I used to have these fights with my old friend Steve Jobs, the Apple guy, and it infuriated him…
…I’d say to him, Steve, these computers you’re inventing here, they’re destroying the world! They are devices of acceleration, they move at the speed of light, they speed up and amplify production and economic activity. I used to really get on his case about it. He once made this gigantic ad campaign about twenty five years ago, where they had “1001 things that the personal computer could do”, and of course all the things were great, you couldn’t argue with any of them. But they only added up to about 5 per cent of what the bloody personal computer actually did. The other 95 per cent he left out, and that was the massive acceleration in the conversion of nature to human culture. Oceans, healthy water, soil, healthy atmosphere and forests: those five major components of life were all being converted that much faster – five times faster, ten times faster, a hundred times faster – because of the pace of computers amplifying economic activity. I’d say don’t give me all this shit about all the wonderful things your machines do, that’s just the cherry on top of this shit cake! He would get huffy of course, because Steve was wedded to his view that all this technology he was envisioning was the road to paradise.
Doug Tompkins Remembered, Paul Kingsnorth interview with Doug and Kris Tompkins in Dark Mountain, 16/12/15
Couple of things there:
1. Cherry on a shit cake. Good one. We don’t hear that enough. We’re all, give or take, drunk on portable technology, stumbling around inside the Jobs-ian reality distortion field. We love these toys, LOVE ‘EM! Use them all the time, won’t hear a word against them. But there it is…they’re all of a piece with the ravenous goddam fiend whose back we can’t or won’t get off.
2. Road to paradise. It’s true – the tech geeks, engineers and programmers driving these technologies forward, they do believe, must believe in their beautiful blinkered minds that zippier gadgets, snappier apps, smaller faster more-virtual more-automated more-artificially-intelligent everything, really is a cause worth living for, really equates to a safer, greener, happier, better world. To paradise, and beyond…
One other thing. Doug Tompkins. Respect.