Technotopian Visions Dancing in our Heads

Here’s an article (“Has All the Important Stuff Been Invented?”) that my friend sent to me this week. It’s about economists dueling over the future: one a realist, described as “curmudgeonly,” of course, and one a technotopian, described as “cheerful.” You can see where this is going.

I think the future holds much more technological innovation as long as resources allow, but I agree with the curmudgeon that it will mostly be attempts at corrections of problems created by previous technological innovation, like trying to clean air and water, reduce carbon emissions, and pack more and more people into city centers. Further tinkering will create further problems, rinse and repeat (pun intended).

Other than that, technological innovation will be purely about distraction (will the iphone 12 and iphone 13 really be that different?) for the purposes of helping the corporate-military elite consolidate their control. Such innovations may increase life expectancy, but they won’t necessarily improve life quality. In the future, people not in the elite will be more depressed and alienated—if, that is, they believe in the redemptive power of new gadgets.

Notice how people already worship Apple, and their main innovation was modifying an existing invention. It’s not like their “genius” innovation cured a disease (in fact, their phones may cause some) or stopped the accelerating death of migratory birds (in fact, their towers kill birds—seven million birds a year by one estimate) or helped clean contaminated ground water (in fact, Americans use phones on average for about 18 months before junking them in landfill, where the old phones leach lead, cadmium, lithium, and other chemicals into watersheds).

And Apple is extolled as an exemplar of the new era of innovation. Sounds like the same old shit to me.

 

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