Virginia Postrel thinks that Peter Thiel is wrong about the future. I think she is about half right, roughly.
If I read her correctly, Postrel’s thesis runs something like this: our lack of optimism about the future is not the consequence of fewer “moonshot” technological innovations, rather it stems from a failure to tell positive stories about the incremental improvements that have made the present better than the past.
In what follows, I want to take a close look at Postrel’s argument and some of its underlying assumptions because I think the piece reflects some interesting tensions in our thinking about technology and innovation.
Let’s start where Postrel does, with her examples of what I’m going to start calling Tech Stagnation Angst (TSA–sure there’s another TSA out there, but maybe the overlap is instructive).
Her points of departure are the science-fiction author Neal Stephenson…
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