This is a link to the Disney film Our Friend the Atom. Though it may look hopelessly naive, I truly appreciate the optimism that pervades the piece. I know that the breaking of each new technology is accompanied by a burst of enthusiasm. First steam, then electricity, then the atom, the gene, and finally the microprocessor. “Hey!” we think, “This is new and exciting, finally we have the technology that will solve all of our problems and thrust us into our utopian future.” Then there is an accident or a disaster and the optimism turns to despair.
Our problems won’t be solved by one new technology, but by the synthesis of several technologies. It will always be more complicated and come more slowly than we think. It’s up to us to stay optimistic despite the snails creep and the inevitable setbacks. What is true and what is useful? What provides the most good for the most people. These should be our core goals.
I am deeply inspired by Disney, especially the material created while Walt Disney was alive. Like all of us, he had his shortcomings, but he was a real futurist at his core. Disneyland may seem hokey today, but the ideas behind it are sound: a spirit of exploration, tolerance for all cultures of goodwill, and a deep-seated teleological optimism.
At some point, Disney stopped selling hope and started selling fantasy. When it did so, the soul of the brand died. Have you ever heard of Disney getting so excited about a new technology that they hired a scientist, published a book, and made a TV special about it? Neither had I.