, litecoin, mass incarceration, means of production, Norbert Wiener, Occupy movement, pattern recognition, peak oil, Plutocrats, plutocrats, postindustrial economy, price mechanism, private military company, Ray Kurzweil, Robert Gordon, Second Machine Age, self-driving car, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, smart meter, TaskRabbit, technoutopianism, The Future of Employment, Thomas Malthus, Tyler Cowen: Great Stagnation, universal basic income, Wall-E, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, We are the 99%, Wolfgang Streeck

So for me, sketching out multiple futures is an attempt to leave a place for the political and the contingent. My intention is not to claim that one future will automatically appear through the magical working out of technical and ecological factors that appear from outside. Instead, it is to insist that where we end up will be a result of political struggle. The intersection of science fiction and politics is these days often associated with the libertarian right and its deterministic techno-utopian fantasies; I hope to reclaim the long left-wing tradition of mixing imaginative speculation with political economy. The starting point of the entire analysis is that capitalism is going to end, and that, as Luxemburg said, it is either “transition to socialism or regression into barbarism.”27 So this thought experiment is an attempt to make sense of the socialisms we may reach if a resurgent Left is successful, and the barbarisms we may be consigned to if we fail.


pages: 509 words: 132,327

Rise of the Machines: A Cybernetic History by Thomas Rid

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1960s counterculture, A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, Alistair Cooke, Apple II, Apple's 1984 Super Bowl advert, back-to-the-land, Berlin Wall, British Empire, Brownian motion, Buckminster Fuller, business intelligence, Claude Shannon: information theory, conceptual framework, connected car, domain-specific language, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Engelbart, dumpster diving, Extropian, full employment, game design, global village, Haight Ashbury, Howard Rheingold, Jaron Lanier, job automation, John Markoff, John von Neumann, Kevin Kelly, Marshall McLuhan, Menlo Park, Mother of all demos, new economy, New Journalism, Norbert Wiener, offshore financial centre, oil shale / tar sands, pattern recognition, RAND corporation, Silicon Valley, Simon Singh, speech recognition, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Steven Levy, Stewart Brand, technoutopianism, Telecommunications Act of 1996, telepresence, V2 rocket, Vernor Vinge, Whole Earth Catalog, Whole Earth Review, Y2K, Yom Kippur War, Zimmermann PGP

Even under the most adverse conditions, technology was trustworthy—even if laws, even if society, and even if corrupt governments could not be trusted. May’s vision was nothing less than one of an automated political order. Crypto anarchy embodied the unshakable cybernetic faith in the machine. It combined Wiener’s hubristic vision of the rise of the machines with Brand’s unflinching belief that computers and networked communities would make the world a better place. A direct line connects the techno-utopianism of Timothy Leary to the techno-utopianism of Timothy May, cyberpunk to cypherpunk. Leary felt empowered by the personal computer. For May, just one ingredient was missing: the power of prime numbers. “Cryptography provides for ‘personal empowerment,’” he wrote in 1999.97 The cypherpunks had not a trace of doubt that crypto itself was libertarian, that increasing its use would steadily increase degrees of freedom available to the individual.


pages: 390 words: 109,870

Radicals Chasing Utopia: Inside the Rogue Movements Trying to Change the World by Jamie Bartlett

Andrew Keen, back-to-the-land, Bernie Sanders, bitcoin, blockchain, blue-collar work, brain emulation, centre right, clean water, cryptocurrency, Donald Trump, drone strike, Elon Musk, energy security, ethereum blockchain, failed state, gig economy, hydraulic fracturing, income inequality, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Jaron Lanier, job automation, John Markoff, Joseph Schumpeter, life extension, Occupy movement, off grid, Peter Thiel, post-industrial society, postnationalism / post nation state, precariat, QR code, Ray Kurzweil, RFID, Rosa Parks, Satoshi Nakamoto, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Skype, smart contracts, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, technoutopianism

The proposition that we will someday use biotechnology to make ourselves stronger, smarter, less prone to violence and longer-living is not so outlandish. Already millions of people use mood-altering drugs, substances to boost muscle mass or selectively erase memory, prenatal genetic screening and gene therapy. These don’t just ameliorate defects, but also enhance us. They were all viewed as unnatural, and immoral, not so long ago. But the science is not almost there. Like every techno-utopian, Zoltan appears to flit with misleading ease between science and fiction, taking any promising piece of research as proof of victory. The three main transhumanist technologies that excite transhumanists like Zoltan are life extension, cryonic freezing and mind uploading. Each of them is advancing quickly. But they are also highly speculative. Radical life extension seeks to use a variety of medical advances—tissue rejuvenation, regenerative medicine, gene therapy, molecular repair—to slow and eventually stop the process of ageing.

These issues will be, within a decade, major political questions as important as immigration or education are now. Zoltan is doing us all a favour by running his campaign. He’s the only political candidate trying to imagine what politics and policies might be in a world of continued and accelerating technological advance.* He might force other politicians to start thinking about it. But Zoltan’s techno-utopianism comes at a cost. Transhumanists’ exaggerated claims about the potential of technology to solve our most challenging tasks mean they ignore current problems and overlook the negative consequences of rapidly advancing technology. Politics involves trade-offs, difficult choices and compromises. Not for Zoltan, though, because there is no problem that technology can’t fix. At various down moments on the bus, I quiz Zoltan on his policies.


pages: 188 words: 9,226

Collaborative Futures by Mike Linksvayer, Michael Mandiberg, Mushon Zer-Aviv

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4chan, Benjamin Mako Hill, British Empire, citizen journalism, cloud computing, collaborative economy, corporate governance, crowdsourcing, Debian, en.wikipedia.org, Firefox, informal economy, jimmy wales, Kickstarter, late capitalism, loose coupling, Marshall McLuhan, means of production, Naomi Klein, Network effects, optical character recognition, packet switching, postnationalism / post nation state, prediction markets, Richard Stallman, semantic web, Silicon Valley, slashdot, Slavoj Žižek, stealth mode startup, technoutopianism, the medium is the message, The Wisdom of Crowds, web application

If so, it is a terrifying one in which anonymity and structurelessness permits total absolution of social responsibility, terrorizing of innocent outsiders, and harassment of those who provide public feedback, criticism and indeed even speak of the group (“You do not talk about anonymous”). It is a P2P, collaborative, digitized “Lord of the Flies” wherein boys’ games devolve into violence for fun. In the perpetual techno-utopian dialectic, this is the feared dystopian future we hope will be avoided, as we aim for the utopia that we can never actually arrive at. 5 2. How this Book is Written “Collaboration on a book is the ultimate unnatural act.” —Tom Clancy This book was first wri en over 5 days (Jan 18-22, 2010) during a Book Sprint in Berlin. 7 people (5 writers, 1 programmer and 1 facilitator) gathered to collaborate and produce a book in 5 days with no prior preparation and with the only guiding light being the title ‘Collaborative Futures’.


pages: 165 words: 45,397

Speculative Everything: Design, Fiction, and Social Dreaming by Anthony Dunne, Fiona Raby

3D printing, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, Berlin Wall, Buckminster Fuller, Cass Sunstein, computer age, corporate governance, David Attenborough, en.wikipedia.org, Fall of the Berlin Wall, game design, global village, Google X / Alphabet X, haute couture, life extension, Mark Zuckerberg, mouse model, New Urbanism, Peter Eisenman, RAND corporation, Richard Thaler, Ronald Reagan, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, social software, technoutopianism, Wall-E

This limits and prevents designers from fully engaging with and designing for the complexities of human nature, which of course is not always nice. Critical design can often be dark or deal with dark themes but not just for the sake of it. Dark, complex emotions are usually ignored in design; nearly every other area of culture accepts that people are complicated, contradictory, and even neurotic, but not design. We view people as obedient and predictable users and consumers. Darkness as an antidote to naive techno-utopianism can jolt people into action. In design, darkness creates a frisson that excites and challenges. It is more about the positive use of negativity, not negativity for its own sake but to draw attention to a scary possibility in the form of a cautionary tale. A good example of this is Bernd Hopfengaertner's Belief Systems (2009). Hopfengaertner asks what would happen if one of the tech industry's many dreams comes true, if all the research being done by separate companies into making humans machine readable were to combine and move from laboratory to everyday life: combined algorithms and camera systems that can read emotions from faces, gait, and demeanor; neurotechnologies that cannot exactly read minds but can make a good guess at what people are thinking; profiling software that tracks and traces our every click and purchase; and so on.


pages: 464 words: 127,283

Smart Cities: Big Data, Civic Hackers, and the Quest for a New Utopia by Anthony M. Townsend

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1960s counterculture, 4chan, A Pattern Language, Airbnb, Amazon Web Services, anti-communist, Apple II, Bay Area Rapid Transit, Burning Man, business process, call centre, carbon footprint, charter city, chief data officer, clean water, cleantech, cloud computing, computer age, congestion charging, connected car, crack epidemic, crowdsourcing, DARPA: Urban Challenge, data acquisition, Deng Xiaoping, digital map, Donald Davies, East Village, Edward Glaeser, game design, garden city movement, Geoffrey West, Santa Fe Institute, George Gilder, ghettoisation, global supply chain, Grace Hopper, Haight Ashbury, Hedy Lamarr / George Antheil, hive mind, Howard Rheingold, interchangeable parts, Internet Archive, Internet of things, Jacquard loom, Jacquard loom, Jane Jacobs, jitney, John Snow's cholera map, Khan Academy, Kibera, knowledge worker, load shedding, M-Pesa, Mark Zuckerberg, megacity, mobile money, mutually assured destruction, new economy, New Urbanism, Norbert Wiener, Occupy movement, off grid, openstreetmap, packet switching, Parag Khanna, patent troll, Pearl River Delta, place-making, planetary scale, popular electronics, RFC: Request For Comment, RFID, ride hailing / ride sharing, Robert Gordon, self-driving car, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, Skype, smart cities, Smart Cities: Big Data, Civic Hackers, and the Quest for a New Utopia, smart grid, smart meter, social graph, social software, social web, special economic zone, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Stuxnet, supply-chain management, technoutopianism, Ted Kaczynski, telepresence, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, too big to fail, trade route, Tyler Cowen: Great Stagnation, Upton Sinclair, uranium enrichment, urban decay, urban planning, urban renewal, Vannevar Bush, working poor, working-age population, X Prize, Y2K, zero day, Zipcar

