Stop Worrying and Learn to Love Technology

From cell phones to 3D-printed guns, technology keeps making the world better.

Invent something and the first thing that goes through some people's minds -- especially politicians' minds -- is what might go wrong.

3D printers now allow you to mold objects right in your living room, using patterns you find online. It's a revolutionary invention that will save time, reduce shipping costs and be kind to the earth.

But what critics see is: guns! People will print guns at home! Well, sure.

On TV, Rachel Maddow sneered about "a well-armed anarchist utopia, where everybody fends for themselves with stupid-looking plastic guns. ... It's a political effort to try to do away with government."

Do away with government? If only we could do away with some! Big-government politicians and their cheerleaders in the media focus on threats posed by innovation because they fear loss of control. They move to ban things.

In Texas, Cody Wilson used a 3D printer to make a plastic gun. He called it "the Liberator" and posted its specs on the Internet. The State Department then ordered him to take the specs down. He did. But by then, 100,000 people had downloaded it.

Wilson takes pride in pointing out how his gun shows that gun "control" is an illusion. Being able to print a gun in your own home will render laws against purchasing guns unenforceable and irrelevant.

"I'm your full-service provocateur," Wilson told Kennedy, my TV show's correspondent. "Here's the printed gun. I'm not here to make you feel better about it. I'm here to say, 'Look, this space is occupied. Deal with it.'"

The "Liberator" didn't work well. It broke before Kennedy could fire a shot. However, printed guns will improve over time. Wilson's point: "prohibiting this is no longer effective."

Technological innovation constantly threatens centralized authorities.

Now we take the Internet for granted, but when it first became popular, people worried that it would mainly be used by terrorists, child molesters and money-launderers.

"Smash the Internet!" said a cover story in the conservative magazine Weekly Standard, illustrated with a sledgehammer smashing a computer screen.

Even today, after Google, Facebook, Wikipedia, eBay, Yelp, Craigslist, WebMD, YouTube and more have clearly made our lives better, Luddites in the media fret about problems.

"The Internet Is Making Kids Stupid" says PC Magazine. CBS's Bob Schieffer whines that in the absence of supervising editors, "ignorance travels as rapidly as great ideas."

There's some truth behind these complaints. The Internet does make some people isolated. It does allow ignorant ideas to spread. But so what? It also creates new forms of human interaction and allows the crowd of users to correct ignorant mistakes.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • DEATFBIRSECIA||

    Is this the same guy who said we don't have to worry about NSA spying?

  • OldMexican||

    Not exactly that. He said he worries less about that and more about government subsidizing alpacas.

  • Cytotoxic||

    Actually he said the War on Drugs is worse you disingenious turd.

  • Drake||

    I thought food trucks were the primary thing to worry about?

  • anon||

    No, no, we need tire pressure monitoring systems mandated on all vehicles by 2009.

  • Carolynp||

    If you don't trust the source, go ahead and worry about technology. And gravity! And microbiology! And a whole list of other scary things...be afraid, be very afraid.

  • UnCivilServant||

    My familiarity with technology is what breeds my contempt for it.

    It is too often bent to the will of some egotistical programmer who thinks they know better than I do how I should be using my stuff.

  • OldMexican||

    Re: UnCivilServant,

    My familiarity with technology is what breeds my contempt for it.


    "Back in my days, we used to open our cans of corned beef with our bear hands and not these fancy-schmancy electric can openers! Not that I don't know how to use them, of course!"

  • Cyto||

    Well of course, if you have bear hands pretty much anything can be opened by hand.

  • OldMexican||

    Re: Cyto,

    Well of course, if you have bear hands pretty much anything can be opened by hand.


    Yes, but would you then spit in the woods? Huh? Huh?

  • anon||

    Where does one obtain these bear hands outside of bear hunting season?

  • BakedPenguin||

    On the Internet, of course.

  • anon||

    Hey! You can't trick me! I'm not buying those Nigerian Bear Hands again!

  • BakedPenguin||

    Now who's scared of technology?

  • waffles||

    If you had used Google, you'd know there are no Nigerian bears.

