Britain Needs Techno Dynamists

In an excellent column for CityAM today, Stian Westlake makes the argument that optimists need to run the economy in order to foster economic growth. This is an argument that I have been making for years and in various forms. It is the same argument that the prescient Virginia Postrel made in her 1998 book The Future and its Enemies. Optimists and risk takers, often one is the same, are the future of business, technology, industry, education and everything in between. Let’s take a quick look at why this is so.

Even in these times of economic recession, we are experiencing greater wealth, prosperity and human health than ever before. But pessimists, and even nostagists as Stian puts it, are the naysayers and fearmongers of their time. In the digital policy world that I deal in, there are many who create fear and warn us that technology and what humans do to it is evil. One only has to look at Tim Wu’s book The Master Switch or Evgeny Morozov’s The Net Delusion to see a common narrative that technology is something that needs to be overcome and is force for evil first unless it is controlled. The current debate on privacy and data protection has an equally ominous tone.

But I am an optimist and, more importantly, I believe in the messy, decentralised world of experimentation, risk, failure and success. This is what Virginia describes as dynamism:

“…an open-ended society where creativity and enterprise, operating under predictable rules, generate progress in unpredictable ways. Dynamists are united not by a single political agenda but by an appreciation for such complex evolutionary processes as scientific inquiry, market competition, artistic development, and technological invention. Entrepreneurs and artists, scientists and legal theorists, cultural analysts and computer programmers, dynamists are the party of life.”

So I’d like to commend Stian and his excellent column today. He is a dynamist and doesn’t know it yet. Let’s hope his column starts a new narrative of techno-optimism.


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