The Deep Problem Techno-Optimism Doesn’t Want You To See

Alex Turner
8 min readNov 24, 2021
Photo by Vivek K on Unsplash

Imagine this: it’s the 1950s, you’re on your way up in the world, and you’ve won a prize. You get a choice between two: a cabin on an island, or a fancy, new-fangled dishwasher.

I like to think I’d choose a cabin by the sea any day of the week. But that’s me in 2021, when land is expensive and limited, much like my time — but technology is cheap and no longer novel. Back then, what would I have chosen? Household convenience, or an inconvenient household?

In The Cabin in the Mountains, author Robert Ferguson recounts this exact story of a friend whose great aunt in the end chose the dishwasher. She chose an up and coming tech solution for her family, a “labor-saving” step forwards, rather than what she perceived as a step back, an “infrequently used liability.” As the author reflects, that liability is worth millions today.

This story illustrates just how much life, and our values, have changed in a short space of time. Technology is more accessible and it races ever forward. So now let’s look forward too — to imagine the future.

It’s 2070. Autonomous electric vehicles are everywhere, including in the skies. Most homes have a charger point and are…