Tech Must Get Over Its Superman Complex, Or We’re All Screwed


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Detail from the cover of Yuval Noah Harari’s 21 Lessons for the 21st Century

Everyone in tech loves Yuval Noah Harari. This is cause for concern.

A year and a half ago I reviewed Yuval Noah Harari’s Homo Deus, recommending it to the entire industry with this subhead: “No one in tech is talking about Homo Deus. We most certainly should be.”

Eighteen months later, Harari is finally having his technology industry moment. The author of a trio of increasingly disturbing books – Sapiens, for which made his name as a popular historian philosopher, the aforementioned Homo Deus, which introduced a dark strain of tech futurism to his work, and the recent 21 Lessons for the 21st Century – Harari has cemented his place in the Valley as tech’s favorite self-flagellant. So it’s only fitting that this weekend Harari was the subject of New York Times profile featuring this provocative title: Tech C.E.O.s Are in Love With Their Principal Doomsayer. The subhead continues: “The futurist philosopher Yuval Noah Harari thinks Silicon Valley is an engine of dystopian ruin. So why do the digital elite adore him so?”

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What If Innovation Doesn’t Grow the Economy?


Joey Gannon | Flickr

We live in an era of stunning innovation yet stagnant growth. In Vox, Timothy Lee explores various ways to explain this “productivity paradox” (not to be confused with the other productivity paradox, the one that wondered why infotech wasn’t making the U.S. more productive). The conventional argument is that we’re measuring badly and failing to capture the positive impact of all those innovative ideas. Either that, or we’re over counting the amount of innovation that’s actually taking place and thereby expecting more growth than we’ve really earned.

But what if it’s an accurate picture, and somehow our innovations are actually holding growth down? The more productivity we eke out of traditional manufacturing jobs, the more people end up taking service jobs, which aren’t as optimizable. We end up in a society where “a small minority of people will produce the world’s material goods and automated services, while the rest of us are focused on providing personalized services to each other.”

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