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Adam Greenfield on America's rejection of the future.

For a long, long time thereafter, I’d sit in idle moments and wonder just when future shock was going to happen. In my childish conception, it was something that would happen all at once, be precipitated by some obvious event - the proverbial straw - and stand out just as vividly and obviously as an outbreak of the flu when it did roll across the land. It took me years to understand the words as pointing toward something more poetic and metaphoric than clinically diagnostic. It’s a thought I’ve had occasion to dig up and reconsider this last week. Because this is what I’ve come to understand: Here we are. This is it.

Must read.


I feel the exact same way, to the T. I am so glad people like Adam and Jamais can articulate that message so well.

For the side that feels that way, freaking Exactly.

Viva la revolution!

We're talking potentials here (an unthinkable outcome shored up by the bounce last week's convention received.)

It's hard to appreciate at the moment, but it will pass.

For the record, a recent poll suggests humanity favours Obama over McCain by 4-1.

Are americans not part of humanity? (or is the pod person initiative more advanced than I thought?)



The Pods

Stefan (pod) Jones...

OK, *now* I'm despairing!

The pod person transformation only hurts a little. Welcome!

"Humanity" doesn't get to vote in US elections, Tony.

We're most vehement when we harbor doubts. No one is loudly proclaiming that the sky is blue or the sun rises in the east - that's not in doubt.

Ever notice that the story of King Canute is about a king? The one at the top of the heap, the one with all the supposed "power"? Ordinary people weren't so dumb as to think they could stop the tide, but hubris blinds.

In November, humanity will see if the 4% most infected by hubris will be corrupted and blinded by it more than 50% by it, or less than 50% by it.

The tide will come in regardless.

This door swings both ways.

Wednesday I was at MIT for an X Prize event with Ray Kurzweil, George Church, and Saul Griffith. They were supposed to talk about what they'd tell the next President about innovation for energy but only Griffith made an attempt at that. In the Q and A I asked them about the fact that we do not use the technology we have as effectively as we can because, in general, of politics. I asked them to address the idea that inadequate technology is not the problem but that social structure is.

Kurzweil and Griffith replied but neither dealt with the question in any way that I heard. They just talked about more technology.

My belief is that the future is going to be more like the past than we know, that the techniques (not necessarily technology) that we need to survive a climate change world are 19th century and 19th century BC, timeless human principles of organization. Kurzweil et alia don't understand that and, to my observation, don't really care about it. To them, it's about technology not about people, culture, society.

I don't believe even Dr Who's sonic screwdriver is able to fix the invincible certitude of the Sarah Palins of this world. That's the problem, not the lack of a magic widget that powers your house cleanly for a penny a year.

As for me, I think I'll go to a solar barnraising on Sunday to build a windowbox solar air heater. That's something I used to do thirty years ago and suddenly it seems to have a future.

Thanks, gmoke, that reply sums up a lot of what I have been trying to express to people for a long time, only better! I've just finished an Ma in Political Theory precisely because I'm exactly convinced by what you say. Technology is important for the shape of the future, but not half as important as the method that social structures employ. How power is instituted and negotiated, how organisation is carried out are the real effects of humanity upon the world we inhabit. Until we find a way of doing that equally, fairly and with an eye on the real world we are in for trouble...

P.S. - it is also up to you to make people realise that the future does not have to be scary...

I disagree with much of this. "Technology" and "society" are too linked up to chunk into different forces. I think a lot of US political problems stem from big techno/economic shifts that have created much more radically globalized organizations and work places. I think there's a reaction against this trend, because many Americans feel that deep down this threatens the US polity. Many Americans, especially urban elites, have many more and stronger ties with people across the globe than they do with other Americans a mere 150 miles away. Thus, I don't think "Americans" has a much meaning as it used to. We're in the process of splitting apart. If this happens formally (in a legal sense), peacefully, or not, I have no idea. At any rate, if US politics won't represent my interests effectively (as they haven't for the past 8 years), I'll continue to look for other political outlets. Increasingly, that's through global NGOs and other networks.

"I disagree with much of this. 'Technology' and 'society' are too linked up to chunk into different forces."

Mebbe so and mebbe not.

Let's put this in another context. If I wave a magic wand and produce a zero pollution vehicle, it will still take between 12 and 15 years before that vehicle will replace those that are already on the road. It takes that long to replace the existing fleet of vehicles currently rolling. The zero pollution vehicle is technology. The time lag is society or culture or the marketplace, depending upon how you want to look at it but it is certainly not technology in the sense of a tool or implement.

Those I call techno-scientific salvationists seem to believe that a new and better widget is going to make all the difference - without anything else. I don't think reality works that way. In fact, I don't believe the best technology always wins out, witness Betamax versus VHS or Windows versus Mac (a whole nother can of worms I know).

A new and better screwdriver won't make much difference it it's a Phillips head when the vast majority of screws in use and perhaps regulated for use are slotted. That's what I mean by society and culture.


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