See, Neal Stephenson gets it. Here’s a link to his Innovation Starvation articled in Wired last year.
Everything we are doing as a society is towards limiting failure. However, we are on the verge of a rupture. A glitch in a systematized culture. Where we realize we have nothing left to lose, or if we have anything to lose, it’s worth giving up for something more important. I see our culture as being afraid of risk because it would mean giving up the very little success that was in itself difficult to achieve in our current economic climate. I see OWS as a hyper-aware reaction to the stagnation of our culture insofar that we no longer care about the level of sacrifice required because the alternative is too soul crushing. It is a realization that our culture is about to plateau and we long for something more than the bottom line.
We are prepared to embrace the uncertain, luck, chance, mistake, failure once again. That is the opposite of the New Aesthetic. The opposite of the singular computer vision systematizing everything and quashing all difference.
Excerpt from his Interview with Buzzfeed:
Last year you wrote about how we weren’t making any serious effort in the way of innovative new space launch schemes. Have your thoughts on this changed at all with developments like SpaceX and more interest in commercial space travel?
What they’ve achieved is really spectacular. I don’t think anyone can appreciate just how difficult it really is until you’ve been inside on a development project like that, so it’s an awe-inspiring thing that they’ve done. I’d like to see people exploring other options besides chemical rockets, but there are a lot of obstacles to doing that — to make a long story short those obstacles boil down to our attitude toward risk as a society.
What’s our current attitude toward risk?
I think we’ve become far more averse to risk than earlier generations were — and people have become conservative about trying to fund and explore new ideas in a way that’s becoming a serious problem for us.
Why do you think it’s such a serious problem?
That’s an interesting thing to think about. I don’t claim to have the answer — one take on it is that 50 years ago we had very limited access to information compared to the way things are now. Even the best informed decision makers were operating in a vacuum, and they knew it. They knew they had to accept a certain level of risk and make some judgment calls — and that their bosses or people responsible for evaluating them had to just accept that.
And you think the Internet is to blame?
The Internet has created a situation that we at least have the illusion that we can get unlimited information about anything now — and it may have fostered the attitude that if you take a risk and it doesn’t pan out, you should have known it, and you’re personally responsible.
So you think we were more innovative before we had all this information at our disposal?
Yes, I think that naiveté can actually have some advantages, in a strange way.