I’ve seen loads of articles lately about how the world isn’t changing at all — that none of the advances since the 1920s have really mattered in any way. That technology is and has stagnated. In some ways, I agree with some of this but in most ways I think it’s utterly delusional and extremely harmful to what happens next, bad or good.
These misguided ideas are all of a piece with the people who just can’t see social change no matter how quick or how drastic (and these people are the vast majority).
Sure, if you are just talking about physical characteristics of reality and meeting basic human needs (food, water, housing) then yeah, we pretty much got there by the 1930s.
But are humans — and is modern society — just an epiphenomenon of basic needs being met? Is that all that matters, all that is consequential to a life? To a society? To a polity?
No, of course not. This is obviously wrong. And pretty damn stupid.
To be clear, I’m not aligning myself with the singularity nuts or the Extropians or any of these also-delusional groups. They are just as useless for having any cogent thoughts.
Nor am I walking a middle ground. No, I am forging a new path that takes into account that what matters to most modern, non-impoverished humans is not some basic meeting of physical needs but in the informational spaces in which that person dwells and who controls, influences and corrupts those.
One of the reasons in fact for the narrative that nothing done since the 1920s matters is so that those who very much realize that is false can successfully monopolize and dominate what has become nearly — and in some cases more — important than food, water and housing.
We live in an information society. Yes, that is a cliché but no one repeating that cliché seems to actually know what it implies.
And technology of late has made the control of information the most important factor in success and flourishment on the micro and the macro scales.
Pretending that none of the absolutely amazing and information-space-enlarging technologies coming to fruition in the last 30-50 years — as Ian Welsh and most others do — don’t matter at all is so damn dangerous I don’t even have words for it.
(Also, I am glad I’m not an academic, because I don’t care about being published or even being widely read. But I do care about coming up with original ideas with no one’s sanction (yes, I intend both meanings of that contranym) and being able to call the stupid “stupid,” which unless you are very famous you cannot do in an academic paper.)