This week → Theses on techno-optimism ⊗ Minimal maintenance ⊗ Ecological crises and equitable futures ⊗ Racial capitalism, The Stack and the Green New Deal
Something a bit different in this issue. I had to spend the week out of town and mostly offline so I didn’t have time to read as much as usual, much less write a full newsletter. Luckily, over the last few months I’ve been deconstructing each past issue into its constituant parts for my Grant For The Web project (coming soon) and marking some of the featured articles for a revisit.
So today, the first article and the Asides are all new, while the three other articles are from that “revisit pile,” and all more than a year old, when over half of you weren’t around. I think it’s a good one, despite the restraints.
This one, at LibrarianShipwreck, is one of those articles I’ll be coming back to for sure. Techno-optimism is something I’ve both suffered from and railed against, as well as sharing a number of articles addressing the issue. In this piece, it’s a deeper look into that vision of technological progress not only in it’s common portrayal having to do with big tech but in the much longer-term and stronger undercurrent that “is the basic stance of a society in which people enjoy the fruits of high-technology.”
The article does suffer (although it’s also a great trick to make these big ideas more parsable) from something I’ve mentioned often: presenting a decentralized alignement of incentives as if it’s an organized campaign, not arguing for, but certainly readable as a great conspiracy. Regardless of that aspect in form, everything else is strongly presented and should now take place in the back of your mind: when you encounter big-tech-optimism and techno-chauvinism, remember that they are a kind of smoke and mirrors, obscuring the underlying deep waters of techno-optimism.
When big tech-optimism takes a beating it is for failing to live up to the hopes of the techno-optimism that undergirds it. And when big tech companies are held up for scorn, it is done so that people’s ire can be directed at a specific manifestation of techno-optimism, as opposed to calling into question the underlying ideology. […]
By consistently presenting an exaggerated version of techno-optimism, the more egregious forms of adoration and fealty open up spaces of critique, but in doing so ensure that those critiques get directed at the exaggerations as opposed to at the baseline beliefs that make those exaggerations possible. […]
Techno-optimism serves to demobilize pushes for change by shifting the onus off of people organizing and by putting that power in the hands of technology. […]
[T]echno-optimism can claim a sort of rebellious almost countercultural sheen, even as it remains the viewpoint coursing through pretty much every major corporation, tech publication, elected official’s office, and most works of mass culture. […]
Faced with serious challenges that our politics seem incapable of addressing, and which technological change have so far been able to miraculously solve, techno-optimism keeps the focus centered on the idea of an eventual technological solution.
No.177 Articles From the “Revisit Pile” ⊕ See Note
In issue No.177, for lack of time I had to re-use some articles, in the original email, the full-text commentaries were included, on the website you can follow the links below, which are actually “backlinks” which add references at the bottom of linked notes.
No.177 Asides ⊕ See Note
- 🤩 🎥 Terraforming 2021. “Featuring new design and policy projects by The Terraforming 2021 researchers on rethinking populations, mobility and borders; positive biopolitics and ecological engineering & enforcement, hemispherical stacks and alternative notions of ‘technocracy,’ the future of space law and astronomic & political modes of ‘planetarity.’”
- 🤓 💍 🇬🇧 A stranger than fiction Roman ring mystery thread: this enigmatic Roman gold ring was found in a ploughed field near Silchester in 1785. The square bezel has a portrait of the pagan goddess Venus, inscribed backwards SUNEV for use as a signet ring by the owner. Curiously…
- 🦜 An Illustrated Field Guide to Social Media. “This field guide looks at social media that works on different “logics” than do Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube. It features communities that have tried consciously to use different models than surveillance capitalism and includes the work of collaborators in other countries and subcultures.”
- 👍🏼 🌳 🇬🇧 Royal family urged to lead rewilding efforts and transform estates. “The letter, addressed to the Queen, the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Cambridge, urges them to prioritise biodiversity in their land management and allow for the restoration of ecosystems such as forests, grasslands, heathlands, swamps and rivers – both as vital wildlife habitats and important carbon sinks.”
- ⭕️ The Circles of Friendship. “The 15 layer includes the previous five, and your core social partners. They are our main social companions, so they provide the context for having fun times. They also provide the main circle for exchange of child care. We trust them enough to leave our children with them. The next layer up, at 50, is your big-weekend-barbecue people. And the 150 layer is your weddings and funerals group who would come to your once-in-a-lifetime event.”
- 🔭 🇺🇸 NASA Selects 2 Missions to Study ‘Lost Habitable’ World of Venus. “These investigations are the final selections from four mission concepts NASA picked in February 2020 as part of the agency’s Discovery 2019 competition. Following a competitive, peer-review process, the two missions were chosen based on their potential scientific value and the feasibility of their development plans. The project teams will now work to finalize their requirements, designs, and development plans.”
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