Technological Antisolutions

A Technological Antisolution is a product that attempts to replace boring but solvable political or social problems with a much sexier technological one that probably won't work.

Technological Antisolutions are everywhere because they allow us to continue living an untenable status quo. Their true product is not the technology itself, but the outsourcing of our social problems. They alleviate our anxiety and guilt about not being active participants in political change, and for their trouble, founders and investors are richly rewarded. [...]

There is perhaps no better example of technological antisolution than the self-driving car. American transit is a political crisis on so many levels. [...] This twice-daily society-wide masochistic ritual destroys the air quality in our cities, the psychological well-being of its participants, the physical spaces we inhabit, and the only wet rock capable of sustaining human life in an otherwise cold and unwelcoming universe.

We all instinctively know this is madness, and into this breach steps the self-driving car industry. They offer to leave our lives and our cities completely intact. They offer the status quo, but perfected. They offer convenience in exchange for political apathy and patience. Perhaps NPR can give you some tips on how to deal with your traffic-anxiety while you wait for self-driving cars.

Self-driving cars in which you sit in a personally owned consumer vehicle with no steering mechanisms and continue your life as before are a lie. They are not coming.

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17 Responses:

  1. Ridley says:

    Well crap.

    Technological antisolutions are literally the alpha and the omega of my job.

  2. dr_a says:

    this seems like something you;d find interesting.

  3. Bruce Elrick says:

    This puts the situation in the correct light.

  4. Bruce Elrick says:

    Learn about Man's Inhumanity to Man in real time:
    "There is even BanQu, a blockchain company that attempts to track every interaction anywhere on any supply chain in order to add transparency to the exploitation in global capitalist supply chains."

  5. tfb says:

    This is exactly right about climate change: we know what the solution is, but it's inconvenient, especially for plutocrats.   So an endless sequence of magic solutions which don't quite yet exist but somehow will exist soon enough is invented and we do nothing, and the plutocrats' piles of money increase endlessly.

    But the physicists should not be let off the hook for the fusion 'milestone': they know very well that the sense in which the thing has broken even is uninteresting: thermonuclear weapons have broken even, rather dramatically so in fact, for 70 years: we know we can make energy-positive inertially-confined fusion systems, the problem is making an energy-positive system which does not involve demolishing cities, and this is nowhere near being energy-positive at that level.  They also know that inertial confinement is very unlikely to be a practical answer to fusion power: it is in fact a way of running the early stages of a thermonuclear weapon without actually testing a weapon, dressed up as 'fusion power research' because it is easier to get funding for that.   But just because it is easier to get funding, they, or their publicity department, produced a bunch of misleading press releases which lots of journalists ate whole.  The actual physics people involved could have, and should have, stood up and said 'actually no, this is bullshit, we apologise for our PR department who we will vapourise forthwith with our mighty lasers' ... but they didn't because of all the lovely funding.

    • Hauke says:

      Your first paragraph was spot-on.

      And then you went and spoiled it all - nuclear fusion is exactly the topic of TFA, the prospective silver bullet that will allow us all to carry on just as we have before.

      Thumbs-up for both.  ;)

  6. No, the biggest tech anti-solution is going to be the "smart refrigerator". offering no advantages over a traditional fridge, it just exists to serve you ads and conduct additional surveillance of you, for said advertising companies.

    Also see internet of shit of tiny computers being placed in household items. Very much reminiscent of radium in the 1900s/10s

  7. Anand R says:

    License Plate Readers to stop(?) burglaries.

  8. Mike Hicks says:

    Maglev trains are a good example of a near-fantasy carrot diverting attention away from more practical solutions. A tiny few have been built, but not many. And the vaporware of the hyperloop was basically an iteration on that

  9. anon says:

    What I hate from these days is the obxinious way in which they put pressure on you to use the internet, or even worse a mobile phone in order to being a functional citizen. I like computers, but it's not holy mandatory to strap all your life and your problems in a sand machine. My country has started to use digital IDs and I will reject it until my last breath, it's not only about having a propietary black box of the government on the all-sensing machine, it's also about what will happen the day when I don't carry a phone because I don't fucking want? Will I be less citicitizen than any other just because I don't have a phone? And this is the point when that "tech modern solution" becomes a n anti-solution for elderly people, poors and pessimists like me that originally didn't exist, because the government won't give you the phone that make you a citizen, will they?

    Don't forget that many of those anti-solutions are only made to seduce their boss, then, get a raise and get the fuck out of there, leaving that "anti-solution" planted in the society like a plague

  10. Emma H says:

    I am more than a little amused, after looking at the shape of the URL for that post you linked, and confirming my suspicion that the URL would not load if one turns off JavaScript.

    • tfb says:

      I don't think JS is an antisolution.  It's very not perfect, and it's not a solution to any really significant problem, but it is a solution to programmability & interactivity in browsers, which is something you kind of want: a static web would be, well, like it was in the early 1990s.  I mean, we could have had browsers where all the interactivity was Java, which would just have been so much worse.

      But perhaps that is not what you meant.

      • k3ninho says:

        It's a political act to force "Scheme in C++ drag" on an unwitting web-developing public.


        • tfb says:

          I wish people would stop with the whole 'JavaScript is Scheme in drag' thing. Does JS have tail-call elimination as part of the language?  no.  Does it have call/cc?  no. Does it have conses as a fundamental type in the language? no.  Does it have a prototype-based object system? yes.  Does it try to do even slightly correct arithmetic? don't be silly.  And so on.

          As best I can tell JS was designed by somebody who had probably seen Scheme and thought he knew what it was about ... but didn't.

          (Obviously at least one person here knows more about this than me: perhaps Eich knew more about Scheme than I assume he did, but fuck all of that ended up in JS.)

  11. Quintessentially says:

    Also see atmospheric carbon capture (well, really any carbon capture; it's always more efficient to leave in the ground where it's already stored).

  12. thielges says:

    Chinese auto maker BYD says AVs are impossible:

    “fully separated from humans is very, very far away, and basically impossible.”  

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