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Saturday, February 22, 2014

Dumb Dvorsky Understands the e-Cigarette Singularity So You Don't Have To

Dumb Dvorsky recently posted a dumb listicle of 22 Obsolete Technologies That People Thought Would Last Forever, almost none of which was really thought to be likely to last forever and many of which might as fairly be described as still with us rather than obsolete at all:

The fact that desktops long provided slots for floppy discs of more than one size and CD-ROMs and inputs for various external drives reflected the keen awareness of most consumers that data storage media were rapidly changing in real time and to pretend otherwise in retrospect is just a facile lie. Further, not only did nobody ever think dot-matrix printers would remain with us forever, but quite to the contrary literally everybody prayed for the earliest possible arrival of the day we all knew was coming when dot-matrix printers would die in a fire as soon enough they did exactly that. And whatever their differences is it really exactly right to declare typewriters vanished dinosaurs in a time of keyboards and monitors when that shift is scarcely more qualitative than the prior shift from manual to electric typewriters, say?

Before Dvorsky pronounces printed books, answering machines, and land-lines officially dead ducks he'll have to pry mine out of my cold dead hands. I must say it is a mark of truly tragically embarrassingly premature gizmo-fashionista nonsensicality to pooh-pooh the still enormously successful technology of printed books for the fragile, expensive, censorable, toxicity of fly-by-night kindles or for the bitter battle of trying to read novels on postage-stamp handheld screens. Boomers and Xers of the world, needlessly torturing yourselves like this isn't fooling anybody into really believing we live in the moonbase orbital hotel 2001 future the futurologists promised and it certainly isn't going to fool the kids into thinking you're cool, so get a grip. You've stuffed the landfills with enough poisonous shit already, don't you think?

Given that Dvorsky has preceded his idiotic dismissal of bound books with the even more flabbergastingly foolish declaration that a lame gimmick as palpably evanescent as e-cigarettes represents some sort of seismic historical shift I daresay I shouldn't have been surprised by it. Of course, to provide advertizing to rubes under the guise of prophesy for the latest shitty consumer crap is the single most essential job description of the "professional futurologist," after all. And needless to say, anxiously aging techbros like our Georgie are the radioactively white-hot target market for e-cigarettes just as much as they are for those indigo-toned e-z rock-n-roll Viagra commercials and as they once were for those loudly self-declared hipster swing dance clubs that pocked our cities for a season and as they still remain for Google glassholery (which no doubt Dvorsky has also fallen for), so it would probably be too much to expect him to assess e-cigarettes sensibly.

All of this is just easy ridicule, of course, so obvious it is scarcely worth the time it takes to tap it out into a post. But I do want to point out that the first line of Dvorsky's limp listicle is his assertion of one of the indispensable articles of faith of the reactionary pseudo-scienific techno-transcendental Robot Cult of which he is a member and which provides in its extremity the reductio ad absurdum of more prevailing futurological framings of techno-developmental questions that also conduce to reactionary political ends more generally: Dvorsky begins first of all with this transhumanoidal-singularitarian genuflection: "We live in an era of accelerating technological change."

As I will never tire of saying, some technoscientific research programmes and engineering implementations are accelerating, others are stalling, while still others are interacting unpredictably. The conjuration of a fantasy of generalized acceleration serves to render us insensitive to differences that make a difference in assessing technoscientific changes in a reasonable way while also creating an image of irresistible momentum that it is fruitless to try to intervene in while also suggesting a triumphalist progress that nobody would want to intervene in anyway. In every way each of these resulting impressions are at once obviously wrong and terribly dangerous and conspicuously reactionary in their effects. Of course, it is in part because Dvorsky's articles of futurological faith are so wrongheaded that he ends up saying such foolish things in the first place, as the obsolete technologies he means to illustrate his false faith demonstrate instead in their falsity and confusion that he is obviously on the wrong track.

But I am afraid that even in failing to make his case, pop-tech articles such as his dramatize and exacerbate confusions about technodevelopmental change in ways that render too many people all the more susceptible to facile futurological assertions of general technodevelopmental disruption and accelerating change anyway. By suffusing our thinking of changing artifice with nostalgia for gizmos we have since consigned to landfill and resentment at serially failed promises of consumer satisfactions dashed by consumer crap realities, Dvorsky's listicle succeeds in distracting its readers from any kind of actually critical engagement with the realities of technoscientific change in any case. The harpoon of "accelerating change" lodged in the reader's mind from the opening line may be the only take away from the piece even if he has done nothing to support it. What more really could Dvorsky hope for from such a throwaway click-bait offering, anyway... except, perhaps, to whomp up a momentary fandom for e-cigarettes?

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