Mark Hurrell.


Watching the snow melt

21 January 2013

Google, Amazon, Apple, and Facebook combined account for over $1 trillion dollars of market capitalization. Yet they only employ around 150,000 people total. That’s less than half the number of people who work for GE. And it’s roughly the number of people that enter the U.S. job market every month. In other words, it’s a farce to believe that tech giants, internet startups, and app developers will ever be able to employ the same number of people that manufacturing once did.

Brian Merchant in Motherboard

We live in a time when the loneliest place in any debate is the middle, and the argument over technology's role in our future is no exception. The relentless onslaught of novelties technological and otherwise is tilting individuals and institutions alike towards becoming Engineers or Druids. It is a pressure we must resist, for to be either a Druid or an Engineer is to be a fool. Druids can't revive the past, and Engineers cannot build technologies that do not carry hidden trouble.

The solution is to claw our way back to the middle and a good place to start is by noting one's own Druid/Engineer inclinations. Unexamined inclinations amount to dangerous bias, but once known, the same inclination can become the basis for powerful intuition. What is your instinctive reaction to something new; is your default anticipation or rejection? Consider autonomous highway vehicles: Druids fear that robot cars are unsafe; Engineers wonder why humans are allowed to drive at all.

My worry is that collective minds change as a snail's pace while technology races along an exponential curve. I fear we will not rediscover the middle ground in time to save us from our myriad folly.

Paul Saffo in Edge

The underlying and more ominous question is whether the story of our species — the greater human narrative — has simply become too enormous, too confused and terrifying, for us to grapple with. This might explain why so many of us now rely on a cacophony of unreliable narrators to shape our view of the world and ourselves.

Whether they arise from the precincts of advertising, politics, religion or the news media, these voices deal in the same commodity: a fraudulent folklore whose central aim is insulate us from the true nature of our predicament, to manipulate our anxieties, to goad us into empty consumption or snag us in cycles of grievance and panic.

I can’t help thinking here of the national mood that prevailed in the weeks after 9/11. Our citizenry remained, by and large, glued to the television. We watched the planes hit the towers over and over, then told one another how unreal it all seemed. For most Americans, this was the “story” of 9/11. To even mention the larger context — the rise of fundamentalism, or our imperial pursuit of petroleum — felt like heresy. We didn’t want a narrator to make sense of the attacks. We wanted to revel in the wrath of their senselessness.

Steve Almond in The New York Times

All via the New Aesthetic, which is on a bit of a roll at the moment.

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