Technology (14): Only Forward? Kevin Kelly on tech and cities as possibility factories

… for me, the only real case, or the only real evidence for what a world without technology looks like is the past and the few Hunter-gatherer tribes that we have remaining.

And they are, by every account, stained or influenced by modern times. Even the un-contacted ones are really hard to evaluate today in terms of what their lives are like. But from my reading they’re not noble, this is not a noble state. This is not an elevated, desirable state. I think a fair reading of it shows that they are really short lives, very, very tough, always hungry. They make do. They can be satisfied and comforted, but it’s not a place where you’d want to go.

It’s really – anybody today, anybody alive, you, me, any of your listeners, could buy a ticket to the Amazon somewhere and I would say within maybe three days, no more, you could certainly be in the most remote place on the planet and leave everything behind. And there’s nobody who’s doing that.

Nobody is going that direction. People by the hundreds of millions are buying one way tickets into cities. Why? Because there are choices. The problem with being Amish, the problem with being a Hunter-gatherer is that you have only one occupation. You have, if you were born with a natural ability for mathematics, the violin, ballerina, science, I don’t know, anything, you’re going to be thwarted. You’re going to have to still do what your dad did, or your mom did. You have no choices. You go into the city because even though you’re living in a ghetto, even though you’re living in poverty, you still have more choices than what you had living in your village…

So cities are possibility factories. And so people move there because there is some possibility that their unique set of talents can blossom… that they don’t have in the village.

They will suffer through those really dank quarters and that grime, where in the village, they had a beautiful view and they had organic food and they knew who they were and they have the support of the family. Why would they leave? They’re leaving to find themselves, to become something that they could not become in the village, to blossom with those unique set of characteristics that we get from technology. And that’s what technology gives us. It gives us more and more options.

And so, somewhere in the world… imagine Mozart being born before we had invented the symphony. What a loss! What a crime that would have been if he had been born before symphonies and [he’d ben born a] hunter-gatherer. We wouldn’t have that beautiful music – or Hitchcock with film.

That means that today, somewhere in the world, there was someone born whose technology we have not yet invented. Who’s going to be thwarted. Who’s waiting for us to invent that piano, who’s been waiting for us to invent that new thing, the book, whatever it is, so that their genius could come out and be shared.

So we have a moral obligation to make these new things, to increase the number of opportunities and to make sure that everybody has the basic ones of clean water and education, all of those basic ones so that everybody in the world born has a possibility to uncover, develop and share their genius.

Kevin Kelly on The North Star with David Perell

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