The Future Doesn’t Work

Joshua Ellis wrote a follow-up to his Grim Meathook Future thing thing for Grinding:

It’s my experience that most venture capitalists and serial entrepreneur types are almost identical, personality-wise, to the street hustlers and drug dealers whose acquaintance I’ve made over the years. They may wear polo shirts instead of Fubu and spend their money on organic produce instead of custom hubcap rims, but they operate on the same principle: waking up every day figuring out new ways to get paid. Whether these ways are good for society as a whole, or even for the person who’s doing the paying, is a minor consideration next to the paycheck itself. And if you’re not a means to that end, well, fuck you. More than once, I’ve seen the exact same behavior in a Stanford-educated dot.com startup founder at a tech meetup and a smacked-out panhandler on the Las Vegas Strip: they’re all smiles and handshakes when they approach you, but as soon as they realize you’re not a potential mark with an open wallet you can watch their eyes go dead and look right through you, on to the next target.

I hate these people and wouldn’t piss on most of them if they were on fire, but that’s fine; I hate bankers and lawyers too, like every other blowhard bohemian iconoclast does, and I doubt any of them are losing any sleep over it. What bothers me is that we’ve effectively put these walking hardons in charge of building that capital-F Future, in every sector of the innovation industry, from genetically grown food to biotechnology to communications to spaceship-building.

And none of them, not a single one, is interested in any Future if they can’t sell it for a serious profit. Nor do they care if the process of selling and profiting leaves a swath of collateral damage the size of a Gulf Coast oil spill in its wake.

Grinding: Joshua Ellis revisits the Grim Meathook Future

Charlie Stross was pushing this meme recently as well:

Shorter version: a big chunk of the “accelerating change” meme actually emerges from our experience of the future shock induced by our Martian invaders — the corporatist liquidation or privatisation of human social structures not mediated by money, culminating ultimately in the experience of disaster capitalism.

Yes, there is rapid technological progress in some areas. It’s not all bad. But the beneficiaries of that particular shift (a narrow technological elite, and their masters in the shape of the 0.1%, the financial/social engineers who direct the new hive-organism aristocracy) have made a fetish out of change, ignoring (for the most part) the uncomfortable fact that “creative destruction” is an oxymoron.

Charlie Stross: Deconstructing our future

See also: Left Behind: The Singularity and the Developing World.

2 Comments

  1. I think there’s a valid criticism here, but I have to point something out: the reason these hucksters and hustlers are leading the charge is that they have something the majority of humans seem to lack: motivation. Their motivations might be smarmy and street hustler-y, but it’s motivation none the less. It makes them get out of bed in the morning and do something other than simply consume.

    • i’m sorry, adam, but do i detect a note of admiration for the ‘hucksters and hustlers’? and are you suggesting that people, such as many of my clients, who ‘simply’ get out of bed every morning to work 2 jobs, 60-80 hours a week, ‘simply’ to make enough to pay their rent. put gas in the car, and buy hamburger helper, are ‘un’motivated? bernie maddoff was ‘motivated’. good for him. dick cheney was ‘motivated’. double good for him. i can’t share your understated enthusiasm for the ‘there’s nothing more successful than success’ tautology.

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