We get what we want

“If we value democracy, if we want to live in a world marked by a vibrant public sphere that can generate the possibilities of hope and human betterment, then we need futures. Without futures, and without serious propositional clashes between different materialized futures, we have no politics, and we have no democracy. We merely have millimetric policy disputes that end up as the technocratic attending to marginally different versions of the status quo.

“We can sense these dangers at the moment when we look at the state of our increasingly illiberal democracies. The problems mount: from climate change to spiraling inequality; from crumbling infrastructure to a surveillance state that has no bounds. Yet, our political culture is fixed and frozen.

“As such, we find ourselves in a culture that can happily spend $250 million dollars per Hollywood movie to create the next sci-fi fantasy but finds it is beyond its imaginative capacities to design superb, sustainable, public housing. We can build fabulously elaborate multiplayer online fantasy games, where gamer avatars can have sex with their elf girlfriends, but providing web platforms that give working people more democratic control over their workplace is a fantasy too far. The potential of self-driving cars or the rise of Artificial Intelligence can be endlessly debated. But the idea that we might be able to regulate our financial institutions is presented as a process as mysterious, dangerous and futile as the attempt to locate Lord Voldermort’s horcruxes.

“Yes, there are future visions still engaged with in mainstream political debate. But what are they: The endless continuation of the neo-liberal present; apocalyptic modes of environmentalism; dystopian fears of the return of the caliphate. We can do much better than that.” – Damian White, “Critical Design and the Critical Social Sciences”

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