thoughts on data, evidence, ai, science, technology and more
Sen. Glenn stands for an era when science made bold leaps for humanity, rather than incremental changes to your iPhone's features. That era left many of us with a naive romanticism about technology, that quickly turned from an ideology to an aesthetic to a lifestyle. Techno-utopianism flourished from the passionate belief that science and technology can bring an end to human suffering, but, slowly becoming dazed by its own glamour, turned what was a means-to-an-end to an end-in-itself: innovation for the sake of innovation, or for the sake of short-lived, short-termist hype. We should not complain: the long-term benefits of public investment in science and technology education and infrastructure, the influx of private capital, the tech-driven disruptive business models, they have all blessed our generation with an enormous amount of expertise and resources. But we have inexcusably little to show for it. So we need to bring back what has been missing. Focus. Long-term goals. Science is by its nature chaotic and distributed, but has always been at its best when it spontaneously focuses with obsessive stubbornness and against all odds around big, seemingly unsolvable problems. Flight, energy, smallpox, the Moon. Our generation is finally starting to identify its own set of moonshots. AI, climate change, personalised genetic medicine, Mars. After almost twenty years of what seems, at least to me, like incremental change (if that), I expect and wholeheartedly hope that soon we will start once again to hear news of giant leaps towards reducing human suffering.