I really enjoy Alexis Madrigal's writing, and 5 Intriguing Things is the *best.* He just left the Atlantic for Fusion (joining another of my favorites, Felix Salmon), and his note in today's newsletter struck a chord with me. Emphasis mine:
My animating belief is that politicians and bullshitters and ideologues have taken the idea of societal change and replaced it with a particular notion of technology as the only or main causal mechanism in history. Somehow, we’ve been convinced that only machines and corporations make the future, not people and ideas. And that's not true. Just take a look back in history at the mid-century “futurists” projecting they’d be living on Mars with their stay-at-home wives, playing pinochle in all-white communities.
This is not to denigrate the importance of technology out there in the world or call for a return to pre-industrial or pre-Internet society. Because all the other types of change are being mediated by our phones and networks, artificial intelligences and robots. And those dynamics are really important.
But if you really want to know what the future is going to be like, you can't just talk about the billions of phones in China or paste some logarithmic growth charts into your Powerpoint. You have to go to the places where people are experiencing bits of the future—living the changes—and use that reporting to weave together a multivalent portrait of our possible futures. You have to get the many ways of thinking about the future into the same space, so you can see how they fit together.
I like this.