The Future

Some people have all the luck.  Checking in over at The Intersection, I see Chris Mooney is off in Lake Tahoe at the "Techonomy" conference, where ultra-smart and prescient people are talking about technology and the future. Meanwhile, I'm in the waiting room of an intensive care unit in Pittsburgh, where my mother (age 80) is recovering from a bicycle accident she had while doing a competitive triathlon.  (You read that right.)  She's banged up and not at all happy, but she's gonna be alright.

So why did I mention the Technomy conference? Because I happen to be thinking about the future too, in this less enjoyable setting. I'm trying to finish a review of two books--The Rational Optimist, by Matt Ridley, and The Uses of Pessimism, by Roger Scruton.  Ridley thinks the whole world is gonna be alright (climate change, pshaw!), while Scruton thinks pessimism is a very, very good thing. The worst thing anybody could do is mastermind some visionary, progressive scheme. He would hate, hate, hate the techonomy conference.

I've been in waiting rooms like this before, and this one is typical.  It's astonishingly cheerful.  But do I get to join in the good cheer? No.  I have to slog through another 100 pages of pessimism from Mr. Scruton.  Chris is "live blogging" the techonomy conference and I believe I may just have to check in now and again.  I'm hoping to hear something bright, sunny, and very visionary.


Paul Hutton said...

Sorry to hear about your mum - hope she recovers well!

s. wallerstein said...

I hope that your mother gets better soon. If she can compete in a Triatlon at age 80, she must be very healthy. I confess to a guilty weakness for Roger Scruton. I always read him with pleasure.

Gurdur said...

Glad to hear your mother is recovering.

Matt Ridley is perhaps to be taken with a dose of salt; his stance is largely formed by his position on business (he's a kind of political/economic libertarian), and as you see, his position on climate change is not necessarily unbiased at all in judgment. Just how much wishful thinking of his, his biases, also underlies his previous work on evolutionary biology is also something to be put into question.

Faust said...

Best wishes for your mother, she sounds like a tough lady!

About that conference...I don't know, portions of that guest list look scary.

Jean Kazez said...

Thanks for the comments and good wishes. Tough lady indeed!

Faust, OK, which bits of the guest list are scary? I'm not really into breathless futurology, but a visionary or two can be interesting. Bill Gates is A-OK, surely.

Gurdur--I read Ridley because The Origins of Virtue is a great, great book. Unfortunately, yes, I do think his businessy biases make him an unreliable author where climate change is concerned.

Faust said...

Oh I like Bill Gates. His legacy keeps my the value of my house intact, plus he's an active philanthropist.

I just mean that the guest list is highly corporate. Not that that's inherently bad, but expect the agenda will mesh nicely with the agenda of corporate America.

Jean Kazez said...

Yeah, by all means corporate. I do think Gates is The Man because of his philanthropy.

s. wallerstein said...

Here's a remark from Stendhal, quoted by Nietzsche (Beyond Good and Evil), which may relate to corporate America: pour etre bon philosophe, il faut etre sec, clair, sans ilusion. Un banquier, qui a fait fortune, a une partie du caractere requis pour faire des decouvertes en philosophie, c'est-a-dire pour voir clair dans ce qui est.

To be a good philosopher, it is necessary to be dry, clear, without illusions. A banker who has gotten rich has part of the traits needed to make philosophical discoveries, that is, to see clearly what is.

The problem with corporate America is that they have also learned to lie and to mystify to a degree that they will not or possibly no longer can communicate what they know.

Wayne said...

Totally not on topic with the post but....
Does Bill Gates' philanthropy erase his cutthroat business tactics? It seems very vogue now to say Gates is a good man (I agree... but I never said he was a bad man), but not too long ago, he was the poster child for villainous business men.

s. wallerstein said...

Wayne: Exactly.

Aren't the ethical heroes of technology those who provided or provide free or very low cost software rather than someone who ran all the small software producers out of business, using business tactics that at one point had Gates charged with illegal business practices in several countries?

Aren't the real ethical heroes of helping the global poor those who
rather than write a check, spend their lives, for low wages, working in the mud to aid the poor?

I agree that Gates is not a bad man, but I don't see him as an example of a good one.