The enormous cultural impact of that psychedelic freak-out on American society can be felt today, and it still casts a long shadow over San Francisco. There, Hirshberg has been a driving force behind a new creative space just down the hill from Haight-Ashbury, the Gray Area Foundation for the Arts. Both physically and spiritually, it sits at the intersection of that 1960s counterculture and a new techno-utopianism. It’s just a few steps to either Twitter’s headquarters or the head office of Burning Man, the radical art festival that builds a temporary city in the Nevada desert each summer. Though he takes inspiration from the hippies, Hirshberg is politically pragmatic. He soon slaps his laptop shut and stops playing dumb. “Look,” he says, “in the 60s you protested the establishment. Today you just write to its API.”

How It Will Happen and What It Will Mean (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 19. 31Colin Harrison, interview by author, May 9, 2011. 32Jay Nath, “Hacking SF: Innovation in Public Spaces,” Jay Nath, blog, last modified April 12, 2012, http://www.jaynath.com/2012/04/hacking-sf-innovation-in-public-spaces/. 33Phil Bernstein, remarks, Bill Mitchell Symposium, MIT Media Lab, Cambridge, MA, Nov 11, 2011. 34“The Transect,” Center for Applied Transect Studies, accessed September 5, 2012, http://www.transect.org/transect.html. 35Red Burns, “Technology and the Human Spirit,” lecture at “The Future of Interactive Communication,” Lund, Sweden, June 1998. 36“Transdisciplinarity,” Science and Technology Outlook: 2005–2055 (Palo Alto, CA: Institute for the Future, 2006), 31, http://www.iftf.org/system/files/deliverables/TH_SR-967_S%2526T_Perspectives.pdf. 37Adam Greenfield, “Beyond the ‘smart city,’ ” Urban Scale, blog, last modified February 17, 2011, http://urbanscale.org/news/2011/02/17/beyond-the-smart-city/. 38Evgeny Morozov, “Technological Utopianism,” Boston Review, November/December 2010, http://www.bostonreview.net/BR35.6/morozov.php. 39Michael M. Grynbaum, “Mayor Warns of Pitfalls of Social Media,” New York Times, March 21, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/22/nyregion/bloomberg-says-social-media-can-hurt-governing.html. 40Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities (New York: Harcourt, 1974), 32. 41Michael Joroff, e-mail correspondence with author, January 28, 2012. 42Janette Sadik-Khan, lecture, “BitCity 2011: Transportation, Data and Technology in Cities,” Columbia University, New York City, November 4, 2011. 43Guru Banavar, lecture, “X-Cities 3: Heavy Weather—Design and Governance in Rio de Janeiro and Beyond,” Columbia University Studio-X, New York, April 10, 2012, http://www.youtube.com/watch?


pages: 226 words: 71,540

Epic Win for Anonymous: How 4chan's Army Conquered the Web by Cole Stryker

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4chan, barriers to entry, Berlin Wall, Chelsea Manning, cognitive dissonance, Columbine, commoditize, creative destruction, crowdsourcing, Firefox, future of journalism, hive mind, informal economy, Internet Archive, Julian Assange, Mark Zuckerberg, Marshall McLuhan, Mason jar, pre–internet, Silicon Valley, slashdot, social web, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Stewart Brand, technoutopianism, wage slave, We are Anonymous. We are Legion, Whole Earth Catalog, WikiLeaks

But if someone said those things to me on the street my heart would stop. During the early days on the Internet, there were no agreed-upon standards of etiquette. Templeton helped to define the way people would behave for decades to come. The Virtual Community: The Well In 1985 Stewart Brand and Larry Brilliant founded the Whole Earth ‘Lectronic Link, or WELL. The WELL was made up of a new breed of techno-utopian ex-hippies who’d been experimenting with communal living and other alternative lifestyles. These baby boomers had grown up a bit, and where their ’60s brethren had failed, they believed they’d succeed, with the power of network technology. It was all very back-to-the-earth, but with a focus on the power of computing. Words like cybernetic and transhumanism were thrown around. Many of the community’s first users were subscribers to Brand’s Whole Earth Catalog, a magazine devoted to topics like alternative shelter, nomadics, and telecommunications.


pages: 229 words: 68,426

Everyware: The Dawning Age of Ubiquitous Computing by Adam Greenfield

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augmented reality, business process, defense in depth, demand response, demographic transition, facts on the ground, game design, Howard Rheingold, Internet of things, James Dyson, knowledge worker, late capitalism, Marshall McLuhan, new economy, Norbert Wiener, packet switching, pattern recognition, profit motive, QR code, recommendation engine, RFID, Steve Jobs, technoutopianism, the built environment, the scientific method

In fact, almost every scenario we've covered is reflected somewhere or another in New Songdo's marketing materials; the developers have even included the pressure-sensitive flooring for the homes of older residents, where it's once again touted as being able to detect falls and summon assistance. It's quite a comprehensive—and audacious—vision. And while it certainly sounds like something out of AT&T's infamously techno-utopian "you Will" commercials of the early 1990s, New Songdo is entirely real. It's being built right now, at a cost estimated to be somewhere north of $15 billion. That financing for the project is being provided by international institutions like ABN Amro, as well as Korean heavyweights Kookmin Bank and Woori Bank, should tell us something. It doesn't even particularly matter whether few of the "enhancements" planned for this or other East Asian "u-cities" pan out entirely as envisioned; it's sufficient that hardheaded, profit-driven businesspeople think there's a reasonable chance of seeing a return on their investment in everyware to lend the notion commercial credibility.


pages: 271 words: 62,538

The Best Interface Is No Interface: The Simple Path to Brilliant Technology (Voices That Matter) by Golden Krishna

Airbnb, computer vision, crossover SUV, en.wikipedia.org, fear of failure, impulse control, Inbox Zero, Internet Archive, Internet of things, Jeff Bezos, Jony Ive, Kickstarter, Mark Zuckerberg, new economy, Oculus Rift, pattern recognition, QR code, RFID, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, Skype, Snapchat, Steve Jobs, technoutopianism, Tim Cook: Apple, Y Combinator, Y2K

Frustrated by the effects of high winds on swing doors at their store in Corpus Christi, the brothers started their own door company that sold the world’s first automatically opening doors.2 Today, the Horton Automatic sliding doors are replicated all over the world. When you walk up to a grocery store or hospital, the doors often automatically open. When health-care workers rush a patient into a hospital from an ambulance, the doors just slide open. Um, I know how automatic doors work. The experience isn’t a shocking, please-leave-the-meeting-room, techno-utopian vision, but an expected, boring solution. It isn’t something we marvel at, revere, or even consider special; it’s become an automatic solution we just count on. And that, honestly, is a great thing. These seamless, automatic solutions sometimes take decades (or a few millennia) before they are reliable enough to become part of our everyday lives. They’re not easy, but they’re remarkable when they work.


pages: 281 words: 95,852

The Googlization of Everything: by Siva Vaidhyanathan

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1960s counterculture, activist fund / activist shareholder / activist investor, AltaVista, barriers to entry, Berlin Wall, borderless world, Burning Man, Cass Sunstein, choice architecture, cloud computing, computer age, corporate social responsibility, correlation does not imply causation, creative destruction, data acquisition, death of newspapers, don't be evil, Firefox, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, full text search, global village, Google Earth, Howard Rheingold, informal economy, information retrieval, John Markoff, Joseph Schumpeter, Kevin Kelly, knowledge worker, libertarian paternalism, market fundamentalism, Marshall McLuhan, means of production, Mikhail Gorbachev, moral panic, Naomi Klein, Network effects, new economy, Nicholas Carr, PageRank, pirate software, Ray Kurzweil, Richard Thaler, Ronald Reagan, side project, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley ideology, single-payer health, Skype, social web, Steven Levy, Stewart Brand, technoutopianism, The Nature of the Firm, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, Thorstein Veblen, urban decay, web application, zero-sum game

Back in 1999 and 2000 I must have told more than a hundred people, including my closest friends and family, that Google was the best possible way to find stuff on the Web. When I first encountered Google in early 1999, I was teaching history at Wesleyan University. Mostly, I was scrambling to finish my dissertation—which became my first book. Because most of my research drew on sources available on microfilm, search engines had not yet become an integral part of my professional life. I was aware of the techno-utopian conversations about electronic archives and the global delivery of knowledge, but I didn’t think very hard about them. I had a book to write and sell. The Web, for me, was a platform for self-promotion. And existing search engines, like Yahoo, were not helping in that effort. Since about 1995 I had been using Yahoo and AltaVista for my Web navigation. I had a brief and passionate involvement with a much better and faster Web search service, Northern Light, until, facing a revenue shortage, it became a specialized portal for corporate clients (and remains so today).


pages: 368 words: 96,825

Bold: How to Go Big, Create Wealth and Impact the World by Peter H. Diamandis, Steven Kotler

