I often find myself in the company of utopians. The most common on campus are the social-justice types: history’s on our side, folks, and it’s coming to an end… It’s progressive Stanford, proud home of the pseudo-Hegelian, and while Hegel has no place in the histories they’ll write, they will follow him, misinterpreted, to the end of time. Naturally, this being Silicon Valley, you also meet the transhumanists—true believers not just in our world’s perfectibility, but in the perfectibility of the body, mind, and soul (in a purely scientific sense, of course). Then, near and dear to my heart, we have our communists and communistically-inclined, pinning their hopes on the distant Revolution and a new world order. There are many more such groups at Stanford, but you get the main idea: I’m surrounded by lovely, well-meaning Teleologists. And they’re from all over the ideological map.
Every Google search leaves you on the losing end of a simple, painless transaction. Unless you’re the tape-over-the-webcam type, you probably don’t spend much time thinking about your place in the twenty-first century barter economy, but the billionaire playboy who runs your search engine isn’t the President of a charity. In exchange for your quiet acquiescence, you get access to the largest store of knowledge in human history: fully searchable, at a price unknown, under the all-seeing eyes of Sergey Brin and Larry Page.
I have a weakness for protest art. I’m one of the few remaining fans of Phil Ochs, arguably one of the greatest protest singers of all time. Sixty years ago, he had a friendly rivalry with Bob Dylan. To our generation, he’s virtually unknown.
A few months ago, a few friends and I watched the first launch of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy. Half of us were transfixed. The other half thought we were wasting our time. The difference between the two camps usually comes down to whether space exploration itself is a waste of time. The first looks to space and sees nothing, but the second looks up and sees endless possibility.