  • SweatingGin||

    As an egotistical programmer...

    Not sure where I was going with that.

  • kinnath||

    Make it yourself then.

  • Carolynp||

    I was thinking the same thing: open source, argument settled.

  • Fluffy||

    It is too often bent to the will of some egotistical programmer who thinks they know better than I do how I should be using my stuff.

    What you have to realize is that the programmer is used to dealing with dumbasses.

    I've designed applications for users in more than one industry, and the user is almost always ONLY interested in duplicating their current workflow in a new technological wrapper.

    The whole concept of using the computer to replace what a human being does escapes most people EVEN NOW. Even Xers and Millennials. So the programmer, who knows what technology can do, has to step on the desires of the user, who (often enough to be critical to the outcome) doesn't.

  • Francisco d Anconia||

    Works the other way too. The engineer/programmer has no idea what else I'm doing at the time and doesn't take that into consideration.

    Had a programmer want me to run through drop-down menus while flying an aircraft on a bomb run.

  • PD Scott||

    "Isn't that what the autopilot is for?"

  • Francisco d Anconia||

    The autopilot can't look out the window and tell me if I'm being shot at.

  • ||

    Sure it can; it just requires sensors & some SW to process the incoming data.

    Which I'm sure is happening on various warplanes; probably doesn't even require that the pilot checks the "evasive action" selection box.

    Of course there's an arms race going on between the guns, bullets & targets.

  • Francisco d Anconia||

    :-)

    Got all that. Doesn't mean I don't look outside. Surviving combat is never about having one tool (Romulan Cloaking Device) that provides total security. It's a culmination of many individual efforts each bringing it's own little piece to lower the probability of dying. It's all about reducing probability.

    Sensors are only good for the threats they were designed to detect. One looking for a tracking radar does nothing to defend against an IR threat. Having a system that does everything costs way too much and would be frowned upon by many commenters here for that reason.

  • ||

    Isn't that what the autopilot is for?

    That drunk!?

  • fold_left||

    Gen "Z", the Xers kids, are another thing altogether, IMO. I think a lot of them don't make much of a distinction between the digital world and the "real" world.

  • OldMexican||

    CBS's Bob Schieffer whines that in the absence of supervising editors, "ignorance travels as rapidly as great ideas."


    I saw Stossel's show last week, and that quote from Schieffer made me laugh out loud. Schieffer laments that because of the internet we don't get only the information we should receive from our more knowledgeable betters - like him, for instance.

  • Raven Nation||

    I don't remember the details now, but about 18 months ago, Schieffer was being interview by someone and some story came up that had been making big waves in conservative & libertarian circles. Schieffer had not even heard of it, presumably because it had not bene reported in his favorite places.

  • Doctor Whom||

    In the good old days, we relied on the mainstream media to let ignorance drown out great ideas.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Technology and scientific advance have done great things for humanity in general and could take us to something very like a post-scarcity society. We need to do everything we can to encourage such advances. Really, I don't entirely understand why the left is so often technology-adverse, as it's the obvious solution (in the long run) to their stated concerns about poverty.

  • SweatingGin||

    The concerns aren't about poverty, but envy and control. Everyone being poor together would be just fine.

    Neo-ludditism should get interesting in the near future, especially with 3d printing and bitcoin. Can't wait to see the progs start railing against those.

    Reading Postrel's "The Future and Its Enemies" right now, very interesting that some of the fights from '96 are still very relevant. It's like the crypto fights paused, but are right back.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Yeah, I agree. That's why I said I don't "entirely understand."

    I thought VP's division between stasists and dynamists was a useful one for some purposes. I found that more interesting than her later focus on aesthetics.

  • SweatingGin||

    I'd say it's very useful, really shows up a lot today.

    It's funny, too, with things like a journalist shield law being debated. Which would serve entirely to protect the incumbent media.

    Oh yea... and all these new technologies will take away JERBZ!!

  • kinnath||

    New technologies always make winners and losers out of different kinds of people.

    New technology tends most often to make losers out of the people at the bottom of the stack. Work that involves rote repetition is a prime target for automation.

