I have my second essay up at Aeon Magazine, Deep Play. It’s an attempt at an impressionistic picture of how the world of innovation works. Here’s an extract:
The EMP Museum, the Gates Foundation, and the MOHAI form what I’ve dubbed the Titan Triangle of Seattle, a zone of violent urban terraforming. Sometimes, on my walks, an absurd image pops up into my head: Bezos, Gates and Allen standing like thousand-foot colossi at the three vertices, hammering away at the earth, with the ghost of Boeing looking on. Violence is the key word here. To scurry about within Titan Triangle is to be struck by the relentless violence — physical, financial, social, and psychological — of a process dubbed ‘creative destruction’. As popularised by the economist Joseph Schumpeter in the 1940s, this is the technology-driven unravelling and cohering of social orders in the human world.
But standing between the EMP Museum and the Gates Foundation, and taking in their opposing visions of innovation, I am equally struck by the fact that the transformative violence of creative destruction still appears to be governed by that apparently intractable question: how can you talk of colonies on Mars when there are starving children in Africa?
Billions of dollars are apportioned according to the logic of that question every year. And one has to wonder, do the financiers of creative destruction operate by better answers than the ones you and I trade at parties?
Without giving too much away, the essay tries to get at the fundamental structure of industrial-age innovation models using a happy/broken families metaphor, with some inspiration from Clifford Geertz’ notion of deep play.
And in case you missed it, here’s my first Aeon essay, American Cloud, which appeared earlier this year.
These pieces at Aeon have been an interesting challenge: trying to treat themes as complex as the ones I attempt here at ribbonfarm, but in a more accessible way for a mainstream audience. Tough game, since it means doing without random engineering metaphors or too much obscure conceptual scaffolding (the first draft of this essay was a cheerful mess of yin-yang references, genies in lamps etc. which I would likely have let through untouched if I’d posted here).
Am learning as I go along, thanks to my editor there, Ross Andersen.
No time for a full post this week, but this one should keep you busy.