1789. Comments on Peter Leyden’s essay.

Here are some thoughts about Peter Leyden’s paper. he posted on Medium

Why Trump’s inauguration is not the beginning of an era, but the end”

Peter Leyden has written an article on Medium that has gone  semi viral. It provides an optimistic scenario moving forward from Trump, even seeing Trump as catalytic of changes that needed to happen anyway given the decades long decadence of the American Economy.

Peter proposes optimism seeing  Trump  as marking the end of low innovation. Now we can move to real prosperity. but I think he is seductive mixing hope with “prosperity”. Such optimism hides the real optimism we might be able, with hard work, to extract from the mess left by three or four decades of elite self aggrandizement with the one percent enabling the .01%  If we are going to have a green economy it will require much more social experimentation with finance, governance, reassessment of all assets and redeploying people for such a new green economy. Taking care of each other’s  pain will be essential to avoid the negative sides of change. Peter’s proposal is really techno optimism leaving most of the elite institutions in place.

I love that people are looking for optimism but this is not the right way.  If  read closely  he is saying optimism is in extending Silcon Valley innovation to the world. It does not note that the problems were are in is exactly because we have had an economy of rapid expansion that has served elites and not the common good of society.

Honest optimism requires a critical look at where we are, how we got here, and what can happen that is plausible AND meets our social goals..  Pete’s paper is really a plea to let Silicon Valley entrepreneurs dominate the future.

The present is mostly defined by climate warming and economic inequality in the context of weak government institutions that are tending authoritarian. Optimism requires the good use of tech, and Peter’s descriptions of the future of tech are good but narrow. We  also need a recognition that economic expansion has been the engine of inequality and environmental damages. Unless we rethink how our initiatives can cope with these problem (he does suggest sustainability but with no elaboration) we will be supporting more of the same economy and wealth distribution that has gotten us in trouble and led much of the population, out of serious pain, to vote for Trump.

Even in Silicon Valley some od the more serious people I know hoped Trump would win, not as a catalyst to more of the same, but to really shake things up because the current tech and finance capital regime is so dangerous.

The good paths forward will also require serious costs in disrupted lives. It is important that we are not seduced y hoping for a win-win scenario without hard work. Peter’s paper makes the good seem inevitable. My own view is that high probability scenarios lead to bad outcomes. Thus it is necessary to imagine low probability scenarios we can dig i and work for, with tech, neighbors, cultural wisdom’s and some good luck, make attractive low probability scenarios become the future.





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