To look at our latter-day titans of industry, like Musk, is to see capitalism’s techno-utopian form at its purest: the CEO as a Tony Stark–esque rock star inventor who can save the world. But Musk’s Tesla corporation isn’t terribly different from what’s gone before, except that unlike traditional car manufacturers, his won’t permit its workers to organize into trade unions. The endless production of capital is what counts—no matter who gets hurt along the way. The mythology of these corporations endlessly pursuing profit as a measure of their desire to build a better world has become endemic to any tech-startup narrative. And Musk’s Tesla is the ur-example of the genre.
So why would our tech barons, and their legions of anonymous libertarian groupies, create these depraved scenarios? They fear that a true AI will be too much like them. Like Rush Limbaugh claiming to have had a nightmare about being a “slave building a sphinx in a desert that looked like Obama,” privileged people who fear an AI rebellion always imagine it in exploitative terms that mirror their own ideologies. They fear their ethics being turned back on them.
Well, TV showrunners don’t expect it. They offer guideposts in the form of short 2-minute “Previously On” recaps that remind the viewer of the relevant events. Each new season provides a recap of the previous one, reminding us of the central events. Our most elite storytellers depend on these tools to keep their audiences abreast of the necessary information.
There is no such thing in journalism. In modern media, each outlet strives to the very first by minutes or even seconds to report some small new piece of information. Lots of people analyze and provide opinion on the new information that comes to light. Journalists will provide a few paragraphs of immediate background on the news item just for immediate clarity’s sake, but a reader who hasn’t been following all the twists and turns will still likely be lost. Explainer journalism is helpful, but it tends to take deep dives on a particular subject, less to recap the sum of what is known about a story and reframe it in a narrative arc.
It may well be that what we need most in journalism today is precisely this sort of truthful storytelling by way of recapping old but still relevant news. News junkies may find it superfluous in same way that avid fans of a TV show may hate the “previously on” segments as unnecessary given their level of knowledge. But it’s not the junkies but the average citizen that the general news media most needs to serve, just as revisiting relevant old episodes of Game of Thrones is necessary to keep most casual viewers from unnecessary confusion.
That’s a great point, although one should also keep in mind that brain-dead shows like NCIS and American Idol get far more viewers than the serialized dramas that Atkins is talking about.
We are in the midst of the unwinding of a failed experiment: the re-engineering of an entire continent, and its people, around an ingenious device called the automobile. The closest thing we have to an approach that we know works – not just financially but culturally, socially, environmentally and politically – is the traditional development pattern, the way we built places for thousands of years prior to the automobile. It wasn’t perfect – in fact, a certain amount of tension, messiness and failure was a central feature that gave it resilience – but it worked.
For those of you that long for those days, forget it. We aren’t going back. We’re too far down this path to just go back. Our challenge is different. How do we take a debt-laden, consumption-based society that is used to accelerating levels of affluence and help it transition to a financially-viable way of living while sparing its members the pain and agony of that transition? In short, how do we help our cities not go through what Detroit has gone through, which is the current destination for most of our places? How do we take the knowledge our ancestors worldwide intuitively understood about how to build resilient places and apply it to this mess we have created?