I’m reading “Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think” by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler, and it’s a good and highly encouraging book. But I believe that their technological optimism, though justified, also needs to be qualified.
Science and technology are wonderful, but there’s nothing in this world that politicians can’t manage to screw up if they get their hands on it. And given the particularly low quality of our politicians today, this is something for all of us to worry about.
We especially need to remind ourselves of this during the presidential election season when the candidates keep telling us all they want to do for us and we forget about all the damage they can do to us. Innovation brings disruption, which frustrates a politician's first instinct to control things. We're luckiest when innovation moves too fast to be controlled.
I just reread Robert Heinlein's "Door Into Summer" for the first time in decades. It was written in 1957 and set in 1970 and 2000, so it imagines a future that is already past for us. Most of the details are amusingly wrong -- robots do everything for us, for example, but computers are nowhere to be found. But the general optimistic tone of the book -- the future will always be better -- is -- has generally been true, hasn't it?
The author of the article says this near the end:
Several decades ago, science fiction writer Robert Heinlein observed: “Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances, which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all Right-thinking people.
"Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty. This is known as ‘bad luck.’ ”