Jerry Mander:” The idea, that technology is neutral, is a serious mistake”

London: How do you respond to the argument that technology is not inherently good or bad, it’s how we use it that matters.


Mander: That’s the major homily of our time. And it’s a very serious mistake. The idea that technology is neutral — that it doesn’t have social, political and environmental characteristics — is really dangerous.

Consider nuclear power and solar power. Both are energy forms, but they have entirely different effects on the system. Nuclear power is an inherently centralized technology. It requires centralized military-industrial institutions. Nobody knows what to do about 250,000 years of dangerous wastes. If we were to judge energy only in terms of who uses it, that would be like saying, “Well, if some good people got together and ran the nuclear power industry, the wastes wouldn’t have to be safeguarded for 250,000 years.” But these things are intrinsic to the technology. It’s not a question of whether good people use them.

Solar technology is the exact opposite — it is inherently localizing. A couple of people can easily put it together, it’s not expensive to use, the community can run it without having to hook up to the grid, and it has no lasting negative effects.


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Vandana Shiva:”United States patent system is somewhat perverted”

Q: You describe a dramatic case in which some American researchers traveled to India and basically co-opted time-honored and widely known folk-remedies for purely commercial purposes.


Shiva: Absolutely. I have called this phenomenon of stealing common knowledge and indigenous science “biopiracy” and “intellectual piracy.” According to patent systems we shouldn’t be able to patent what exists as “prior art.” But the United States patent system is somewhat perverted. First of all, it does not treat the prior art of other societies as “prior art.” Therefore anyone from the United States can travel to another country, find out about the use of a medicinal plant, or find a seed that farmers use, come back here, claim it as an invention or an innovation, take a patent on it, and grab an exclusive right to the use of the products or processes that are linked to that knowledge.


Jaron Lanier :”It’s that manipulation engine that’s the problem. It’s not the smartphone”

Q: how much of why we should delete social media is inherent in social media versus how it’s been developed so far? Is there a way to isolate the good parts of social media?” You’ve talked about this.


Jaron Lanier : Yeah, I very strongly feel that we can isolate the good parts of social media which are very real and very true and just cut off and incinerate the bad parts, and the bad parts can be described very clearly as a manipulation engine. It’s the algorithms that are measuring you and then calculating what you should experience in order to change your behavior according to an algorithm. It’s that manipulation engine that’s the problem. It’s not the smartphone. It’s not the general idea of social media. It’s not the general idea of the internet. It’s none of those things. It’s really the manipulation machine. And that’s the thing that needs to be shut down.

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by Ten Arguments For Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now

Nicholas Carr: “True freedom comes from accomplishing hard things, from being busy at some meaningful task in the real world”

Shank: I happen to be reading “Farmer Boy” by Laura Ingalls Wilder to my daughter while I was also reading “The Glass Cage,” and I was struck by a scene in which Almanzo, the farmer boy of the title, asks his dad why they slowly thresh the crops by hand on stormy days in winter, rather than hiring the threshing machine that would finish the job quickly. His dad says, “All it saves is time, son. And what good is time, with nothing to do? You want to sit and twiddle your thumbs, all these stormy winter days?” This book is set in the 1800s, when it was possible for a family farmer to make that kind of quality-of-life-over-efficiency choice. Is it possible to make such a choice in the modern world?


Carr: That’s a lovely passage – I wish I’d been aware of it while writing the book. It would have served well as an epigraph. It gets to the heart of one of my central arguments: that technology in general and automation in particular shape our experience of life and hence our sense of engagement and fulfillment. We’re often too quick to believe that if we’re “freed up” from hard work, we’ll enjoy life more, but the opposite often turns out be true. When things become too easy for us, we become self-absorbed and anxious. True freedom comes from accomplishing hard things, from being busy at some meaningful task in the real world. As I write in the book, “Automation often frees us from that which makes us feel free.” I do think that, for economic and employment reasons, it’s becoming harder for people to resist labor-saving technology. At the same time, though, we’re seeing young people getting involved in small-scale agriculture and various handicrafts, often using more traditional, less automated tools. So all is not lost. Resistance is not futile.

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“you’ll have an entire population growing up and going through life and just never really finding joy” -Simon Sinek on Millennials

Instant gratification. You want to go on a date? You don’t even have to learn how to be socially awkward on that first date. You don’t need to learn how to practice that skill. You don’t have to be the uncomfortable person who says yes when you mean no and no when you mean yes. Swipe right – bang – done! You don’t even need to learn the social coping mechanism.


