Numbers do not outperform experience when discerning quality of life
Echoing others - this is just terrific writing (and thinking). Thank you, Brian!
By the way, that photo appears to be AI (and it's not Pinker either) 🤔.
Thanks for a very though provoking article. I wonder if techo-optimists like Andresson (Lex Fridman must be another one) are pushing a kind of religious dogma to try to appease the techo-proles like us. However in doing so they're water carriers for the silicon valley super elites like Zuckerberg, Musk who are more like powerful techno-gnostics.
'We had a problem of pandemics, so we invented vaccines' - it's fairly subtle but powerful narrative re-framing. Inventions are serendipitious discoveries and works of creativity and so on, but these statements obscure the role, of the expertocracy in choosing and applying them to society and judging the result in terms of number worship, as you so rightly point out.
Maybe the reference to “demoralization campaign" was a side wipe at the culture wars, but these have been accelerated by social media which creates social contagion and erodes objective reasoning like nothing ever before, yet strangely social media is never a target of the techo-optimists, while being the source of immense wealth for the super elite techo-gnostics.
'We created the problem of social media, but we profit handsomely from it!'
Maybe time for a freedom manifesto?
Very nice Brian. Perhaps the flaws of techno-optimism can best be summed up by saying that it simply begs all of the questions of humanity.
I have been reading Chesterton on Distributism lately, but really anything from more than 100 years ago will do, and it is just startling how much our range, our options have decreased. We are not simply able to do fewer things but we are able to think fewer thoughts, although we can perhaps go deeper down into the hole that we have dug ourselves than our ancestors could the breadth and range that are available to us are so far contracted. And these jackasses don't even realise it.
Excellent critique, Brian!
"If technology can axiomatically solve any problem created by technology, . . . ".
In the real world, that is no axiom at all! Quite the opposite, actually.
Virtually everything in Nature is recycled: bodies of plants and animals and excrement. Humans, on the other hand, by the use of technology have created hundreds of thousands of unnatural compounds that cannot be naturally recycled and therefore just accumulate. There is a physical limit to how much unrecyclable stuff we can continue to make. At our present rate, how much of the Earth will be loaded down with entombed piles of unusable and unrecyclable trash in landfills? Plastics, electronics, chemicals, junk? And it is all because of technology!
Add to this all the microplastics polluting the oceans and harming marine life, including the base of the food chain— the plankton!
What we are doing is many orders of magnitude worse than any previous civilizations with their trash dumps of bones and pottery shards!
I was reading the manifesto you linked to and it all sounded so good. I returned to your article and see now where it might go wrong. Thanks for the lesson on critical thinking.
This is incredible. Amazing writing
I think the problem lies in our definition of progress.
We visualize progress as constantly changing from one form to another, the new form is different from anything else that came before it, and that change is necessarily good.
That definition ultimately leads to solving problems created by technology with more technology.
However, if we redefine progress as the creation and destruction of some technological entity based on objective and collective subjective measures between pre and post states, then undoing a technological creation becomes valid progress.
Then we’re free to undo technological solutions if they prove less beneficial than the status quo ante.
One caveat, undoing a technological solution might present its own challenges and it might not be possible anyways. Also, that shouldn’t in my opinion, be the default option. That said, it should be one of the options, and the techno-optimists remove it entirely from their solution space, which is unnecessarily limiting and counterproductive.