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3D printing, additive manufacturing, Airbnb, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Amazon Web Services, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, cloud computing, creative destruction, crowdsourcing, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, dematerialisation, deskilling, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, Exxon Valdez, fear of failure, Firefox, Galaxy Zoo, Google Glasses, Google Hangouts, Google X / Alphabet X, gravity well, ImageNet competition, industrial robot, Internet of things, Jeff Bezos, John Harrison: Longitude, John Markoff, Jono Bacon, Just-in-time delivery, Kickstarter, Kodak vs Instagram, Law of Accelerating Returns, Lean Startup, life extension, loss aversion, Louis Pasteur, Mahatma Gandhi, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, Mars Rover, meta analysis, meta-analysis, microbiome, minimum viable product, move fast and break things, Narrative Science, Netflix Prize, Network effects, Oculus Rift, optical character recognition, packet switching, PageRank, pattern recognition, performance metric, Peter H. Diamandis: Planetary Resources, Peter Thiel, pre–internet, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, ride hailing / ride sharing, risk tolerance, rolodex, self-driving car, sentiment analysis, shareholder value, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, skunkworks, Skype, smart grid, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Steven Levy, Stewart Brand, technoutopianism, telepresence, telepresence robot, Turing test, urban renewal, web application, X Prize, Y Combinator, zero-sum game

The exponential technologies discussed in part one give us the physical tools for radical change, the psychological strategies described in part two are the mental framework for success, and the exponential crowd tools that fill part three provide all of the additional resources (talent, money, and so forth) needed to cross the finish line. Here’s the most important point: Abundance is not a techno-utopian vision. Technology alone will not bring us this better world. It is up to you and me. To bring on this better world is going to require what could easily be the largest cooperative effort in history. In other words, there is a bold and bright future out there. But, as with everything else, what happens next is up to us. And this brings me to my final thoughts. In Abundance, Steven and I closed the book with a section on the dangers of exponentials.


pages: 308 words: 84,713

The Glass Cage: Automation and Us by Nicholas Carr

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Airbnb, Airbus A320, Andy Kessler, Atul Gawande, autonomous vehicles, Bernard Ziegler, business process, call centre, Captain Sullenberger Hudson, Checklist Manifesto, cloud computing, computerized trading, David Brooks, deliberate practice, deskilling, digital map, Douglas Engelbart, drone strike, Elon Musk, Erik Brynjolfsson, Flash crash, Frank Gehry, Frank Levy and Richard Murnane: The New Division of Labor, Frederick Winslow Taylor, future of work, global supply chain, Google Glasses, Google Hangouts, High speed trading, indoor plumbing, industrial robot, Internet of things, Jacquard loom, Jacquard loom, James Watt: steam engine, job automation, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, Kevin Kelly, knowledge worker, Lyft, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, means of production, natural language processing, new economy, Nicholas Carr, Norbert Wiener, Oculus Rift, pattern recognition, Peter Thiel, place-making, Plutocrats, plutocrats, profit motive, Ralph Waldo Emerson, RAND corporation, randomized controlled trial, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, robot derives from the Czech word robota Czech, meaning slave, Second Machine Age, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley ideology, software is eating the world, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, TaskRabbit, technoutopianism, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, turn-by-turn navigation, US Airways Flight 1549, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, William Langewiesche

Every time we offload a job to a tool or a machine, or to a symbol or a software algorithm, we free ourselves to climb to a higher pursuit, one requiring greater dexterity, richer intelligence, or a broader perspective. We may lose something with each upward step, but what we gain is, in the end, far greater. Taken to an extreme, Whitehead’s sense of automation as liberation turns into the techno-utopianism of Wilde and Keynes, or Marx at his sunniest—the dream that machines will free us from our earthly labors and deliver us back to an Eden of leisurely delights. But Whitehead didn’t have his head in the clouds. He was making a pragmatic point about how to spend our time and exert our effort. In a publication from the 1970s, the U.S. Department of Labor summed up the job of secretaries by saying that they “relieve their employers of routine duties so they can work on more important matters.”2 Software and other automation technologies, in the Whitehead view, play an analogous role.


pages: 388 words: 106,138

The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Factory by John Seabrook

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barriers to entry, financial independence, game design, peer-to-peer, Ponzi scheme, Saturday Night Live, Steve Jobs, technoutopianism, trade route

Even on the legal streaming services, such as Spotify, music consumption is “frictionless”—a favorite word of techies. It means—well, not “free” exactly, but at least unburdened by the inconvenience of purchasing a product. You’ve gone from a world of scarcity to one of abundance. Nothing is for sale, because everything is available. For both the pirates and the paying subscribers, buying records is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. And yet the hits go on and on. In The Long Tail, the 2005 techno-utopian argument for the coming triumph of niches in popular culture, author Chris Anderson posits that hits are a scarcity-based phenomenon. Record stores have limited shelf space, he explains, and records that move 10,000 units are more profitable to stock than records that move 10. But on the Internet, shelf space is infinite, and therefore record companies don’t need to focus so much of their business on making hits.


pages: 324 words: 92,805

The Impulse Society: America in the Age of Instant Gratification by Paul Roberts

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2013 Report for America's Infrastructure - American Society of Civil Engineers - 19 March 2013, 3D printing, accounting loophole / creative accounting, activist fund / activist shareholder / activist investor, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, American Society of Civil Engineers: Report Card, asset allocation, business process, Cass Sunstein, centre right, choice architecture, collateralized debt obligation, collective bargaining, computerized trading, corporate governance, corporate raider, corporate social responsibility, creative destruction, crony capitalism, David Brooks, delayed gratification, double helix, factory automation, financial deregulation, financial innovation, fixed income, full employment, game design, greed is good, If something cannot go on forever, it will stop - Herbert Stein's Law, impulse control, income inequality, inflation targeting, invisible hand, job automation, John Markoff, Joseph Schumpeter, knowledge worker, late fees, Long Term Capital Management, loss aversion, low skilled workers, mass immigration, new economy, Nicholas Carr, obamacare, Occupy movement, oil shale / tar sands, performance metric, postindustrial economy, profit maximization, Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, reshoring, Richard Thaler, rising living standards, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Rodney Brooks, Ronald Reagan, shareholder value, Silicon Valley, speech recognition, Steve Jobs, technoutopianism, the built environment, The Predators' Ball, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thorstein Veblen, too big to fail, total factor productivity, Tyler Cowen: Great Stagnation, Walter Mischel, winner-take-all economy

The solemnity of Chip’s spiel contrasts sharply with some of the ribald commentary that accompanied Siri’s release in 2011. Beyond the specific complaints—that Siri cannot understand Bronx, for example—were broader, often mocking critiques of the notion of Siri as a productivity booster. Many of Siri’s advertised uses2 (“Siri, find me a latte” or “Siri, play my running mix”) seem less about raising output than providing digital parlor tricks for bored yuppies. Given the way Apple uses cloying techno-utopian hype (the iPad is “a magical window where nothing comes between you and what you love”) to grease its famously aggressive release schedule (new versions rolled out precisely as profit margins on existing ones are fading), it doesn’t take a cynic to see Siri as an unusually elaborate carrot. And yet . . . it’s hard to ignore the thrill I get when, a few days later, I tell Siri to set a timer for five minutes, and she does it.


pages: 319 words: 103,707

Against Everything: Essays by Mark Greif

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1960s counterculture, back-to-the-land, Bernie Madoff, citizen journalism, collateralized debt obligation, crack epidemic, Credit Default Swap, credit default swaps / collateralized debt obligations, deindustrialization, Desert Island Discs, Donald Trump, income inequality, informal economy, Norman Mailer, Ponzi scheme, postindustrial economy, Ronald Reagan, technoutopianism, telemarketer, trickle-down economics, upwardly mobile, white flight

We’d manifest our nature on channels 401 to 499 as surely as do puppies, ocean, and sky. We’d do it marrying, arguing, staring at the wall, dining, studying our feet, holding contests, singing, sneezing. Hundreds of thousands of us had cameras. Well, we’d plug them in and leave the tape running for our real life. In this underlying dream, we were neither exactly wrong nor right. The promise of the five hundred channels went to waste. The techno-utopians’ fantasies shifted to the Internet. Nothing like the paradise we hoped for came to fruition on TV, that’s for sure. Instead we got reality TV. — The assessment of reality television depends first on your notion of television; second, on your idea of political community. Here is a standard misconception: since the noblest forms of artistic endeavor are fictional and dramatic (the novel, film, painting, plays), it can be assumed that the major, proper products of television will be its dramatic entertainments, the sitcom and the hour-long drama.


pages: 319 words: 90,965

The End of College: Creating the Future of Learning and the University of Everywhere by Kevin Carey

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Albert Einstein, barriers to entry, Bayesian statistics, Berlin Wall, business intelligence, carbon-based life, Claude Shannon: information theory, complexity theory, David Heinemeier Hansson, declining real wages, deliberate practice, discrete time, double helix, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Engelbart, Downton Abbey, Drosophila, Firefox, Frank Gehry, Google X / Alphabet X, informal economy, invention of the printing press, inventory management, John Markoff, Khan Academy, Kickstarter, low skilled workers, Lyft, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, meta analysis, meta-analysis, natural language processing, Network effects, open borders, pattern recognition, Peter Thiel, pez dispenser, ride hailing / ride sharing, Ronald Reagan, Ruby on Rails, Sand Hill Road, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, social web, South of Market, San Francisco, speech recognition, Steve Jobs, technoutopianism, transcontinental railway, Vannevar Bush

