Monday, March 18, 2013
Sterling, kindred spirit:

"[T]here’s this empty pretense that these innovations make the world better. This is a dangerous word, like, ‘If we’re not making the world better, then why are we doing this at all?’ Now, I don’t want to claim that this attitude is hypocritical, because when you say a thing like that at South By – ‘Oh, we’re here to make the world better’ – you haven’t even reached the level of hypocrisy. You’re stuck at the level of childish naivety. The world has a tragic dimension. This world does not always get better. This world has deserts – deserts aren’t better. People don’t always get better. You personally, once you’re over middle age, when you’re becoming elderly, you don’t get better every day. When you’re elderly, you are in metabolic decline. Every day you get worse. It’s the human condition, it’s a simple truth. It is fatuous to think that culture or politics or society or technology always get better. It’s just not true, and it’s certainly not true right now. Since the financial panic of 2008, things have gotten worse across the board. The austerity is a complete policy failure; it’s even worse than the panic. We’re not surrounded by betterness in 2013. By practically every measure: nature is worse, culture is worse, governance is worse, the infrastructure is in visible decline, business is worse, people are living in cardboard in Silicon Valley, we don’t even have much to boast about in our fashion. Although you have lost weight – and I praise you for that because I know it must have been hard.

We are living in hard times, we are not living in jolly boom dot com times. And that’s why guys like Evgeny Morozov, who comes from the miserable country of Belarus, gets all jittery and even fiercely aggressive when he hears you talking about technological solutionism. There’s an app to make that all better. Okay, a billion apps have been sold. Where’s the betterness? Things do not always progress, and the successes of progress become thorny problems for the next generation, they don’t stay permanently better. Our value judgments about what [is] better are temporary, they are time bound. When you over-use the word 'better' it’s a head-fake, it’s a mantra. You don’t have a betterometer; you can’t measure the length and duration of the betterness. Better is a metaphysical value judgment, it’s not a scientific quality, like mass or velocity. You can’t test it experimentally. We don’t know what’s better. We don’t even know what’s worse."

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