New World Same Humans #52 – Audio Version
|David Mattin||Feb 7|
Welcome to New World Same Humans, a weekly newsletter on trends, technology, and society by David Mattin.
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This newsletter is underpinned by a model of historical change. In short: new technologies collide with universal, and fundamentally stable, human needs. The results are emergent behaviours, attitudes, and modes of life.
The human needs I’m talking about are foundational; think security, convenience, and social connection. But when it comes to our shared future inside modernity, there’s one need that it always pays to remember: status.
All this came to mind this week. News arrived that Jeff Bezos is stepping down as CEO of Amazon, in part to focus on his space startup Blue Origin. The competition between Blue Origin and Elon Musk’s SpaceX is set to intensify, and it’s hard not to see, in all this, a particular kind of supercharged, Billionaire vs Billionaire status race. Bezos and Musk both want to be the 21st-century titan remembered for securing our off-Earth future. There can be only one.
All this might sound cynical. But I don’t mean to accuse Bezos or Musk of superficiality. The impulse towards status is about far more than simple showing off, or naked self-advancement – though they are real human impulses, too. Rather, it’s rooted deep in our shared nature, and is at heart about the need to be seen, to be recognised, by the collective. Hegel believed that this kind of recognition plays a vital role in the process via which each of us constitutes our sense of self; that none of us can really be a person at all without the recognition of others.
Most of us aren’t about to send a rocket into space. But we’re all, in our own ways, questing for status. What’s more, inside advanced consumerism that quest can explain much behaviour that seems strange, chaotic, or even self-defeating.
In the 2020s, emerging technologies will unlock new ways to serve this deep human need. As it always has, the status race will mutate, taking forms that are new and – from our vantage point now – strange.
If we want a glimpse of our shared future, we should seek to understand these changes. So this week, reflections on the past, present, and future of the eternal human quest for status.
Enough preamble; hit play!
Links in this week’s instalment
3. Wakefulness drug Modafinil produces measurable improvements in fluid intelligence.
4. In 2018 Chinese scientist Professor He Jiankui claimed to have created the world’s first gene-edited babies; he was later jailed for this work.
5. In the 2020s, we’ll see new forms of search for the Exit, including the Silicon Valley coder who pursues FIRE and then builds her own log cabin.
To infinity and beyond
Thanks for listening this week.
The 21st-century status race will continue to evolve around us in the years ahead. It’s the stuff this newsletter was made for: an age-old human story in collision with a hyper-technological world. I only wish I could travel forwards to 2121 and see how it has all played out.
In the absence of time travel, though, New World Same Humans will be watching every step of the way, for as long as humanly possible.
And right now, there’s one thing you can do to help our collective project: share!
Remember, our community becomes more useful to each of us as it becomes larger and more diverse. So if you know someone – a friend, relative, or colleague – who’d make a great addition, why not forward this email and encourage them to sign up? Or share New World Same Humans across your social networks with a note on what makes it valuable.
Remember, reading NWSH is the ultimate status play. I’ll be back on Wednesday. Until then, be well,