Everything you want you can have instantaneously. Everything you want, instant gratification, except, job satisfaction and strength of relationships – their ain’t no out for that. They are slow, meandering, uncomfortable, messy processes.

And so millennials are wonderful, idealistic, hardworking smart kids who’ve just graduated school and are in their entry-level jobs and when asked “how’s it going?” they say “I think I’m going to quit.” And we’re like “why?” and they say “I’m not making an impact.” To which we say—“you’ve only been there eight months…”

It’s as if their standing at the foot of a mountain and they have this abstract concept called impact that they want to have on the world, which is the summit. What they don’t see is the mountain. I don’t care if you go up the mountain quickly or slowly, but there’s still a mountain. And so what this young generation needs to learn is patience. That some things that really, really matter, like love or job fulfillment, joy, love of life, self confidence, a skillset, any of these things, all of these things take time. Sometimes you can expedite pieces of it, but the overall journey is arduous and long and difficult and if you don’t ask for help and learn that skillset, you will fall off the mountain. Or the worst case scenario, we’re seeing an increase in suicide rates in this generation, we’re seeing an increase in accidental deaths due to drug overdoses, we’re seeing more and more kids drop out of school or take a leave of absence due to depression. Unheard of. This is really bad.

The best case scenario, you’ll have an entire population growing up and going through life and just never really finding joy. They’ll never really find deep, deep fulfillment in work or in life, they’ll just waft through life and it things will only be “just fine.” “How’s your job?” “It’s fine, same as yesterday…” “How’s your relationship?” “It’s fine…” That’s the best case scenario.

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Vaclav Smil:”do you know how many of these cellphones we are throwing away every nine months?”

Making the Modern World: Materials and Dematerialization will be out around December. What’s the thrust of that one?


Vaclav Smil: People think that we are getting better because we are dematerializing. Look at your iPhone. A perfect example of dematerialization. Before that you would need, what? An alarm clock. A telephone. A camera. A compass and a map. Now you don’t need any of these things — you just need one cellphone. So instead of having the mass of all these things like before, you dematerialize.

Well, that’s fine. But do you know how many of these cellphones we are throwing away every nine months? One billion. We are only seeing dematerialization in relative terms. Our refrigerators weigh less than they did 20 years ago, they are better insulated, they are better built. Certainly our electronics weigh less than they weighed 20 years ago. (But of course our cars do not weigh less, because most of our cars in North America are SUVs.)

Many things are dematerializing, but they are dematerializing per unit. Yet we are selling many more units, so in total terms, global consumption is vastly increasing. This is like efficient energy consumption. We increase the efficiency of energy consumption, but have three televisions instead of one. Per refrigerator, per television, per car, the consumption is down. But overall, the consumption is up.

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Ed Catmull:”Fear is built into our nature”

The Quarterly: It sounds as though you think a lot about fear and how to counteract its corrosive effects.


Ed Catmull: Fear is built into our nature; we want to succeed and we respond physiologically to threats—both to real threats and to imagined threats. If people come into an organization like ours and they’re welcomed in, what’s the threat? Well, from their point of view, they’re thinking, “this is a high-functioning environment. Am I going to fit in? Am I going to look bad? Will I screw up?” It’s natural to think this way, but it makes people cautious.

When you go to work for a company, they tell you something about the values of the company and how open they are. But it’s just words. You take your actual cues from what you see. That’s just the way we’re wired. Most people don’t talk explicitly about it, because they don’t want to appear obtuse or out of place. So they’ll sometimes misinterpret what they see. For example, when we were building Pixar, the people at the time played a lot of practical jokes on each other, and they loved that. They think it’s awesome when there are practical jokes and people do things that are wild and crazy.

Now, it’s 20 years later. They’ve got kids; they go home after work. But they still love the practical jokes. When new people come in, they may hear stories about the old days, but they don’t see as much clowning around. So if they were to do it, they might feel out of line. Without anyone saying anything, just based on what they see, they would be less likely to do those things.

Meanwhile, the older people are saying, “what’s wrong with these new people? They’re not like we were. They’re not doing any of this fun stuff.” Without intending to, the culture slowly shifts. How do you keep the shift from happening? I can’t go out and say, “OK, we’re going to organize some wild and crazy activities.” Top-down organizing of spontaneous activities isn’t a good idea. Don’t get me wrong—we still have a lot of pretty crazy things going on, but we are trying to be aware of the unspoken fears that make people overly cautious. If you’re just measuring yourself by your outward success, then you’re missing a huge part of what drives people.


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