A decade of debate?
Is The Economist right to be optimistic about technology?
Every so often, The Economist publishes one of its weighty editorials, designed for maximum influence, and chose the imminent start of the ‘Twenties’ decade to discuss Pessimism v progress. Summarising crudely, its argument goes as follows:-
- There’s a lot of techno-pessimism. “The new technologies that dominated the last decade seem to be making things worse.” This is not new. Back in the 1970s, everyone was gloomy about over-population, environmental damage and nuclear immolation! Even earlier, there had been a backlash against the industrial revolution and all that followed.
- “ …Unrealised hopes and unforeseen consequences!”
- The pessimism is over-done. The solution to technology is often more technology. Re climate change, “…It is hard to imagine any solution that does not depend in part on innovations in clean energy, carbon capture and energy storage…”
- What’s key is how technology is used – the rules/policies that affect it, the required trade-offs and the ways to accommodate behaviour change.
- “Healthy scepticism means that those questions are settled by a broad debate, not by a coterie of technologies.”
And the punchline:
“…the real source of anxiety is not technology itself, but growing doubts about the ability of societies to hold this debate and come up with good answers.”