Virginia Postrel thinks Stephenson has it sideways. This attitude is Self Defeating. We already have plenty of critics telling us that our creativity and effort are for naught, our pleasures and desires absurd, our civilization wicked and destructive. We live in a culture where condemnatory phrases like “the ecosystems we’ve broken” are throwaway lines, and the top-grossing movie of all time is a heavy-handed science-fiction parable about the evils of technology and exploration. We don’t need Neal Stephenson piling on. The reason mid-20th-century Americans were optimistic about the future wasn’t that science-fiction writers told cool stories about space travel... People believed the future would be better than the present because they believed the present was better than the past... For good reasons and bad, more and more Americans stopped believing in what they had once viewed as progress... Little by little, the number of modern offenses grew until we found ourselves in a 21st century where some of the most educated, affluent and culturally influential people in the country are terrified of vaccinating their children. Nothing good, they’ve come to think, comes from disturbing nature. Optimistic science fiction does not create a belief in technological progress. It reflects it. Stephenson and Thiel are making a big mistake when they propose a vision of the good future that dismisses the everyday pleasures of ordinary people -- that, in short, leaves out consumers.
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