A really nice piece in The Guardian by Mohsin Hamid (who will turn up in a longer piece this week) on the tyranny of nostalgia. Resistance blossoms from the imagination. We always retain the capacity to imagine better futures.
Hamid grasps the way that our technology actually fixes us to our present and to our past. Despite the veneer of shiny future-forward design, technology acts to fix us in place and tie us concretely to our past.
Through technology the past is made real to us in a way that it never has been before. I can see myself five seconds ago, and my first girlfriend five hours ago, and my first child five months ago, and my first dog five years ago, and my first smile in my mother’s arms five decades ago, and I can sift endlessly through these archives of past moments, commingle them with present choices and likes and filters, and craft new past-present hybrids, dancing across time, sometimes alone, sometimes with others, commenting, watching, playing, mesmerising myself as the world outside my screen goes unnoticed for increasingly long interludes.
If we lose sight of the near future and future, we also lose sight of the possibility that is present there.
It is important that we bear in mind that the path technology takes isn’t necessary i.e pre-determined. It is the product of human decisions and actions, so its path can be changed.
Imagination is the handmaiden of hope and hopefulness.
I love Hamid’s succint call to action.
The future is too important to be left to professional politicians. And it is too important to be left to technologists either. Other imaginations from other human perspectives must stake competing claims.
He is right. Look at Uber, to critics it is a proto-typical expression of bro-culture and a certain vision of technology and the role of society in servicing it. Then look at how a culture grows based on that limited imagination and limited other perspectives. Of course it doesn’t help that the CEO is sociopathic and media in Silicon Valley (with a few notable exceptions) were agog at the billions raised – but not the billions lost.
Sometimes I wonder how Travis and his investors sleep at night, then I remember they’re rich sociopaths and the answer is “better than me”
— Paul Bradley Carr (@paulbradleycarr) February 23, 2017
It becomes vital to persist with imagining better futures. It is also vital to make it stick. Technology is like any other human activity and it requires mutually agreed social rules to function effectively. We have fallen far short of putting those in place and instead have a haven of liberatarian property-rights advocates executing a landgrab on our digital and, soon, our physical spaces.