Welcome to the New WIRED
In the next a few decades, almost every financial, social and government institution in the world is going to be radically overrun by one small but incredibly powerful device: the blockchain.
Do you believe that? Or are you one of those people who thinks blockchain and crypto growth is just a big, ten-year-old deceiver - the bastard baby of a Dutch tulip bubble, Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme, and the wackier fields of the libertarian website? More likely, you - like me - are not at any of these edges. Instead, you want someone to just show you how to think about the issue intelligently and with nuance instead of always falling into the binary trap.
Binaries has been on my mind since I took over the chair of editorial at WIRED in March last year. That’s because we’re at what feels like a point of inflection in the recent history of technology, when various binaries that have long been satisfactorily adopted are being questioned.
When WIRED was founded in 1993, it was a bible of techno-utopianism. We damaged and advocated inventions that we thought would reshape the world; they only had to be liberated. Our covers included the brilliant, redesigned, visually - and mostly rich, white and masculine - branches that shaped the future, reshaping human nature, and making everyone 's life more efficient and fun. They were bolder, more creative, richer and colder than you; in fact, they were already living in the future. By reading WIRED, we blocked it, you could join them there!
If that hope was binary 0, since then the sentiment has changed to binary 1. Today, a lot of media coverage focuses on the damage done by the amok tech industry. It has given us Tahrir Square, but also Xinjiang; the blogosphere, but also the manosphere; the endless opportunities on the Long Tail, but also the fragility of the gig economy; mRNA vaccines, but also Crispr infants. WIRED has not refused to address these issues. But they have made us - and I in particular, as an incoming editor - ponder the question: What does it mean to be WIRED, a technology - born publication to point out, in an age when tech is often demonized?
To me, the answer starts with rejecting the binary. Both optimistic and pessimistic views of tech miss the point. The lesson of the last 30-plus years is not that we were wrong to think that tech could make the world a better place. Instead, it is wrong that we thought tech itself was the solution - and that we would now be as wrong in treating tech as the problem. It is not only possible, but normal, for technology to do both good and harm at the same time. A circle of hype that makes billionaires scramble and leave a trail of failed companies behind can also lay the foundation for a lasting structural move (show A: the first dotcom bot). An online platform that creates a community and has helped oust dictators (Facebook) citizens can also capture people in group harmony and thinking and act as a tool for discrimination. As the famous F. Scott Fitzgerald put it, an intelligent person should be able to keep counterintuitive thoughts at the same time and still work.