the next day A few decades, almost every financial, social and government institution in the world will be radically upended by one small but very powerful invention: the blockchain.
do you believe that? Or are you one of those people who think the blockchain and cryptocurrency boom is just a huge decade-old scam – the bastard child of the Dutch tulip bubble, Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme, and the most ridiculous access of the libertarian internet? Most likely, you – like me – are not in either of these extremes. Instead, you yearn for someone to just show you how to think about the problem smartly and nuancedly rather than always falling into the binary trap.
Binaries have been on my mind a lot since I took over as editor in chief at WIRED last March. This is because we are at what appears to be an inflection point in the modern history of technology, when various dualities that have long been taken for granted are questioned.
When WIRED was founded in 1993, it was a technical utopian bible. We have chronicled and endorsed the inventions we believed would reshape the world; All they need is unleashing. Our covers featured the bright, bouncy, visionary nerds—mostly wealthy, white, and male—who were shaping the future, reshaping human nature, and making everyone’s life more efficient and enjoyable. They were bolder, more creative, richer, and cooler than you; In fact, they already lived in the future. By reading WIRED, we hinted that you can join them there!
If that optimism was a binary of zero, the mood has since shifted to a binary of 1. Today, a great deal of media coverage has focused on the damage being done by the corrupt tech industry. He gave us Tahrir Square, but also Xinjiang; blogging, but also the atmosphere; The endless opportunities of Long Tail, but also the instability of the temporary job economy; mRNA vaccines, as well as CRISPR babies. WIRED has not been shy about covering these problems. But they forced us—and me in particular, as Ward’s editor—to reflect on the question: What does it mean to be WIRED, a publication born to celebrate technology, in an age where technology is often demonized?
For me, the answer starts with rejecting the binary. Optimistic and pessimistic views of technology miss the mark. The lesson of the past 30 years is not that we were wrong to think that technology can make the world a better place. Instead, we were wrong to think that technology itself was the solution – and that we are now equally wrong to treat technology as the problem. Not only is it possible, but natural, for technology to do both good and harm at the same time. The hype cycle that creates rapid billionaires and leaves behind a string of failed companies may lay the groundwork for a lasting structural transformation (Figure A: The Internet’s First Collapse). An online platform that creates community and helped citizens drive out tyrants (Facebook) can trap people in compliance and groupthink and become an instrument of oppression. As F. Scott Fitzgerald said, an intelligent person must be able to keep opposing ideas in their minds at the same time while continuing to act.