    Even worse, it makes winners out of the nerds and dweebs that design and build and use technology. That offends both brute labor and talentless philosophers.

  • anon||

    it makes winners out of the nerds and dweebs that design and build and use technology.

    Did nobody tell them that nerds and dweebs have been winning for at least the past 100 years?

  • kinnath||

    It is something that most of them start to figure out a short while after departing compulsory education at the age of 18 or so.

  • Brett L||

    And then they marry hot chicks and make pretty, vapid children. Except the Dysons. Their genius appears to breed true.

  • kinnath||

    My kids are not vapid. We made them live a "lord of the flies" type existence from a very early age.

  • np||

    Even worse, it makes winners out of the nerds and dweebs that design and build and use technology.

    The meek geeks shall inherit the earth.

  • Anomalous||

    "...but not its mineral rights."
    - J. Paul Getty

  • Lord at War||

    In a 3 X 6 plot, just like everyone else.

  • Cytotoxic||

    It's odd since a dominant strain of Progressivism is very fond of Technocracy, where experts determine how much salt you take in. I guess they're only opposed to technology held outside the government.

  • Francisco d Anconia||

    I don't entirely understand why the left is so often technology-adverse, as it's the obvious solution (in the long run) to their stated concerns about poverty.

    Technology requires energy. Energy kills Gaia.

  • ||

    They also have some weird romantic notions about blacksmiths, buggy whip manufacturers, and manual labor. Technology sometimes makes an unskilled or low-skilled job redundant, and that's just horrible to the left because they think everyone should own their job and get to do it forever no matter how pointless it is. The only proper way to get rid of a job isn't with cold heartless technology, but via a committee of cold heartless bureaucrats.

  • Smilin' Joe Fission||

    It really is a philosophy that having a job is all that matters. It does not matter if it is an awful job that is low skill low wage, it only matters that they can say that that person has a job.

  • ||

    It does not matter if it is an awful job that is low skill low wage

    Yes it does matter that the job should provide a living wage.

  • Mickey Rat||

    They also think that work has inherent value, no matter what is being put to. They find the idea that not all work produces similar value emotionally distressing.

  • Gorilla tactics||

    it's a vestige from their marxist days, which in turn is a leftover from Adam Smith (he was wrong about the labor theory of value).

  • mtrueman||

    I'm not sure where this idea that leftists are technologically adverse comes from. Where Leftists have held the most sway, Stalinist Russia and Maoist China, there was a positive mania to develop technology. Tens of millions died as a result of the enforced industrialization of agriculture. I'm a little surprised that readers here need to be reminded of this.

  • mtrueman||

    "I don't entirely understand why the left is so often technology-adverse"

    Can't answer for the left, but my problem with technology is that it almost invariably leads to intensification of energy use, and greater division of labour.

    And I'm not convinced that technology will lead to a post-scarcity society. We already produce more food than at any other time in human history, or pre-history, yet the number of undernourished has also never in history been higher: almost a billion or one in eight, I believe. Scarcity of food is not a technological problem. It's a problem of distribution, even, most notably, in India which has enjoyed relative peace, a functioning democracy and Liberal economic policies for decades.

  • OldMexican||

    The Internet does make some people isolated. It does allow ignorant ideas to spread.


    For a moment there, I thought that Stossel was talking about high school...

  • anon||

    I think it's an argument worth exploring. We can point to a million terrible ideas that just won't die today.

    Good ideas usually displace bad ideas though, unless it's politics we're talking about.

  • Raven Nation||

    OT: it's from Team Red's cheerleading news source but, if true, the Libyan fallout just gets better:

    http://www.foxnews.com/politic.....urces-say/

  • The Rt. Hon. Serious Man, Visc||

    What difference, at this point, does it make?

  • Smilin' Joe Fission||

    I looked at the comments.. my eyes burn. TEAM is in force.

    OBAMA took the richest country in the world, with the most freedom and turned into a 3rd world Marxist Regime.

    This guy doesn't realize that every president has been doing this for decades. Obama just makes it obvious because if his lack of leadership abilities and overall incompetence.

