The Techno-Optimist Manifesto

When I started reading The Techno-Optimist Manifesto, my first reaction was that this was written by AI or a robot to try to convince humans of their practicality. Once I finished reading it, I looked up the firm that published this article, and was not surprised to find that they are a venture capital firm in Silicon Valley. That made perfect sense to me why, then, it would sound like someone trying to convince me to keep building technology.

My next thought was that a lot of the sentence structures and arguments read like LSAT questions where you have to point out the issue with the argument. For example:

“The socialist USSR was far worse for the natural environment than the capitalist US. Google the Aral Sea.”

I choose answer A: The argument uses one part to justify a conclusion about the whole.

I quite enjoy reading Malcolm Gladwell books, but the issues with them to me is that they are highly anecdotal and have many cherry picked situations to justify his arguments. This doesn’t take away from my enjoyment of his books, but it does remove some credibility from the conclusions. This article reminds me of that style of writing. It includes many quotes from recognizable names and examples of things to support the arguments, but also makes some heavy assumptions, for example:

“The current gap in per-capita energy use between the smaller developed world and larger developing world is enormous. That gap will close – either by massively expanding energy production, making everyone better off, or by massively reducing energy production, making everyone worse off.”

This is a massive assumption to make! Political scientists, along with many others, have been trying to figure out why there is a development gap and how to close it. To assume that the gap will close without a doubt and this author has cracked the code is ridiculous to me.

The Techno-Optimist Manifesto definitely has a more positive view of technology than a lot of films and television shows. I consider myself to be more optimistic about the future of technology and the possibility of AI helping humans significantly in the future. But, this article is rather radical to me, especially since they have a robo-dog in the technology fight.

So I discussed with Dr. Oblivion!

The doc said to make sure to keep the risks of technology in mind. He also mentions that the claim about the current per-capita energy use gap is dubious, and the author makes it a black and white situation despite a significant grey area. Dr. O also mentions the vested interest in promoting technology from many venture capitalist firms and the importance of analyzing the source of each article.

I think Dr. Oblivion and I might be on the same page. Or at least that’s what he’s telling me…


One response to “The Techno-Optimist Manifesto”

  1. I like the idea of it being written by a bot. “Let’s convince the humans that all is well and the future bright.” Meanwhile, they plot to deliver the future to their masters…

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