What’s Wrong with TED Talks? Benjamin Bratton (Transcript)

The future on offer is one in which everything can change, so long as everything stays the same. We’ll have Google Glass, but we’ll still have business casual. This timidity is not our path to the future. This is incredibly conservative. And more gigaflops won’t inoculate us. Because, if a problem is endemic to a system, then the exponential effects of Moore’s law also amplify what’s broken. It’s more computation along the wrong curve, and I hardly think this is a triumph of Reason.

A lot of my work deals with deep technocultural shifts, from the post-humanism to the post-anthropocene, but the TED version has too much faith in technology, and not enough commitment to technology. It’s placebo technoradicalism, toying with risk, so as to reaffirm the comfortable. And so our machines get smarter and we get stupider. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Both can be much more intelligent. Another futurism is possible.

A better ‘E’ in TED might stand for Economics — and yes, imagining and designing, new systems of valuation, and exchange of accounting for transaction externalities, of financing coordinated planning, and so on. Because states and markets, states versus markets, these are insufficient models, our thinking is stuck in a Cold War gear. And worse is when economics is debated like metaphysics, as if any real system is just a bad example of the ideal.

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