“Because we are not taught about how innovation really works, it is easy to fall prey to the idea that today’s way of life is going to collapse.
But, as Smaller Lighter points out, time after time throughout history, catastrophism has been wrong. We’ve been “running out of oil” since the inception of oil–yet human ingenuity keeps unlocking new forms of oil (thanks to innovations like fracking). We were supposed to run out of food as population increased–and yet agricultural technology (such as fossil fuel-powered tractors and combines) has meant more people and more food per person.
Why does catastrophism fail? The book’s basic answer is: innovation. Innovation enables human beings to create new forms of value—e.g., computers–but also enables human beings to solve problems that human creations create.
Bryce is anything but evasive about the risks of various technologies, including ways in which technology can be abused. Real problems connected to technology. One particularly scary fact I learned was the sheer number of government requests for citizens’ data. “Each year, according to the Economist, South Korean authorities make more than 37 million requests to see communications data on its citizens. (The country has about 50 million people.)”
But Bryce’s solution is, well, to actually try to solve the problem using innovation and what was once celebrated as a “can-do attitude.”
That might seem like common sense, but it is definitely not common practice.”
Forbes, July 30, 2014, by Alex Epstein