J. Robert King


Listening to NPR today, I learned a new term: techno-utopian. It means someone who believes that technology will bring about a perfect world.

I guess I’m a techno-utopian.

For one thing, I’m launching my own Web site. Wow. When a guy like me can launch a Web site, technology has become really amazing.

But it’s not just about this Web site. For years, I’ve loved to fly. The technology that launches a building-sized object into the sky is beyond belief. I spend the whole time looking down at clouds. LOOKING DOWN AT CLOUDS! Technology! It’s like the best midway ride imaginable.

Of course, my techno-utopian ideas do have a dark side. For example, instead of giving up red meat and greasy pizza, I’m trusting that scientists will develop some technology that will roto-root my arteries.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not an early adopter. In fact, I refuse to adopt new technology until it is intuitive, powerful, simple, and cheap. Interestingly, that’s what new technology has become. It’s because developers are targeting guys like me, so everybody benefits.

You’re welcome.

That’s, by the way, the reason I don’t eat less and exercise more. If I did, nobody’d have to invent an arterial roto-rooter.

But here’s the thing. The word “utopia”  is kind of a joke. It isn’t “eutopia,” which would mean “good place.” Instead, it’s “utopia” which means “no place.”

A cruel irony of etymology. It means that techno-utopians think they believe that technology will lead to a perfect world, but really believe that it will lead to no world at all.

I’m not that extreme. I don’t think technology will destroy me, but neither will it ultimately save me. I think I’m a generation too early for technological immortality. The telomeres of my chromosomes are getting shorter even as I write, and nobody’s got a nanobot that can make a difference for me.

But as I lie on my deathbed, having sat in a seat in the clouds and been saved ten times over by technologies that I didn’t deserve, there’ll be some blessed geek looking on and saying, “Jeez, if we could just come up with a telomere stretcher . . .” And the rest of you will benefit.

You’re welcome.

March 20th, 2009
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