Thrun was part of a team that built the winning Volkswagen SUV. Google hired him to work in its research laboratory while he continued to teach AI as a tenured professor at Stanford. By 2011, Sebastian Thrun was something of a Silicon Valley rock star, a certified genius and visionary maker of very cool things. He dressed in jeans and stylish T-shirts and married a beautiful professor of comparative literature who liked to tease him about his techno-utopian ways. In March of that year, Thrun was invited to TED (Technology, Education, Design), the annual festival of technologist self-congratulation, where he stood before a rapt audience and described how he and his colleagues at Google had built a self-driving car. Afterward, Thrun hung around the conference to watch the other presenters, including an energetic former hedge fund analyst named Salman Khan.


pages: 275 words: 84,980

Before Babylon, Beyond Bitcoin: From Money That We Understand to Money That Understands Us (Perspectives) by David Birch

agricultural Revolution, Airbnb, bank run, banks create money, bitcoin, blockchain, Bretton Woods, British Empire, Broken windows theory, Burning Man, capital controls, cashless society, Clayton Christensen, clockwork universe, creative destruction, credit crunch, cross-subsidies, crowdsourcing, cryptocurrency, David Graeber, dematerialisation, Diane Coyle, distributed ledger, double entry bookkeeping, ethereum blockchain, facts on the ground, fault tolerance, fiat currency, financial exclusion, financial innovation, financial intermediation, floating exchange rates, Fractional reserve banking, index card, informal economy, Internet of things, invention of the printing press, invention of the telegraph, invention of the telephone, invisible hand, Irish bank strikes, Isaac Newton, Jane Jacobs, Kenneth Rogoff, knowledge economy, Kuwabatake Sanjuro: assassination market, large denomination, M-Pesa, market clearing, market fundamentalism, Marshall McLuhan, Martin Wolf, mobile money, money: store of value / unit of account / medium of exchange, new economy, Northern Rock, Pingit, prediction markets, price stability, QR code, quantitative easing, railway mania, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Real Time Gross Settlement, reserve currency, Satoshi Nakamoto, seigniorage, Silicon Valley, smart contracts, social graph, special drawing rights, technoutopianism, the payments system, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, too big to fail, transaction costs, tulip mania, wage slave, Washington Consensus, wikimedia commons

. ******** In a talk about electronic money that he gave in 2014, Charles Goodhart was kind enough to refer to some of my thinking around ‘privacy money’ as a way forward. Chapter 9 Why keep cash? Money is like muck, not good unless it be spread. — Francis Bacon (1561–1626) in his Essays, Civil and Moral (Number XV: Of Sedition and Troubles) There are, of course, many arguments for keeping cash despite the post-war techno-utopian fantasies of cashlessness – a cashlessness that with the wisdom of hindsight we know could not have been achieved with the fiat currencies and technologies of that era. The key arguments in favour of retaining cash were set out neatly by David Keohane in a piece for FT Alphaville (Keohane 2015). I have used his categorization here, setting out the five categories of conservatism, demographics, seigniorage, security and privacy and exploring each of them in turn.


pages: 574 words: 164,509

Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies by Nick Bostrom

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agricultural Revolution, AI winter, Albert Einstein, algorithmic trading, anthropic principle, anti-communist, artificial general intelligence, autonomous vehicles, barriers to entry, Bayesian statistics, bioinformatics, brain emulation, cloud computing, combinatorial explosion, computer vision, cosmological constant, dark matter, DARPA: Urban Challenge, data acquisition, delayed gratification, demographic transition, Donald Knuth, Douglas Hofstadter, Drosophila, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, endogenous growth, epigenetics, fear of failure, Flash crash, Flynn Effect, friendly AI, Gödel, Escher, Bach, income inequality, industrial robot, informal economy, information retrieval, interchangeable parts, iterative process, job automation, John Markoff, John von Neumann, knowledge worker, Menlo Park, meta analysis, meta-analysis, mutually assured destruction, Nash equilibrium, Netflix Prize, new economy, Norbert Wiener, NP-complete, nuclear winter, optical character recognition, pattern recognition, performance metric, phenotype, prediction markets, price stability, principal–agent problem, race to the bottom, random walk, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, reversible computing, social graph, speech recognition, Stanislav Petrov, statistical model, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, strong AI, superintelligent machines, supervolcano, technological singularity, technoutopianism, The Coming Technological Singularity, The Nature of the Firm, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, transaction costs, Turing machine, Vernor Vinge, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, World Values Survey, zero-sum game

Yet that is the extraordinary condition we now take to be ordinary. The idea of a coming technological singularity has by now been widely popularized, starting with Vernor Vinge’s seminal essay and continuing with the writings of Ray Kurzweil and others.4 The term “singularity,” however, has been used confusedly in many disparate senses and has accreted an unholy (yet almost millenarian) aura of techno-utopian connotations.5 Since most of these meanings and connotations are irrelevant to our argument, we can gain clarity by dispensing with the “singularity” word in favor of more precise terminology. The singularity-related idea that interests us here is the possibility of an intelligence explosion, particularly the prospect of machine superintelligence. There may be those who are persuaded by growth diagrams like the ones in Figure 1 that another drastic change in growth mode is in the cards, comparable to the Agricultural or Industrial Revolution.


pages: 452 words: 134,502

Hacking Politics: How Geeks, Progressives, the Tea Party, Gamers, Anarchists and Suits Teamed Up to Defeat SOPA and Save the Internet by David Moon, Patrick Ruffini, David Segal, Aaron Swartz, Lawrence Lessig, Cory Doctorow, Zoe Lofgren, Jamie Laurie, Ron Paul, Mike Masnick, Kim Dotcom, Tiffiniy Cheng, Alexis Ohanian, Nicole Powers, Josh Levy

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4chan, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Airbnb, Bernie Sanders, Burning Man, call centre, Cass Sunstein, collective bargaining, creative destruction, crony capitalism, crowdsourcing, don't be evil, facts on the ground, Firefox, hive mind, immigration reform, informal economy, jimmy wales, Kickstarter, liquidity trap, Mark Zuckerberg, obamacare, Occupy movement, offshore financial centre, peer-to-peer, Plutocrats, plutocrats, prisoner's dilemma, QR code, rent-seeking, Silicon Valley, Skype, technoutopianism, WikiLeaks, Y Combinator

Aaron has largely been memorialized as an advocate for copyright reform, information access, and Internet freedom. He was indeed such, but vii HACKING POLITICS he was also so much more. He probably first cared about those causes for their own sakes, but his work on them provided a window into politics that made it impossible to ignore broader systemic corruption and injustices. He wasn’t a techno-utopian who believed that open access and an open Internet would alone fix all that ails humanity; he came to believe that a constant, directed, ideologically left-leaning layer of activism needed to be built on top of these platforms. This transformation is perhaps best elucidated by Aaron himself in his own words, from a talk he gave at the Freedom to Connect conference in 2012. Here’s how he reacted when his close friend Peter Eckersley of the Electronic Frontier Foundation first told him about the bill that would become SOPA: “Oh, Peter,” I said.


pages: 675 words: 141,667

Open Standards and the Digital Age: History, Ideology, and Networks (Cambridge Studies in the Emergence of Global Enterprise) by Andrew L. Russell

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barriers to entry, borderless world, Chelsea Manning, computer age, creative destruction, Donald Davies, Edward Snowden, Frederick Winslow Taylor, Hacker Ethic, Howard Rheingold, Hush-A-Phone, interchangeable parts, invisible hand, John Markoff, Joseph Schumpeter, Leonard Kleinrock, means of production, Menlo Park, Network effects, new economy, Norbert Wiener, open economy, packet switching, pre–internet, RAND corporation, RFC: Request For Comment, Richard Stallman, Ronald Coase, Ronald Reagan, Silicon Valley, Steve Crocker, Steven Levy, Stewart Brand, technoutopianism, Ted Nelson, The Nature of the Firm, Thomas L Friedman, Thorstein Veblen, transaction costs, web of trust

For example, it would be especially unwise for engineers in other industries (such as those who build bridges and airplanes) to bring the “procrastination principle” into their own design philosophies. The history of networking provides no reason to ignore the IBM software engineer Fred Brooks’s insistence that “conceptual integrity is the most important consideration in system design.”6 Rather than add to the chorus of observers who see the Internet as the harbinger and enabler of a techno-utopian “open world,” I have chosen to situate the Internet within a deeper and more complex set of technical, political, and organizational contexts. Rather than focus on the lessons that past information networks can teach us in the present, I have chosen to study how the designers of networks responded to their own circumstances and how they have seen these through their own eyes. Inspired by Henry Demarest Lloyd’s observation that “history is condensed in the catchwords of the people,” I have been especially attentive to the discourses and practices of standardization through which network architects, engineers, and users sought to exercise power, impose order, create stability, and pursue openness.7 By focusing on ideas as well as their social and material manifestations, I have argued that the lens of standardization allows us to see the history of information networks as ongoing acts of critique.


