Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
History of techno-utopianism
Techno-utopianism amid the dot-com rise and fall
A movement of techno-utopianism began to flourish in the dot-com culture of the 1990s, particularly in the West Coast of the United States. It was reflected in, reported on, and even actively promoted in the pages of Wired magazine, which was founded in San Francisco in 1993 and served for a number years as the "bible" of its adherents.
This form of techno-utopianism reflected a belief that technological change is revolutionizing human affairs, and that digital technology in particular - of which the Internet was but a modest harbinger - would increase personal freedom by freeing the individual from the rigid embrace of bureaucratic big government. "Self-empowered knowledge workers" would render traditional hierarchies redundant; digital communications would allow them to escape the modern city, an "obsolete remnant of the industrial age".
Its adherents claim it transcends conventional "right/left" distinctions in politics by rendering politics obsolete. However, techno-utopianism primarily attracted adherents from the libertarian end of the political spectrum. Therefore, techno-utopians often have a distaste of government regulation and a belief in the superiority of the free market system. Prominent "oracles" of techno-utopianism included George Gilder and Kevin Kelly, an editor of Wired who also published several books.
During the 1990s dot-com boom, when the speculative bubble gave rise to claims that an era of "permanent prosperity" had arrived, techno-utopianism flourished, typically among the small percentage of the population who were employees of Internet startups and/or owned large quantities of high-tech stocks. With the subsequent crash, many of these dot com techno-utopians had to reign in some of their beliefs in the face of the clear return of traditional economic reality.
Critics of techno-utopianism, like libertarianism, point out that it tends to focus on government "interference" while underemphasizing the positive effects of corporate regulation. They also point out that it has little to say about the environmental impact of technology and that its ideas have little relevance for much of the rest of the world that are still relatively quite poor.
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