Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Techno Geek Optimism

It never ceases to amaze me when otherwise bright people assume that just because something is technically doable that it must automatically happen and be doable. This happens constantly, probably because over the last few centuries there have been more cases of success than failures. In the 1860s, machine labor was clearly already superior to slave labor yet technology did not inevitably supplant slavery without fighting a very destructive and very human civil war.

The latest bit of techno euphoria is from Euan Mearns over at The Oil Drum in a piece entitled "Crisis? What energy crisis?" and which appears to put forth the notion that all will be well because all must be well. Further down in the comments section, Euan actually admits to worries about certain things so even the techno euphoria isn't enough to fully cloud the brain about looming issues.

I've stated this to other people and I've never gotten a satisfactory answer but if technology is the be-all and end-all of every human decision then why isn't New Orleans rebuilt yet? It's only been two years. Surely in two years we could have mustered the technological prowess in the most powerful, richest nation on the planet to rebuild one single rather smallish city that was hit by a hurricane? And yet the city remains far from rebuilt, not because of technology but because of the human factor, because of politics.

I told Euan that it is not technology that I fear. I fear Bush, Putin, Blair, Clinton (both of them), and others. Anyone who believes that these people will willingly give up power to preserve some kind of civilization has far more faith in our leaders than I do. As a counterpoint, I can think of exactly one leader in the last 50 years who would do exactly that, step aside to allow civilization to reorganize and change and that man was Jimmy Carter. I didn't always agree with Jimmy then nor do I always agree with him now, but I do greatly respect him. I don't know many ex-presidents or ex-prime ministers who go out and build houses for the poor on a regular basis.

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