pages: 410 words: 119,823

Radical Technologies: The Design of Everyday Life by Adam Greenfield

3D printing, Airbnb, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, bank run, barriers to entry, basic income, bitcoin, blockchain, business intelligence, business process, call centre, cellular automata, centralized clearinghouse, centre right, Chuck Templeton: OpenTable, cloud computing, collective bargaining, combinatorial explosion, Computer Numeric Control, computer vision, Conway's Game of Life, cryptocurrency, David Graeber, dematerialisation, digital map, distributed ledger, drone strike, Elon Musk, ethereum blockchain, facts on the ground, fiat currency, global supply chain, global village, Google Glasses, IBM and the Holocaust, industrial robot, informal economy, information retrieval, Internet of things, James Watt: steam engine, Jane Jacobs, Jeff Bezos, job automation, John Conway, John Markoff, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, John von Neumann, joint-stock company, Kevin Kelly, Kickstarter, late capitalism, license plate recognition, lifelogging, M-Pesa, Mark Zuckerberg, means of production, megacity, megastructure, minimum viable product, money: store of value / unit of account / medium of exchange, natural language processing, Network effects, New Urbanism, Occupy movement, Oculus Rift, Pareto efficiency, pattern recognition, Pearl River Delta, performance metric, Peter Eisenman, Peter Thiel, planetary scale, Ponzi scheme, post scarcity, RAND corporation, recommendation engine, RFID, rolodex, Satoshi Nakamoto, self-driving car, sentiment analysis, shareholder value, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, smart cities, smart contracts, sorting algorithm, special economic zone, speech recognition, stakhanovite, statistical model, stem cell, technoutopianism, Tesla Model S, the built environment, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, The Future of Employment, transaction costs, Uber for X, universal basic income, urban planning, urban sprawl, Whole Earth Review, WikiLeaks, women in the workforce

This is the razor we need to apply to augmented reality, or 3D printing, or distributed autonomous organizations: what is salient is not anything their visionary designers may have had in mind when imagining them, but what states of being they are actually seen to enact. And if given technologies cannot be evaluated at the level of their designers’ intention, we need to be still more wary of the promises made to us by developers, promoters and others with a material interest in seeing them spread. The most misleading aspect of this body of rhetoric perennially resides in the gulf between technoutopian claims about what some emergent innovation “might” or “could” give rise to, on the one hand, and anything it has actually been seen to do on the other.3 Very often the claimed benefits never do come to pass, while the easily foreseeable (and, in fact, explicitly foreseen) negative consequences invariably do crop up, and are left for others to deal with. This is why I repress a shudder whenever someone speaks of the emancipatory or liberatory “potential” of some technology under discussion.


On the Move: Mobility in the Modern Western World by Timothy Cresswell

British Empire, desegregation, deskilling, Frederick Winslow Taylor, global village, illegal immigration, mass immigration, moral panic, Rosa Parks, technoutopianism, The Chicago School, transcontinental railway, traveling salesman, urban planning

Clearly then, the airport as a symbol of global, postmodern nomadism needs to be unpacked. Seeing it as a space where motion, meaning, and power come together enacts such an unpacking. A politics of mobility directs our attention to the relations among different experiences of mobility and the relations between mobility and obduracy. It recognizes the importance of mobility in the modern world, but does not mistake it for a technoutopian general condition. It insists on the importance of particular contexts for the production and consumption of mobility. It All Comes Together in Schiphol—From Roots to Routes Writing about the airport runs the risk of generalizing the airport experience in a way I would not want to repeat. Clearly, the experience of Singapore’s Changhi or London’s Heathrow is vastly different from that of Salisbury, Maryland, or Liverpool’s John Lennon.


pages: 299 words: 19,560

Utopias: A Brief History From Ancient Writings to Virtual Communities by Howard P. Segal

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1960s counterculture, British Empire, Buckminster Fuller, complexity theory, David Brooks, death of newspapers, dematerialisation, deskilling, energy security, European colonialism, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, full employment, future of journalism, garden city movement, germ theory of disease, Golden Gate Park, invention of the printing press, Isaac Newton, Jeff Bezos, John Markoff, John von Neumann, knowledge economy, liberation theology, Louis Pasteur, Mark Zuckerberg, mass immigration, means of production, Nicholas Carr, Nikolai Kondratiev, out of africa, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Ray Kurzweil, Ronald Reagan, Silicon Valley, Skype, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Stewart Brand, technoutopianism, Thomas Malthus, Thorstein Veblen, transcontinental railway, traveling salesman, union organizing, urban planning, War on Poverty, Whole Earth Catalog

The aim was to achieve progress in non-scientific and non-technological areas at roughly the same rate as in science and technology. Until social, political, economic, and cultural progress caught up with scientific and technological progress, scientific and technological progress would have to level off in selected areas. The Pansophists In their greater optimism, the Pansophists stood closer than does More to scientific and technological utopianism. Their religious orientation, however, sharply differentiated them from secularminded scientific and technological utopianism, for they sought a civilization, called Pansophia, that would harmoniously join Christianity, science, and technology. Their ideas were articulated in three works that appeared over a period of eight years: Andreae’s Christianopolis (1619),12 Campanella’s The City of the Sun (1623),13 and Bacon’s The New Atlantis (1627).14 Like More’s Utopia, these works recount the adventures of travelers who have discovered societies unknown to Europeans and have returned home to announce their findings.

He evinces an unprecedented optimism about the prospects for realizing utopia, and he grants science and technology unprecedented roles in establishing it. Yet he is no scientific or technological utopian himself, for he credits mankind’s advances not to science and technology but rather to the increase of secularization (the view that public policy should be conducted without reference to religion), the spread of education, and the growth of the ideal of equality. Further, he envisions ongoing eternal progress rather than the eventual culmination of all past progress in a specific kind of society. Thus, the scientific and technological advances he so carefully and lovingly delineates are only indications of the way society is moving generally, not blueprints for the future. Of all the European visionaries, Saint-Simon and Comte (the former’s one-time prot eg e) most nearly approximate outright technological utopianism. Interestingly, at age nineteen SaintSimon volunteered for the rebellious colonists during the American Revolution and fought at the Battle of Yorktown.

Its principal expressions were Comte’s multi-volume Cours de philosophie positive (1830–1842) and his Systeme de politique positive (1851–1854). Yet Comte eventually followed Saint-Simon in expanding his vision to accommodate spirituality. Both men were reluctant to embrace a purely scientific and technological utopian vision.19 In short, all of the European prophets of scientific and technological progress—from More to the Pansophists to Condorcet to Saint-Simon and Comte—either refrained or retreated from endorsing unadulterated scientific and technological advance. Their reasons differed, but none was a scientific and technological utopian in the final analysis. To each, other aspects of life were (or became) no less important than scientific and technological advancement. Dissenters from the Ideology of Unadulterated Scientific and Technological Progress: Thomas Carlyle, John Ruskin, and William Morris Reservations about scientific and technological advance, articulated especially by Saint-Simon and Comte, were echoed in very different quarters in late-eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Western Europe, in conservative and socialist circles alike, particularly in England and France.


pages: 624 words: 180,416

For the Win by Cory Doctorow

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barriers to entry, Burning Man, creative destruction, double helix, Internet Archive, inventory management, loose coupling, Maui Hawaii, microcredit, New Journalism, Ponzi scheme, Post-materialism, post-materialism, random walk, RFID, Silicon Valley, skunkworks, slashdot, speech recognition, stem cell, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, supply-chain management, technoutopianism, union organizing, urban renewal, wage slave

Fred gave Perry a warm handshake and treated Hilda to a lingering, sloppy hug until she pushed him off, laughing even harder. “All right then,” Perry said, “home again home again.” Hilda gave his groin a friendly honk and then made a dash for it, and he gave chase. PHOTO: A Drunken Perry Gibbons Gets a How’s Your Father From Ride-Bride Hilda Hammersen MADISON, WI: Say you managed to inspire some kind of “movement” of techno-utopians who built a network of amusement park rides that guide their visitors through an illustrated history of the last dotcom bubble. Say that your merry band of unwashed polyamorous info-hippies was overtaken by jackbooted thugs from one of the dinosauric media empires of yesteryear, whose legal machinations resulted in nationwide raids, beatings, gassings, and the total shutdown of your “movement.”


pages: 662 words: 180,546

Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste: How Neoliberalism Survived the Financial Meltdown by Philip Mirowski

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Alvin Roth, Andrei Shleifer, asset-backed security, bank run, barriers to entry, Basel III, Berlin Wall, Bernie Madoff, Bernie Sanders, Black Swan, blue-collar work, Bretton Woods, Brownian motion, capital controls, Carmen Reinhart, Cass Sunstein, central bank independence, cognitive dissonance, collapse of Lehman Brothers, collateralized debt obligation, complexity theory, constrained optimization, creative destruction, credit crunch, Credit Default Swap, credit default swaps / collateralized debt obligations, crony capitalism, dark matter, David Brooks, David Graeber, debt deflation, deindustrialization, Edward Glaeser, Eugene Fama: efficient market hypothesis, experimental economics, facts on the ground, Fall of the Berlin Wall, financial deregulation, financial innovation, Flash crash, full employment, George Akerlof, Goldman Sachs: Vampire Squid, Hernando de Soto, housing crisis, Hyman Minsky, illegal immigration, income inequality, incomplete markets, information asymmetry, invisible hand, Jean Tirole, joint-stock company, Kenneth Arrow, Kenneth Rogoff, knowledge economy, l'esprit de l'escalier, labor-force participation, liberal capitalism, liquidity trap, loose coupling, manufacturing employment, market clearing, market design, market fundamentalism, Martin Wolf, money market fund, Mont Pelerin Society, moral hazard, mortgage debt, Naomi Klein, Nash equilibrium, night-watchman state, Northern Rock, Occupy movement, offshore financial centre, oil shock, Pareto efficiency, Paul Samuelson, payday loans, Philip Mirowski, Ponzi scheme, precariat, prediction markets, price mechanism, profit motive, quantitative easing, race to the bottom, random walk, rent-seeking, Richard Thaler, road to serfdom, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Ronald Coase, Ronald Reagan, savings glut, school choice, sealed-bid auction, Silicon Valley, South Sea Bubble, Steven Levy, technoutopianism, The Chicago School, The Great Moderation, the map is not the territory, The Myth of the Rational Market, the scientific method, The Wisdom of Crowds, theory of mind, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, Thorstein Veblen, Tobin tax, too big to fail, transaction costs, Vilfredo Pareto, War on Poverty, Washington Consensus, We are the 99%, working poor

