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Balancing technological pessimism

Pessimists archive is a podcast that chronicles
pessimistic reactions to emerging technology as it was becoming mainstream.
Technology here is defined broadly, covering a broad range of topics: bikes,
coffee, pinball machines, vaccines, recorded music. The podcast is very
accessible, focused more on social and psychological issues and less on the tech

In response to unreasonable technological enthusiasm ever present in my
industry, I have myself tended towards pessimism. After we launched Cardboard,
my small HCI team in Google Research became the de facto home of VR at Google.
Once word got out, engineers and designers flocked to our ranks, self selecting
for interest in VR. Suddenly I was surrounded by hundreds of VR enthusiasts,
while I was skeptical about the vision of VR as “the last
and concerned about the social
implications of broad VR adoption.

I began to see myself as the tenth
posing the question: what if VR isn’t really a thing? I ended up much more
excited about Spotlight Stories
without a headset, thought a bunch about augmented reality through audio, and
became increasingly alienated from my colleagues gushing with optimism, rushing
home to play Vive games in their carefully instrumented basements. This podcast
would sure have helped me put my VR pessimism into perspective.

One critique I had of the podcast concept is hindsight bias. All of the
technologies covered by Pessimists Archive ended up being successful, and time
has proven the doubters wrong. But how many emerging technologies were
successfully booed out of existence, or simply rejected by the market? And how
many market successes come at a significant cost that prescient pessimists
warned us about? TV and smartphones come to mind.

That said, I highly recommend the podcast series. The episodes are short,
entertaining, and informative. I feel better equipped to recognize and overcome
the traps that ensnared previous generations of techno pessimists.

via : Boris Smus