Has the progress of technology lived up to its promise? Has the last hundred years of innovation made us happier? Our lives richer or more fulfilling?
Marc Andreessen and Peter Thiel take opposing sides on this question. Thiel argues that most areas of technology, from energy to transportation to medicine, have seen only iterative progress the last century. Furthermore, while communications and IT have transformed, evidence that they have improved our lives remains elusive.
Toward the end of their 2013 debate, he muses on which signals might indicate that technological innovation is bettering our condition.
“I come back to an indicator that I think is an interesting cultural one: if Hollywood started producing science fiction movies in which technology was a good thing. The only ones i can think of are the Star Trek retread movies, which are a flashback to the 60s. Everything else, it’s, ‘technology is bad, its going to kill you, its going to destroy you.’ If people here stopped hating technology and started using their imagination to produce some good science fiction movies, that would be a very good sign.”
Recall films where new technology or novel social values rescue us (e.g. Contact, ID4).
Count that against films where new technology causes the problem and traditional technology or values solve the conflict (e.g. Avatar, Terminator, Star Wars, Jurassic Park).
We will call that ratio our Faith In Technology index.
When you have an idle commute or a quiet evening, check out Thiel and Andreeson’s debate and find where your perspective hovers.