Re: WIRED 6.01/Technocracy R.I.P.
Tue, 30 Dec 1997 10:53:22 -0800 (PST)

On Tue, 30 Dec 1997, Brian D Williams wrote:
> The exceptional nature of WIRED issue 6.01 has been pointed out already,
> I just wanted to point directly to one article of interest to the list.
> "Technocracy R.I.P" by Virginia Postrel, who is editor of REASON
> magazine ( >

I enjoyed WIRED 6.01 quite a lot, but I found it really annoying in places
too. In some ways the issue took on the flavor of extropianism in its
most caricaturable, extropianism in its least thoughtful aspects. It
should go without saying that CHANGE IS GOOD paints with strokes too broad
to make a workable slogan for transhumanism. Changes can be bad. What is
wanted is Foresight... And championing foresight is the more necessary
theme for an extropianism that makes a positive difference in the kind of
future we get. What is wanted after all are *profitable* changes.
Dissolution is a change. Entropy is change as much as extropy is.

I found Postrel's article to be one of the most infuriating of the
collection. She quotes Arthur Schlesinger as writing that the computer
and internet revolutions turn "the untrammeled market into a global
juggernaut, crashing across frontiers, enfeebling national powers of
taxation and regulation, undercutting national management of interest
rates and exchange rates, widening disparities of wealth between and
within nations, dragging down labor standards, degrading the environment,
denying nations the shaping of their own economic destiny, creating a
world economy without a world polity." I don't mean to argue basics here,
to suggest that Schlesinger's specific fears aren't misguided ones, but do
we really want to deny that changes of extraordinary magnitude are going
down and that it may be useful to talk about them and even engineer their
flow here and there to bring about the best results we can manage? Postrel
goes on to distinguish what she calls "stasists" from "dynamists", those
who shrink from change as opposed to those who seek change, and drawing
the ideological battle lines here seems to me to encourage a
thoughtlessness in the face of the future that is reckless and hopeless.

Dale Carrico |
University of California at Berkeley, Department of Rhetoric

It is impossible to make significant change by force.
The only way to make significant change is
to make the thing you want to change obsolete. -- R. Buckminster Fuller
"Death, where is thy sting-a-ling?" -- Noel Coward