Evgeny Morozov

Of course, if one’s knowledge of history is reduced to tweet-length CliffsNotes, it’s natural to feel triumphant and unique, to believe one is living in truly exceptional times—an intellectual fallacy I call “epochalism.” It’s not a preserve of Internet optimists only; the pessimists love epochalism as well. After all, their criticisms matter only if the phenomena they are criticizing are seen as unprecedented. Thus, a self-proclaimed Internet pessimist like Andrew Keen can proclaim starkly that the growth of social media is “the most wrenching cultural transformation since the Industrial Revolution” without bothering to produce much evidence. Keen simply presumes that the unprecedented scale of today’s transformations is self-evident—a hallmark assumption of epochalism.

By presuming that we are living through revolutionary times, epochalism sanctions radical social interventions that might otherwise attract a lot of suspicion and criticism. But in truly revolutionary times, everything goes; why not model politics on Wikipedia after all? All this talk about revolutions is just a clever way of legitimizing radical agendas that few would accept in normal times. The paralyzing influence of epochalism induces passivity and limits our responses to change, for the unfolding trends are perceived to be so “monumental and inevitable that all resistance seems futile. It blinds us to the banal and highly fleeting nature of the “revolutionary” trends under consideration.

After all, it’s much easier to proclaim yet another digital revolution—and to coin a requisite buzzword—than to wait and see if the observed change, instead of being a complete overthrow of established practices and principles, is just a shift in order and magnitude. But the trickery doesn’t stop here, for the novel buzzword—coined only because we are apparently on the brink of a new era—is fed back into the system as a definite proof that the era is indeed new. Such circularity—whereby “the Internet” is seen as revolutionary because of Factor X, but Factor X is seen as revolutionary because of “the Internet”—is silly, but in an era of profound and revolutionary change, this passes for deep insight.”

Excerpt From: Morozov, Evgeny. “To Save Everything, Click Here.” PublicAffairs, 2013-01-17. iBooks.

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We treat the new revolution in technology as if it provides grounds for dismissing long established truths and principles.  Yet compared to the printing press, the internal combustion engine, flight, the auto, electricity, cellular technology, and nuclear power perhaps this new technology is not so ‘epochal’ as we think.  Perhaps is just a progression of technology from the pen to the printing press to the word processor and then to the text message.  However we apply technology to the same task we may be able to do it faster and wider but content still counts.  Technology has increased the ability to create solutions but it does not necessarily make it easier to assess the problem.

Morozov notes that we able to come up with solutions before we are clear about the problem.  We overcome imperfections that give life meaning.