  • Pro Libertate||

    If the GOP weren't complicit, they'd have gutted Leviathan when they were in total control of the government from 2001 - 2007.

  • Smilin' Joe Fission||

    Exactly. I really don't know how these TEAM RED guys can honestly make the argument that the majority of repubs would actually cut anything if in charge. They are as big a statists as TEAM BLUE when they have the power.

  • Drake||

    Yep. The GOP was just slightly lighter on the government accelerator. Hardly a big sales pitch.

  • Pro Libertate||

    The only thing they have in their favor right now is that some of them are making the right noises. And those are mostly people who weren't around for the last round of Full Republican Statism. Even so, I don't trust the current party leadership even a little bit, and the fact that Boehner and McConnell are the GOP leaders in the houses shows that the libertarian arm ain't calling the shots.

  • anon||

    Even so, I don't trust the current party leadership even a little bit, and the fact that Boehner and McConnell are the GOP leaders in the houses shows that the libertarian arm ain't calling the shots.

    If I were a Republican congressman/senator, it'd give me great joy to tell either of them to go fuck themselves.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I think I'd have custom T-shirts made to that effect.

  • Carolynp||

    Looks like that is precisely happening.

  • From the Tundra||

    They aren't calling the shots, but at the same time, the current leadership is looking pretty bad. All the attention on focused on the wacko birds. Anecdotal, of course, but I've been shocked at the response of the hard core righties that I work with. They are, to a man, cheering on Paul and the rest. Interesting times.

  • Pro Libertate||

    No, there's definitely a sea change and a power struggle going on. Who will prevail is anyone's guess, but the real opportunity is with the limited government folk. There's some weariness with the way Washington operates, even among nonconservatives and nonlibertarians.

  • BakedPenguin||

    The fact that libertarian Republicans are being elected is a good sign. Paul and Cruz are obviously positioning themselves for Presidential runs in 2016, and, depending on how the primary shakes out, a Paul / Cruz (or Cruz / Paul) ticket isn't a fantasy.

  • From the Tundra||

    Yeah, but eventually someone will have to derail the Free-Shit Express. Might be better to load up the house and senate first...

  • Raven Nation||

    Yeah, it's interesting the level of disillusionment with the GOP on the part of Republican voters; not total or even majority but certainly high. I think there were studies in 2006 that a lot of the reason the Ds won congress was b/c Repub voters stayed home. I think it was also a factor in some of the support for RP last year. Sadly, a lot of Republican voters think that re-inventing the party means voting for someone with a mentality life Santorum's.

    On the other side of the aisle, I don't see a lot of Democrats criticizing Obama or giving up on the party. Having said that, the public attacks on Bush came AFTER he left office so maybe that will happen with Obama.

  • ||

    I don't see a lot of Democrats criticizing Obama or giving up on the party.

    To the extent you ever do, it will be to take him to task for failing to seize enough power and ram through his will on this unwashed den of swine who never deserved his excellence. What has Obama done that would piss off his supporters? I mean you're always gonna have the "Why the fuck didn't he burn down the white house, nationalize the oil companies, send the teabaggers to reeducation camps and publicly hang the Banksters?!?!" types. But in terms of what is reasonably achievable for a president, there's not much to criticize him on if you're the type of totalitarian scumbag for whom the advancement of the state above all else constitutes "progress".

  • Smilin' Joe Fission||

    PM, could you please remove your email address link from your username. It is messing with everyone's reasonable. Replace it with a link to a website or something.

    Thanks.

  • Carolynp||

    I'm sick of this argument. Bottom line: Obamacare/socialized medicine is the far end of opposite of what libertarians want. If we have any hope of getting rid of it, we must back Republicans. Doesn't make me happy as a twenty five year libertarian, it's simply the truth. Last year many of us blindly repeated this tripe about how there is no difference between Republicans and Democrats and guess what? Next week Obamacare is slated to begin. That's the freaking ballgame for statists. You gave them the win because you want to bitch about things that are unimportant. Socialized medicine here in Oregon sends out questions about whether or not you own a gun and asks about your sexual practices, among other things. Do you think government under the Republicans was intrusive? You ain't seen nothing yet. So, hey, keep voting for Democrats because they seem young and cool, but quit whining about big government when you're complicit in your own demise.

