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TL;DR: At Reboot, we believe in aligning technological progress with an inclusive, democratic vision for the future. This is our raison d’être. Read our manifesto here.
Last week, venture capitalistpublished a piece called “The Techno-Optimist Manifesto.” It can best be summarized as an unapologetic rallying cry for the tech industry. He is for rule by technology, by markets, and by the gospel of growth. He is against efforts like “sustainability,” “trust and safety,” and “social responsibility”; which he describes as a “corrupt” “socialist” “anti-merit” “demoralization campaign.”
The piece reads more like a Trumpian stump speech than an essay, so I was initially reluctant to engage. But its popularity also reflects a real and rising turn in the political valence of Silicon Valley: a vision of technology that is not only disinterested in, but overtly antagonistic toward democracy, justice, collaboration, and the public interest.
Reboot’s mission is to reimagine techno-optimism for a better collective future. Yet we have more than a few divergences from Andreessen in how we approach it:
Many technologies have accelerated and will continue to accelerate human progress—a fact that many progressives underrate.
But optimism is an action, not a belief. Techno-optimism is faith not in technology itself—a dead object—but in our ability (as engineers, researchers, advocates, citizens, etc.) to build tools that advance our shared wellbeing. The former is humanism; the latter is dogma.
It is possible and desirable to align technology with other efforts toward social, political, economic, and environmental progress. This is the harder, nobler task: to create from within the world, not apart from it. Engaging with critique is is the only way we have ever gotten anything done.
This vision is articulated fully in Reboot’s manifesto, which we published for Kernel’s first issue in September 2021. I would probably make some small changes were I to write it today, but these high-level principles continue to motivate and guide our work. If you haven’t already—4000+ new subscribers have joined since then—I would love if you gave this essay a read or a share:
Toward a different kind of techno-optimism,
Jasmine & Reboot team