Every year Jon Lebkowsky and Bruce Sterling have an open discussion on the Whole Earth 'Lectronic Link about the state of the world. This year they are joined by Malka Older, a "writer, aid worker, and sociologist."
If a lot of Big Tech is starting to lose its conjuring power, there
is one technology that manages to be both hype and, to some, fake
news: the vaccine(s). Grateful as I am for the incredible effort
that went into accomplishing the vaccines so quickly, my concern
for the coming year and beyond is how the story is being rewritten
into a fable that our technological prowess omnia vincit. It might
be hard to imagine now that the history of the pandemic could be
turned into a triumphant narrative of human control over nature, but
lost battles have been transformed into glorious conquest before.
Already some are losing sight of the failures in organization, in
humanity, in preparedness that have made the vaccine glow like a
This is unlikely to be the only challenge we see in the coming
decade, or the coming year, that can be solved more easily, quickly,
and cheaply through changing human behavior and which we prefer to
attack using money and technology. The climate crisis leaps to mind.
I hope that we can engrave some of the lessons of this past year
into our collective consciousness, but I have little confidence that
they will function any better than the Japanese stones warning "Do
Not Build Below This Point" that became so celebrated after the