  • Being Waterboarded||

    I see the fear of the internet by our betters as analogous to the fear of printing Bibles in languages other than Latin by the Catholic church in the middle ages. Ignorance of the masses makes for a more malleable populace. The reformation of the church is similar, in some respects, to the liberation of information (owed largely to the internet) in many middle eastern countries and its correlating effect on civil disobedience and uprising. It does not good to those in power for their subjects to be learned - regardless of whether the powerful are Popes or Emirs.

  • Being Waterboarded||

    *It does no good

  • Carolynp||

    That is a perfect analogy.

  • Francisco d Anconia||

    Have I mentioned I like Stossel?

  • ||

    He is fabulously mustachioed.

  • Francisco d Anconia||

    And a snappy dresser.

  • ||

    Inb4:

    "ARPANET! WHERE IS YOUR GOD NOW LIBERTARDIANS!!! HURRRR DURRRR"

    I think Tony's too preoccupied with the gay marriage thread. Shreek, you up to it?

  • Jordan||

    Shriek is too busy lobbying to turn health insurance companies into public utilities to bother popping in here.

    BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT AUTHENTIC CLASSICAL LIBERALS DO

  • ||

    "The Internet Is Making Kids Stupid" says PC Magazine. CBS's Bob Schieffer whines that in the absence of supervising editors, "ignorance travels as rapidly as great ideas."

    Yeah, it must have been great living in the good ol' days before the internet, when no one was ignorant, and everyone agreed on everything important. You know: like during the red scare, before and during the civil rights movement, Vietnam, etc. Not an ignorant thought or ill-informed voter to be found in those days.

  • Smilin' Joe Fission||

    Brian, could you please remove your email address link from your username. It is messing with everyone's reasonable. Replace it with a link to a website or something.

    Thanks.

  • Smilin' Joe Fission||

    Brian, could you please remove your email address link from your username. It is messing with everyone's reasonable. Replace it with a link to a website or something.

    Thanks.

  • ||

    Really? In what way? How do I see this effect?

  • Smilin' Joe Fission||

    In the list of most recent commentators it replaces your name with a bunch of random numbers and symbols that span the entire bottom of the page. This just started on the weekend.

    I don't know what the squirrels did but something has changed.

  • Lord at War||

    Smilin Joe-

    How much is it worth to you?

  • Francisco d Anconia||

    Apparently there are still people out there mucking up Reasonable with their email associated monikers.

  • ||

    What's this Reasonable you guys keep talking about?

  • Francisco d Anconia||

    It's an extension for Chrome written by, I believe, one of the commentariat, to interact with Reason and provide more blogging enjoyment.

    It's initial purpose was to block trolls back in the Mary Stack/White Indian days but it does other things like highlighting the new comments each time you reload so you can immediately see new responses. It provides a history box that shows what threads you've responded to and it shows who the last five commenters were (that's the part that is fucking up BTW). It provides link quote bold italic and strike buttons so you don't need to type in the ASCII codes to get bold and italic... You can unthread the comments if you'd rather see them by time stamp...

    Once you use it, you'll miss it if you don't have it.

  • ||

    Thank you.

  • ||

    Where can I get this reasonable?

  • Brian||

    Apparently there are still people out there mucking up Reasonable with their email associated monikers.

    That's always my favorite response to a bug: just tell the users to use around it.

  • lap83||

    I hate luddites, don't get me wrong. But I'm not in the "all technology is indisputably awesome" camp either. Such an absolute statement about a broad subject is going to be severely lacking in critical thought or wisdom.

  • Carolynp||

    I keep wondering why we could possibly still be debating gun control. If I can make it in my home with my handy dandy printer, you aren't going to prevent me from having a gun. Debates over.

  • amyebrinton||

    my buddy's half-sister makes ,$77, every hour on the computer. She has been unemployed for 8 months but last month her income was ,$21889, just working on the computer for a few hours. Check Out Your URL....

    http://www.Works23.com

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement