I do not see how even the most ethereal technologies promised by electronics and information theory can offer more than the promise of the simplest tool: to make life materially easier, to enrich us. That is a great promise and gain! But if this enrichment of one type of civilization occurs only at the cost of the destruction of the planet, then it seems fairly clear to me that to count upon technological advance for anything but technological advance is a mistake. I have not been convincingly shown, and seem to be totally incapable of imagining for myself, how any further technological advance of any kind will bring us any closer to being a society predominantly concerned with preserving its existence; a society with a modest standard of living, conservative of natural resources, with a low constant fertility rate and a political life based upon consent; a society that has made a successful adaptation to its environment and has learned to live without destroying itself or the people next door. But that is the society I want to be able to imagine — I must be able to imagine, for one does not get on without hope.
This paper from Le Guin is thought-provoking and fantastic. These sentences jumped out at me particularly. Today it was announced that there is a record low amount of sea ice in the world despite it being winter. The internet has rapidly changed society in the past few decades and we’re only now beginning to understand how. Early signs are less than positive.
The ideologies of disruption and innovation still reign in most areas of power in the world, so I often am at a loss for hope or optimism. But many people are dismantling and critiquing these ideologies and in doing so weakening their stronghold. I’m with Le Guin here, I must be able to imagine this world. I’m grateful to her and so many others who are insistently seeking out paths for these imaginings; paths that give me hope for a future where every new month does not bring some terrifying new record with climate data. A future where we figure out the society mapped here.