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Stairway to Heaven

Stairway to Heaven

Let us stop talking about collapse, peak oil, and global weirding and begin a conversation about what is cool and what is uncool.

In Nine to Five Jane Fonda’s character, Judy Bernly, is the office newbie.  In a scene evoking Lucille Ball on the assembly line, she pushes too many buttons on an enormous Xerox machine and fills the floor with blizzard drifts of copy paper.

Technocornucopians see the world of the future as a great 3D printer with an unlimited supply reservoir. Push a few buttons and we can fulfill everyone’s wildest dreams. What need have we for terror or strife? Vivek Wadhwa, vice president of innovation and research for Singularity University says:

The next decade will be the most innovative decade in human history: technologies are advancing so rapidly, entire industries will be wiped out and new ones created out of nowhere. … We don’t think about man-machine convergence or all this sci-fi stuff. We talk about practical implementation of today’s technologies — harnessing advancing technologies to do good for mankind.

Think of each piece of paper flying out of Judy Bernly’s grasp as just another great solution searching for a problem. Go ahead Judy, push that button again. The machine will know what to do.

It’s not true that we can’t solve big problems through technology. We can, we must, but these four elements must all be present: Political leaders and the public must care to solve a problem; institutions must support its solution; It must really be a technological problem; and we must understand it. The Apollo mission, which has become a kind of metaphor for technology’s capacity to solve big problems, met these criteria. But it is an irreproducible model for the future. It is not 1961.

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Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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