Are Hippies To Blame for Stalled Technological Progress?

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Oct. 10 2011 6:12 PM

Are Hippies To Blame for Stalled Technological Progress?

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A Greenpeace activist wearing a mask with a banned nuclear symbol takes part in a protest at Mexico Park against the use of nuclear energy

Photo by YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images

Over at the National Review, Peter Thiel, the founding CEO of PayPal and a confirmed libertarian, argues that technological progress in many arenas—travel and biotechnology, in particular—has stalled. Nothing new here, really; the fact that we now have fewer explosive new technologies (in both the literal and figurative senses) is well-covered territory.

Torie Bosch Torie Bosch

Torie Bosch is the editor of Future Tense, a project of Slate, the New America Foundation, and Arizona State that looks at the implications of new technologies. 

But Thiel has an eyebrow-raising explanation for this stalled progress. He blames the hippies.

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To be fair, he doesn’t say that conservatives are entirely innocent in this mired march toward the future. He writes:

Most of our political leaders are not engineers or scientists and do not listen to engineers or scientists. Today a letter from Einstein would get lost in the White House mail room, and the Manhattan Project would not even get started; it certainly could never be completed in three years. I am not aware of a single political leader in the U.S., either Democrat or Republican, who would cut health-care spending in order to free up money for biotechnology research—or, more generally, who would make serious cuts to the welfare state in order to free up serious money for major engineering projects.

But from whence did this unwillingness to trade today’s comfort for tomorrow’s breakthroughs stem? Liberals. Thiel writes, “Men reached the moon in July 1969, and Woodstock began three weeks later. With the benefit of hindsight, we can see that this was when the hippies took over the country, and when the true cultural war over Progress was lost.”

Thiel’s accusation comes not too long after a heated online discussion about which political party is more “anti-science.”

 

Read more on the National Review.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

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