The reason this array qualifies as neoliberal is twofold: initially, they were all proposals originating from within the array of think tanks and academic units affiliated with the Neoliberal Thought Collective; and then, if and when they come to be deployed in tandem, the net consequence is to leave the entire problem to be solved, ultimately not by the state, but rather by the market. The promotion of denialism buys time for the other two options; the financialization of carbon credits gets all the attention in the medium term, while appeals to geoengineering incubate in the wings as a techno-utopian deus ex machina to swoop down when the other options fail. At each step along the way, the neoliberals guarantee their core tenet remains in force: the market will arbitrate any and all responses to biosphere degradation, because it knows more than any of us about nature and society. As a bonus from the neoliberal vantage point, perhaps some segments of the left, operating under the quaint impression they can effectively oppose one or more of these options they find anathema by advocating another—say, aiming to defeat science denialism or geoengineering by taking up advocacy of carbon trading—end up being recruited as unwitting foot soldiers for the neoliberal long march.


pages: 684 words: 188,584

The Age of Radiance: The Epic Rise and Dramatic Fall of the Atomic Era by Craig Nelson

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Albert Einstein, Brownian motion, cognitive dissonance, Columbine, continuation of politics by other means, corporate governance, cuban missile crisis, dark matter, Doomsday Clock, El Camino Real, Ernest Rutherford, failed state, Henri Poincaré, hive mind, Isaac Newton, John von Neumann, Louis Pasteur, Menlo Park, Mikhail Gorbachev, music of the spheres, mutually assured destruction, nuclear winter, oil shale / tar sands, Project Plowshare, Ralph Nader, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, Skype, Stuxnet, technoutopianism, too big to fail, uranium enrichment, V2 rocket, William Langewiesche, éminence grise

Following the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the great pacifist Albert Einstein, who had nothing to do with fission beyond his letters to Roosevelt, was depicted on the cover of Time magazine against a mushroom cloud and his most beloved equation, E = mc2, while Mme. Curie is today known for her breakthroughs as a woman, not as a scientist. The public’s distaste has grown so pronounced that European physicists created a PR organization, Public Awareness of Nuclear Science, to fix their image problem. Today’s prejudice against all things atomic is as naive as was the 1920s radium euphoria and the 1950s techno-utopians predicting nuclear-derived electricity as “too cheap to meter.” In the case of nuclear power, most of the world has come to a decision. What Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima all have in common is that the public relations disaster was far worse than the pollution’s health effects. In each incident and each nation postdisaster, one common casualty was the truth, at the hands of the nuclear industry; the local and national governments; and even the antinuclear activists.


pages: 518 words: 107,836

How Not to Network a Nation: The Uneasy History of the Soviet Internet (Information Policy) by Benjamin Peters

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Albert Einstein, Andrei Shleifer, Benoit Mandelbrot, bitcoin, Brownian motion, Claude Shannon: information theory, cloud computing, cognitive dissonance, computer age, conceptual framework, continuation of politics by other means, crony capitalism, crowdsourcing, cuban missile crisis, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, David Graeber, Dissolution of the Soviet Union, Donald Davies, double helix, Drosophila, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, From Mathematics to the Technologies of Life and Death, hive mind, index card, informal economy, information asymmetry, invisible hand, Jacquard loom, Jacquard loom, John von Neumann, Kevin Kelly, knowledge economy, knowledge worker, linear programming, mandelbrot fractal, Marshall McLuhan, means of production, Menlo Park, Mikhail Gorbachev, mutually assured destruction, Network effects, Norbert Wiener, packet switching, Pareto efficiency, pattern recognition, Paul Erdős, Peter Thiel, Philip Mirowski, RAND corporation, rent-seeking, road to serfdom, Ronald Coase, scientific mainstream, Steve Jobs, Stewart Brand, stochastic process, technoutopianism, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, transaction costs, Turing machine

Making Modern Network Culture Strange The story of the OGAS Project reveals a network culture whose design values—the cybernetic nervous system of the nation, socialist technological utopianism, and decentralized computer networks—now appear to be peculiar to its own time and place. This sustained glance at the strangeness of socialist network projects helps make familiar the foreignness of the modern network culture in historical relief. Consider a hardy perennial of new media thought, the politics of technological utopia, for the OGAS Project was nothing if not a projection of an intrepid socialist future. Socialist politics are no strangers to expansive, sometimes wild flights of imagination about the bounteous blessings of technology. Although technological utopianism belongs to social projects of all types, the socialist tradition boasts a special breed of thinking, including the French socialist utopian thinker Charles Fourier (whose early interests in architecture and engineering were thwarted and who later worked briefly in Paris as head of the Office of Statistics), Karl Marx (who theorized about a socialist revolution near the end of the Industrial Revolution in London), Nasser in Egypt, Tito in Yugoslavia, Nehru in India, the Fabian Society and Labor Party in the United Kingdom, Allende’s Cybersyn Project in Chile, and most recently the (independent) Pirate Party of Sweden.11 In each of these cases, the socialist impulse seeks to flatten out social relations, structurally reorganize society, automate and ease labor, roll out statistical (state) accountability, and gather knowledge that lightens, lifts, and liberates people (even though the effects of such technological utopianism often leans toward shades of dystopia).12 By imagining the OGAS as a means to a brighter networked Communist future, its architects brought upon the project the full brunt of the oikos-led inequalities that drove the administration of Soviet socialism.

Although technological utopianism belongs to social projects of all types, the socialist tradition boasts a special breed of thinking, including the French socialist utopian thinker Charles Fourier (whose early interests in architecture and engineering were thwarted and who later worked briefly in Paris as head of the Office of Statistics), Karl Marx (who theorized about a socialist revolution near the end of the Industrial Revolution in London), Nasser in Egypt, Tito in Yugoslavia, Nehru in India, the Fabian Society and Labor Party in the United Kingdom, Allende’s Cybersyn Project in Chile, and most recently the (independent) Pirate Party of Sweden.11 In each of these cases, the socialist impulse seeks to flatten out social relations, structurally reorganize society, automate and ease labor, roll out statistical (state) accountability, and gather knowledge that lightens, lifts, and liberates people (even though the effects of such technological utopianism often leans toward shades of dystopia).12 By imagining the OGAS as a means to a brighter networked Communist future, its architects brought upon the project the full brunt of the oikos-led inequalities that drove the administration of Soviet socialism. Perhaps the cardinal mistake of the socialist imagination of technology is not to dream the celebrated dream of social justice but to bulldoze the rutted world of human relations with the private interest logics of the oikos (military, corporations, states, and individuals that seek only their own survival).

Merton (Chicago: Chicago University Press, [1935] 1979). 10. Two researchers have characterized the stereotypical difference between Russian and Chinese informal influence as trending toward a logical-analytic mindset and a holistic-dialectical one. Snejina Michailova and Verner Worm, “Personal Networking in Russia and China: Blat and Guanxi,” European Management Journal 21 (4) (2003): 509–519. 11. For more on technological utopianism in global contexts, see Howard P. Segal Technology and Utopia (Washington, DC: American Historical Association, 2006); for more on the Swedish Pirate Party, see Patrick Burkart, Pirate Politics: The New Information Policy Contests (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2014). 12. Michael Gordin, Hellen Tilley, and Gyan Prakash, “Introduction,” in Utopia/Dystopia: Conditions of Historical Possibility, ed.


The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations by Christopher Lasch

cuban missile crisis, delayed gratification, desegregation, feminist movement, full employment, George Santayana, impulse control, Induced demand, invisible hand, Kitchen Debate, Marshall McLuhan, mass immigration, means of production, Norman Mailer, road to serfdom, Scientific racism, Stewart Brand, technoutopianism, theory of mind, Thorstein Veblen, union organizing, upwardly mobile, urban renewal, yellow journalism

More recently Tom Wolfe has interpreted the new narcissism as a "third great awakening an outbreak of orgiastic, ecstatic religiosity Jim Hougan, in a book that seems to present itself simultaneously as a critique and a celebration of - , , " , " The sense of an ending . . . is . . . endemic to what we call modernism, In general, we seem to combine a sense of decadence in society-as evidenced by the concept of alienation, which, supported by a new *" writes Frank Kermode. " . . . interest in the early Marx, has never enjoyed more esteem-with a technological utopianism. In our ways of thinking about the future there are contradictions which, if we were willing to consider them openly, might call for some effort " toward complementarity. But they lie, as a rule, too deep. Susan Sontag, noting that "people take the news of their doom in diverse ways, contrasts the apocalyp" tic imagination of earlier ages with that of today. In the past, expectations of the " apocalypse often furnished the occasion for a radical disaffiliation from society, whereas in our time they provoke an inadequate response, being received "without great agitation. " " " " .

