neither helplessness nor unbounded enthusiasm

Nicholas Carr has a must-read note on technology which begins with a wonderful quote:

“Neither helplessness nor unbounded enthusiasm and indifference to consequences would have allowed humans to inhabit the earth for very long,” observed Bruno Latour in a lecture in Copenhagen in February. “Rather a solid pragmatism, a limited confidence in human cunning, a sane respect for the powers of nature, a great care invested to protect the fragility of human enterprise — these appear to be the virtues for dealing with first nature. Care and caution: a totally mundane grasp of the dangers and of the possibilities of this world of below.”

To which Carr adds “When technological progress comes to be seen as a transcendent, implacable force, a force beyond human fashioning, it begins to foreclose opportunities at least as often as it opens them. It starts to hem us in.” My own sense is that technology as either utopia or dystopia peaked a while back, but the point’s still worth making.

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