Will Populism Kill Your Jetpack? The Atlantic, 2016.
Co-authored with Scott Smith, this essay questioned what technological futures might look like under the incoming populism (and nationalism) of American and British politics.
Nations have long shaped the directions in which technology and innovation travel. State-sponsored science conducted during the Cold War became soaked in the ideological goals and technical requirements of its political masters. In the United States, Cold War politics became embedded into the development of radical computer technology which controlled air defense, strategic early warnings, and nuclear response. Soviet computing also developed so as to favor military applications over civilian use. While technology policy can’t create a tabula rasa to sketch on, it does offer up nudges, incentives, and steerage points across the messy landscape of relationships between industry, government, and universities that sit inside a nation-state.
The hard turn toward futures past in Western politics signaled by the U.K. referendum and the U.S. election is already forcing a reprioritization of those visions. Preachings from the pulpit of populism promise to summon up a world that existed from the end of World War II until the tech boom of the 1980s: Here come dumb roads, steel bridges, and smoking factories, perhaps punctuated with a high-profile moonshot for national glory.