A widespread revolt against reason is as much a feature of our world as our faith in science and technology Archaic myths and superstitions have reappeared in the very heart of the most modern, scientifically enlightened and progressive nations in the world The coexistence of advanced technology and primitive spirituality suggests that both are rooted in social conditions that make it increasingly difficult for people to accept the reality of sorrow loss, aging, and death-to . , . , live with limits , in short. The anxieties peculiar to the modem world seem to have intensified old mechanisms of denial. New Age spirituality no less than technological utopianism , , is rooted in primary narcissism If the technological fantasy seeks to restore the infantile illusion of self sufficiency the New Age movement seeks to restore the illusion of symbiosis, a feeling of absolute . - , oneness with the world . Instead of dreaming of the imposition of human will on the intractable world of matter, the New Age movement, which revives themes found in ancient Gnosticism simply denies the reality of the material world By treating matter essen, . 246 : Afterword: The Culture of Narcissism Revisited tially as an illusion, it removes every obstacle to the re-creation of a primary sense of wholeness and equilibrium-the return to Nirvana.


pages: 538 words: 141,822

The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom by Evgeny Morozov

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A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, Ayatollah Khomeini, Berlin Wall, borderless world, Buckminster Fuller, Cass Sunstein, citizen journalism, cloud computing, cognitive dissonance, Columbine, computer age, conceptual framework, crowdsourcing, Dissolution of the Soviet Union, don't be evil, failed state, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, global village, Google Earth, illegal immigration, invention of radio, invention of the printing press, invisible hand, John Markoff, John von Neumann, Marshall McLuhan, Naomi Klein, Network effects, new economy, New Urbanism, peer-to-peer, pirate software, pre–internet, Productivity paradox, RAND corporation, Ronald Reagan, Ronald Reagan: Tear down this wall, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Sinatra Doctrine, Skype, Slavoj Žižek, social graph, Steve Jobs, technoutopianism, The Wisdom of Crowds, urban planning, Washington Consensus, WikiLeaks, women in the workforce

“The authoritarian state is inherently fragile and will quickly collapse if information flows freely,” wrote Pool, giving rise to a view that has become widely shared—and, undoubtedly, made Pool and his numerous followers overestimate the liberating power of information. (Pool, a disillusioned ex-Trotskyite, also famously overestimated the power of Western broadcasting, using letters that Eastern Europeans sent to Radio Free Europe as one of his main sources.) Such technological utopianism stems from a rather shallow reading of the politics and regime dynamics of authoritarian states. For if one presumes, like Pool, that authoritarian structures rest on little else than the suppression of information, as soon as the West finds a way to poke holes in those structures, it follows that democracy promotion boils down to finding ways to unleash the information flood on the oppressed.

“Historians and Modern Technology: Reflections on the Development and Current Problems of the History of Technology.” Technology and Culture (1974): 161-193. Scannell, P. “The Dialectic of Time and Television.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 625, no. 1 (2009): 219. Schaniel, W. C. “New Technology and Culture Change in Traditional Societies.” Journal of Economic Issues 22, no. 2 (1988): 493-498. Segal, Howard P. Technological Utopianism in American Culture. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2005. Shen, X. The Chinese Road to High Technology: A Study of Telecommunications Switching Technology in the Economic Transition. New York: St. Martin’s, 1999. Sibley, M. Q. “Utopian Thought and Technology.” American Journal of Political Science (1973): 255-281. Smith, Merritt Roe, and Leo Marx, eds. Does Technology Drive History?

Victorian Internet by Tom Standage

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British Empire, financial independence, global village, invention of the telegraph, invention of the telephone, Jacquard loom, Jacquard loom, paper trading, QWERTY keyboard, technoutopianism

(One commentator suggested that the age of aviation would be an "age of peace" because aircraft would make armies obsolete, since they would be vulnerable to attack from the air.) Similarly, television was expected to improve education, reduce social isolation, and enhance democracy. Nuclear power was supposed to usher in an age of plenty where electricity would be "too cheap to meter." The optimistic claims now being made about the Internet are merely the most recent examples in a tradition of technological utopianism that goes back to the first transatlantic telegraph cables, 150 years ago. That the telegraph was so widely seen as a panacea is perhaps understandable. The fact that we are still making the same mistake today is less so. The irony is that even though it failed to live up to the Utopian claims made about it, the telegraph really did transform the world. It also redefined forever our attitudes toward new technologies.


pages: 274 words: 75,846

The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding From You by Eli Pariser

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A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, A Pattern Language, Amazon Web Services, augmented reality, back-to-the-land, Black Swan, borderless world, Build a better mousetrap, Cass Sunstein, citizen journalism, cloud computing, cognitive dissonance, crowdsourcing, Danny Hillis, data acquisition, disintermediation, don't be evil, Filter Bubble, Flash crash, fundamental attribution error, global village, Haight Ashbury, Internet of things, Isaac Newton, Jaron Lanier, Jeff Bezos, jimmy wales, Kevin Kelly, knowledge worker, Mark Zuckerberg, Marshall McLuhan, megacity, Metcalfe’s law, Netflix Prize, new economy, PageRank, paypal mafia, Peter Thiel, recommendation engine, RFID, Robert Metcalfe, sentiment analysis, shareholder value, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, social graph, social software, social web, speech recognition, Startup school, statistical model, stem cell, Steve Jobs, Steven Levy, Stewart Brand, technoutopianism, the scientific method, urban planning, Whole Earth Catalog, WikiLeaks, Y Combinator

And as a master of a self-created universe, it’s easy to start to view people as a means to an end, as variables to be manipulated on a mental spreadsheet, rather than as breathing, thinking beings. It’s difficult both to systematize and to appeal to the fullness of human life—its unpredictability, emotionality, and surprising quirks—at the same time. David Gelernter, a Yale computer scientist, barely survived an encounter with an explosive package sent by the Unabomber; his eyesight and right hand are permanently damaged as a result. But Gelernter is hardly the technological utopian Ted Kaczinski believed him to be. “When you do something in the public sphere,” Gelernter told a reporter, “it behooves you to know something about what the public sphere is like. How did this country get this way? What was the history of the relationship between technology and the public? What’s the history of political exchange? The problem is, hackers don’t tend to know any of that. And that’s why it worries me to have these people in charge of public policy.


pages: 267 words: 82,580

The Dark Net by Jamie Bartlett

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3D printing, 4chan, bitcoin, blockchain, brain emulation, carbon footprint, creative destruction, crowdsourcing, cryptocurrency, deindustrialization, Edward Snowden, Filter Bubble, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, global village, Google Chrome, Howard Rheingold, Internet of things, invention of writing, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Julian Assange, Kuwabatake Sanjuro: assassination market, life extension, litecoin, Mark Zuckerberg, Marshall McLuhan, moral hazard, moral panic, Occupy movement, pre–internet, Ray Kurzweil, Satoshi Nakamoto, Skype, slashdot, technological singularity, technoutopianism, Ted Kaczynski, The Coming Technological Singularity, Turing test, Vernor Vinge, WikiLeaks, Zimmermann PGP

Zoltan’s loosely autobiographical work, which sets out a picture of a fairly bleak near future in which transhumanists go to war with the rest of the world. More, M. and Vita-More, N. (eds), Transhumanist Reader An excellent overview of some of the more technical and philosophical aspects of the transhumanist movement, edited by two leading exponents. It includes a chapter by Anders Sandberg on mind uploading. Naughton, J., From Gutenberg to Zuckerberg: What you Really Need to Know About the Internet. Segal, H., Technological Utopianism in American Culture. Zerzan, J., Future Primitive and Future Primitive Revisited. A handy introduction into the anarcho-primitivist philosophy, and Zerzan’s most well-known written work. Acknowledgements First and foremost, I’d like to thank all those people who have let me into their world: Paul the extreme but affable nationalist, Zack, ‘Old Holborn’, Michael, Vex, Blath and Auryn, Amir, Pablo, Timothy May, Smári, Zoltan and Zerzan, Charlie Flowers, Tommy Robinson, Hel Gower, the anonymous EDL social media admins, @Norsefired, Jimmy Swales, Alexander Jones, Queen Lareefer, Jessica and Elle St Claire, the strange dancer in the Utherverse brothel, Jessi, the owners of the Pink Pussy Gentleman’s Club, Al the forum admin, the individuals who comprised the composite character Amelia in ‘The Werther Effect’, Gerard and Dr Anders Sandberg.


pages: 193 words: 19,478

Memory Machines: The Evolution of Hypertext by Belinda Barnet

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augmented reality, Benoit Mandelbrot, Bill Duvall, British Empire, Buckminster Fuller, Claude Shannon: information theory, collateralized debt obligation, computer age, conceptual framework, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Engelbart, game design, hiring and firing, Howard Rheingold, HyperCard, hypertext link, information retrieval, Internet Archive, John Markoff, linked data, mandelbrot fractal, Marshall McLuhan, Menlo Park, nonsequential writing, Norbert Wiener, publish or perish, Robert Metcalfe, semantic web, Steve Jobs, Stewart Brand, technoutopianism, Ted Nelson, the scientific method, Vannevar Bush, wikimedia commons

Hypertext furnishes the individual with choices: ‘YOU GET THE PART YOU WANT WHEN YOU ASK FOR IT’ (Nelson 1993, 2/16). This aspect of Nelson’s vision cannot be ignored. Xanadu was (and still is) personal in the most libertarian, 1960s Californian sense. Links, Nelson maintains, furnish the individual with choices, with the right to choose. Nelson engaged in a rhetoric of liberation about hypertext well before George Landow discovered digital media; Nelson pioneered technological utopianism in the digital era. Unfortunately, these inspired presentations, filled with individualistic, egalitarian rhetoric didn’t help the engineering world take his design seriously. 80 Memory Machines This writing system, like the computer itself, is ‘FOR PERSONAL FREEDOM, AND AGAINST RESTRICTION AND COERCION’ (Nelson 1987, 2). As Nelson sees it, everybody should be able to create what they want and put it on the system, from bad ’zines and pamphlets to great novels, and everybody should be able to quote or cite another document.


pages: 376 words: 110,796

Realizing Tomorrow: The Path to Private Spaceflight by Chris Dubbs, Emeline Paat-dahlstrom, Charles D. Walker

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Berlin Wall, call centre, desegregation, Donald Trump, Doomsday Book, Elon Musk, high net worth, Iridium satellite, iterative process, Jeff Bezos, Mark Shuttleworth, Mikhail Gorbachev, multiplanetary species, Norman Mailer, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Silicon Valley, Skype, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, technoutopianism, V2 rocket, X Prize, young professional

