Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world. — Shelley

Arguments

  1. Sci-fi of the last ~20 years is mostly pessimistic in tone about technology whereas there was more optimistic sci-fi in the mid-20th century.
  2. Optimistic sci-fi provides examples of futures in which there has been a definite positive change. The specific visions of technology can rally people to deliver those, but also, these reinforce the underlying basic idea that definite changes should be conceived and executed (rather than indefinite, incremental, financialised progress).
  3. Optimistic sci-fi provides inspiring, individual role models for pursuing technical careers.
  4. Journalism, literature and entertainment provide a valid critical role — not all technology is positive, not all technical founders are heroes.
  5. This argument is not meant to be universal. There was dystopian sci-fi in the past (eg Brave New World) and there are optimistic presentations of technology in the present. But the dominant mood does feel different to the 1950s (or 1850s!)

Key references

Definite optimism as human capital - Dan Wang

Innovation Starvation - Neal Stephenson

Luck and Definite Optimism - Peter Thiel

Visions of positive futures

https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/secure.notion-static.com/f784831f-3fa6-4748-8637-466ced749d98/159F0C17-55D4-427A-A068-F7F7BF7EBC0B.jpeg

https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/secure.notion-static.com/384801e8-c4e7-42be-a25a-d9d5aaf4203b/234F0D80-FB7D-4891-9B3F-45F40756DC4A.jpeg

https://twitter.com/ben_reinhardt/status/1122753977093722112?s=21