1/ The Twitter Wars of Elon Musk
Or, the Techno-Utopians vs. the Neo-Luddites

This is something I've been meaning to write for a while, watching two groups of people talk past each other - on many different topics, but perhaps no more than when the topic pertains to Elon Musk.
2/ These two groups people, on the face of it, have more in common than different. More often than not, they tend to be left-of-centre; believe in major global problems that need to be fixed (climate change, pollution, resource scarcity, etc); and want to be part of the solution.
3/ Yet they're constantly at each other's throats. Why?

On the pro-Musk side - and perhaps epitomized by Musk himself, you have the techno-utopians.


Techno-utopians see the solution to crises not as to sacrifice or revert, but to invent & move forward.
4/ There's all sorts of flavours of techno-utopianism - techno-progressivism (focused on achieving post-scarcity to eliminate unequality); technogianism (using technology to solve climate crises); transhumanism (using technology to overcome human limits); and so forth.
5/ On the other hand, you have the neo-luddites.


Neo-luddites see some / many of the technological changes of the past century as causing the problems we're in, and deeply fear proposed technological solutions to them. Faced with a crisis, neo-Luddites
6/ ... tend to seek to revert to what they see as "older, better ways". The fact that most people haven't done so, seeing such reversion as a big sacrifice, is that they either truly don't understand how much happier they'll be, or they're bad people and deserve to be unhappy.
7/ To pick an example - transportation. A neo-luddite may seek a world with few or no cars, wishing everyone to take trains, walk, or bicycle. The fact that people today still choose cars doesn't mean that people like the convenience, speed, privacy, etc.
8/ Rather, people choosing cars is a symptom of cities not trying hard enough to get people to abandon their cars, and the people who still choose cars are bad people. Don't like public transit due to disease, safety, or inconvenience? You're probably elitist or even racist.
9/ Don't like the greater travel time and longer wait times? You just don't understand how much happier you'll be if you just slow down and go back to the technology of yesteryear.

Techno-utopians see the same problems, but arrive at completely the opposite conclusion.
10/ To a techno-utopian, such plans are the needless replacing of one problem with an even bigger one. That the ability to go where you want, when you want, quickly and cheaply, is otherwise known as "quality of life".

Cars polluting? Have them go electric. What about the...
11/ electricity? Clean it up too. Traffic? Move cars underground. Make them autonomous. Make them get to their destinations faster, ever faster, with ever less impact on the surface.

To a techno-utopian, the key word is not "sacrifice", but "evolution".
12/ The difference is stark even on small changes. Take personal rapid transit. Hey, public transit - neo-luddites should love it, right? Not at all! Small vehicles, privacy, quick, and direct to the destination sounds *suspicious*, like an attempt to divert money & attention...
13/ ... away from "known solutions that work today". That they must secretly be an attempt to kill public transit. The more they resemble cars, the more suspicious it becomes.

Name a topic, and the contrast is stark. Lithium produced from salars, just brine pumped up to the...
14/ surface of a dead lakebed and dried in the sun, is suspicious or bad because li-ion batteries are new and suspicious. Point out that there's far more nickel in them than lithium, and nickel becomes suspicious - even as they use stainless nickel alloys every day of their lives
15/ A techno-utopian looks first to see if there actually is a problem - a resource limit, a pollution or moral issue - and then looks to the next way forward, rather than immediately leaping back. Not enough salar lithium? Well, let's get lithium from clay!
16/ It should go without saying that neo-luddites generally see space as a waste of resources "when there's all these problems on earth to fix" - generally thinking little of the impacts satellites have on improving quality of life on Earth - while techno-utopians see it as a...
17/ ... solution for the problems of today and the even greater theoretical problems of tomorrow.

Perhaps the greatest conflicts spring up over the topic of wealth - despite both sides generally see income inequality as a pressing problem to fix.

Techno-utopians generally see..
18/ ... the problem as 'How to drag global living standards up to that of the rich via technological development', and see anyone who dedicates their capital (no matter how vast) towards that goal as being on the side of good.

Neo-luddites generally see any wealth as "hoarding".
19/ They typically view anyone who's wealthy to have either gotten it through Evil(TM), or to have inherited it from someone who got it through Evil(TM). It is insufficient to dedicate the money to good causes; the only way for a wealthy person to redeem themselves is to...
20/ instantly give every bit of it away - regardless of whether that's an efficient way to achieve goals, whether the person is actually spending luxury on themselves, or whether the assets are even liquid. Simply having the money is evil. Dumping it at once is supposed to...
21/ ... suddenly create goods and services for the poor using resources that would otherwise have been dedicated to goods and services for the rich - even if said individual was not actually consuming luxury goods and services, rather, develping technology and growing industries.
22/ This automatically sets up a massive conflict versus those with resources doing just that - having vast wealth and dedicating it to developing technology to improve the present and future.

To techno-utopians, such an individual is a hero.
To neo-luddites, they're a villain.
23/ Neo-luddites automatically believe the worst about, and attack, such indivuals - understandable, given their ideology. Techno-utopians, unsurprisingly, defend them. Neo-luddites often respond with a number of arguments. The first, and perhaps most common, being "bootlicker".
24/ That is, they view the defense as not being motivated by a shared ideology, but rather, wanting some sort of favour from the individual, because they're wealthy and famous. This is frustrating to techno-utopians, who rather simply wish to take part in building their future.
25/ The other reaction is simple frustration that such people even exist. Often one sees complaints about "weird nerds" - frequently encapsulated by sharing memes.
26/ The reality is that many indeed actually consider themselves - or were considered by others - nerds. For many, this was a source of bullying growing up - and such taunting can come across as more of the same.
27/ Regardless, said techno-utopian "nerds" generally have one simple coping attitude to such attacks, which is, "We'll build a better world without your help, full of technology you'll rely on, and you'll never thank us, but that's okay - it'll still be a better world."
28/ Due to opposing worldviews, conflicts will always spring up between techno-utopians and neo-luddites. But let's make sure that we at least understand the other's worldview.
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