Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Larry Page Endorses Clap Louder Theory of Progress

Here's Larry Page:
"I think we’re all here because we share a deep sense of optimism about the potential of technology to improve people’s lives and the world... Despite the faster change we have in the industry, we’re still moving slow relative to the opportunities that we have... We should be building great things that don’t exist. Being negative is not how we make progress."
Indulging in denialism about the catastrophic unsustainability, abiding inequity, and amplifying precarity of extractive-industrial-consumer corporate-militarist societies is not "optimistic." Hyping stasis as accelerating change is not "building great things." Being positive about what isn't positive is more negative than being negative. Crass opportunism and self-congratulation isn't particularly positive, actually. Externalizing costs and risks and looting common goods isn't how "we make progress." Things that don't exist (like immortal cyber-angel avatars of your info-self, like profitable megascale geo-engineering technofixes for climate change, like desktop nano-cornucopias and 3D-everything-printers, like perfectly efficacious robot armies or sooperhuman clone armies of liberty, and so on) still don't exist even if you make a cartoon of them for your TED talk or for the suits in your boardroom PowerPoint presentation. Things that do exist like the coal smoke that runs digital media and toxic landfill-destined devices built by wage-slaves in over-exploited regions of the world on which we access digital media all still exist even if you pretend they are "digital" "frictionless" "immaterial" "informational" "virtual" spirit-fluff. People are seeing through the bullshit and the scam. Probably that would seem a "negative" formulation to Larry Page, and there is nobody stopping him or the rest of the libertechian plutocrats from keeping on with the clapping louder and seeing how long that keeps working for them -- I daresay it will remain a winning strategy in some measure for as long as human history lasts. But I also believe education, criticism, and struggle over the equitable distribution of the actual costs, risks, and benefits of technoscientific changes to the actual diversity of their stakeholders is indispensable to the real positive substance of progress in the direction of a sustainable, equitable, planetary polyculture. Often what looks like negativity to elite incumbents is what looks like positivity to the rest of us.

Page went on to declare the Web was birthed in the belly of corporate competitiveness, about which, in the spirit of that competitiveness, he also had some rather "negative" things to say, all the while piously insisting on his positivity. In all that, Page conveniently forgot, in the usual manner, the contextualization of public education and indispensability of public investment which actually "birthed the web" -- not exactly my own preferred metaphor here, by the way -- before certain clever opportunists skimmed and scammed their way to the profitable appropriation of work of which they remain themselves mostly incapable. No doubt there is a way of spinning that story more positively, but I'd rather listen to Aretha instead.


jimf said...

> there is nobody stopping him or the rest of the
> libertechian plutocrats to keep clapping louder
> and seeing how long that keeps working for them

I thought that's why Santa Claus invented the Extropians.
You remember -- "dynamic optimism", "onward and upward!",
Nathaniel Branden, self esteem, and all that.

Maybe Mr. Page needs to fund a successor to (or
just donate the cash to re-open) the
Extropy Institute.

Or maybe the Boy Scouts could offer a Transhumanism
merit badge (extra embroidery around the edge
if you demonstrate a working AI).

But watch out, Dale, you're crampin' these
billionaires' style! :-0

Dale Carrico said...

Won't somebody PLEASE think of the billionaires!