That first issue also included a letter of support for space colonies from Arizona congressman and contender for the presidency Morris Udall. Udall was a liberal Democrat, but the standard line about L5 members was that they were 5 percent Democrats, 5 percent Republicans, and 9o percent anarchists. Early L5 members skewed toward the idealistic, but the group would eventually attract such divergent members as arch-conservative Senator Barry Goldwater and psychedelic drug advocate Timothy Leary. Whether they were technological utopians looking to build a commune in the sky or pragmatic engineers, they all found a banner in L5. However, because L5 early on attracted such rabid let's-go-to-space-now members who carried something of a science fiction air, O'Neill kept a careful distance between himself and the group. Operated largely by the Hensons and an odd assortment of volunteers, or "groupies," as Keith Henson termed them, L5 quickly achieved its goal of being a clearinghouse for space settlement issues and activities.


pages: 294 words: 87,986

4th Rock From the Sun: The Story of Mars by Nicky Jenner

3D printing, Alfred Russel Wallace, Astronomia nova, cuban missile crisis, Elon Musk, game design, hive mind, invention of the telescope, Kickstarter, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, placebo effect, Pluto: dwarf planet, retrograde motion, selection bias, silicon-based life, Skype, Stephen Hawking, technoutopianism

One of the first modern societies to become preoccupied with Mars was the Soviet Union. At the start of the twentieth century, the USSR was beginning to develop a near-obsession with spaceflight. Some members of society began weaving together a few threads of thought into one overarching philosophy – namely that of ‘cosmism’ (the idea that humans should travel to and colonise the cosmos, and that humans had an intrinsic relationship with the Universe) and that of ‘technological utopianism’ (the belief that rapid industri­alisation and scientific advancement would ultimately create a utopian society). This sparked a countrywide lust for interplanetary flight, a drive to visit the stars, a strong public interest in space and manned spaceflight – in a way, a sort of space activism movement. At the time, this was arguably based more on spiritualism and philosophy than it was on actual scientific or technological ability, and faded over the course of a few decades, but it had a few long-lasting and significant conse­quences.


pages: 542 words: 161,731

Alone Together by Sherry Turkle

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Albert Einstein, Columbine, global village, Hacker Ethic, helicopter parent, Howard Rheingold, industrial robot, information retrieval, Jacques de Vaucanson, Jaron Lanier, John Markoff, Kevin Kelly, lifelogging, Loebner Prize, Marshall McLuhan, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Nicholas Carr, Norbert Wiener, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Rodney Brooks, Skype, stem cell, technoutopianism, The Great Good Place, the medium is the message, theory of mind, Turing test, Vannevar Bush, Wall-E, women in the workforce

On this spectrum, as we’ve seen, things are never clear-cut. As Audrey put it, a Facebook profile is “an avatar of me.” And when you play Ringo Starr on a simulation of the Beatles, your avatar may feel like a second self. In simulation culture we become cyborg, and it can be hard to return to anything less. CHAPTER 11 Reduction and betrayal In the mid-1990s, computer scientist and technological utopian Raymond Kurzweil created an avatar, Ramona, which he put into a virtual world. At that time, most players of online role-playing games had text-based avatars, complete with long descriptions of their histories and relationships, as well as the clothes they were wearing. Kurzweil looked forward to a new era. He didn’t want to describe himself as Grace Slick. He wanted to be Grace Slick. Kurzweil created a virtual world and made a beautiful, sexy avatar who sang before the psychedelic backdrops of his choosing.


pages: 448 words: 142,946

Sacred Economics: Money, Gift, and Society in the Age of Transition by Charles Eisenstein

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Albert Einstein, back-to-the-land, bank run, Bernie Madoff, big-box store, Bretton Woods, capital controls, clean water, collateralized debt obligation, commoditize, corporate raider, credit crunch, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, debt deflation, deindustrialization, delayed gratification, disintermediation, diversification, fiat currency, financial independence, financial intermediation, fixed income, floating exchange rates, Fractional reserve banking, full employment, global supply chain, God and Mammon, happiness index / gross national happiness, hydraulic fracturing, informal economy, invisible hand, Jane Jacobs, land tenure, land value tax, Lao Tzu, liquidity trap, lump of labour, McMansion, means of production, money: store of value / unit of account / medium of exchange, moral hazard, mortgage debt, new economy, off grid, oil shale / tar sands, Own Your Own Home, Paul Samuelson, peak oil, phenotype, Ponzi scheme, profit motive, quantitative easing, race to the bottom, Scramble for Africa, special drawing rights, spinning jenny, technoutopianism, the built environment, Thomas Malthus, too big to fail

Can a person hope to corral and own what is fundamentally a free gift of the universe? I do not believe that technology will save humanity. Reading my work, many people have asked me if I know about the Venus Project, a movement that draws from the same basic understanding of the problem with today’s money system. While I resonate with its spirit, I find that the Venus Project indulges in the same technological utopianism that has filled us with starry-eyed hope since the age of coal. But in fact, as I described in Chapter 2, abundance has always been available to us. It is our perceptions, and not our means, that engender scarcity. Let me put it poetically. At the end of Chapter 11 I wrote, A vein runs through spiritual tradition that says that we, too, give back to the sun; indeed that the sun only continues to shine through our gratitude.


pages: 606 words: 157,120

To Save Everything, Click Here: The Folly of Technological Solutionism by Evgeny Morozov

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3D printing, algorithmic trading, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Andrew Keen, augmented reality, Automated Insights, Berlin Wall, big data - Walmart - Pop Tarts, Buckminster Fuller, call centre, carbon footprint, Cass Sunstein, choice architecture, citizen journalism, cloud computing, cognitive bias, creative destruction, crowdsourcing, data acquisition, Dava Sobel, disintermediation, East Village, en.wikipedia.org, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Filter Bubble, Firefox, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, frictionless, future of journalism, game design, Gary Taubes, Google Glasses, illegal immigration, income inequality, invention of the printing press, Jane Jacobs, Jean Tirole, Jeff Bezos, jimmy wales, Julian Assange, Kevin Kelly, Kickstarter, license plate recognition, lifelogging, lone genius, Louis Pasteur, Mark Zuckerberg, market fundamentalism, Marshall McLuhan, moral panic, Narrative Science, Nicholas Carr, packet switching, PageRank, Parag Khanna, Paul Graham, peer-to-peer, Peter Singer: altruism, Peter Thiel, pets.com, placebo effect, pre–internet, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, Richard Thaler, Ronald Coase, Rosa Parks, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley ideology, Silicon Valley startup, Skype, Slavoj Žižek, smart meter, social graph, social web, stakhanovite, Steve Jobs, Steven Levy, Stuxnet, technoutopianism, the built environment, The Chicago School, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, the medium is the message, The Nature of the Firm, the scientific method, The Wisdom of Crowds, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, Thomas L Friedman, transaction costs, urban decay, urban planning, urban sprawl, Vannevar Bush, WikiLeaks

But these highly original thinkers, regardless of political persuasion, have shown that their own least favorite brand of solutionist—be it Jacobs’s urban planners or Illich’s professional educators—have a very poor grasp not just of human nature but also of the complex practices that this nature begets and thrives on. It’s as if the solutionists have never lived a life of their own but learned everything they know from books—and those books weren’t novels but manuals for refrigerators, vacuum cleaners, and washing machines. Thomas Molnar, a conservative philosopher who, for his smart and vehement critique of technological utopianism written in the early 1960s, also deserves a place on the antisolutionist pantheon, put it really well when he complained that “when the utopian writers deal with work, health, leisure, life expectancy, war, crimes, culture, administration, finance, judges and so on, it is as if their words were uttered by an automaton with no conception of real life. The reader has the uncomfortable feeling of walking in a dreamland of abstractions, surrounded by lifeless objects; he manages to identify them in a vague way, but, on closer inspection, he sees that they do not really conform to anything familiar in shape, color, volume, or sound.”


pages: 678 words: 216,204

The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom by Yochai Benkler

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affirmative action, barriers to entry, bioinformatics, Brownian motion, call centre, Cass Sunstein, centre right, clean water, commoditize, dark matter, desegregation, East Village, fear of failure, Firefox, game design, George Gilder, hiring and firing, Howard Rheingold, informal economy, invention of radio, Isaac Newton, iterative process, Jean Tirole, jimmy wales, John Markoff, Kenneth Arrow, market bubble, market clearing, Marshall McLuhan, New Journalism, optical character recognition, pattern recognition, peer-to-peer, pre–internet, price discrimination, profit maximization, profit motive, random walk, recommendation engine, regulatory arbitrage, rent-seeking, RFID, Richard Stallman, Ronald Coase, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, SETI@home, shareholder value, Silicon Valley, Skype, slashdot, social software, software patent, spectrum auction, technoutopianism, The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, The Nature of the Firm, transaction costs, Vilfredo Pareto

The technophilic response is reminiscent of claims made in the past for electricity, for radio, or for telegraph, expressing what James Carey described as "the mythos of the electrical sublime." The question this part of the book explores is whether this claim, given the experience of the past decade, can be sustained on careful analysis, or whether it is yet another instance of a long line of technological utopianism. The fact that earlier utopias were overly optimistic does not mean that these previous technologies did not in fact alter the conditions of life--material, social, and intellectual. They did, but they did so differently in different societies, and in ways that diverged from the social utopias attached to them. Different nations absorbed and used these technologies differently, diverging in social and cultural habits, but also in institutional strategies for adoption--some more state-centric, others more market based; some more controlled, others less so.