‘Thinkwashing’ Keeps People From Taking Action in Times of Crisis

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This is a serious shortcoming of this imaginary techno-utopia. But that doesn’t make these direct-to-air carbon capture efforts completely futile. While these machines cannot decarbonize on our behalf, they could be useful in a plan to reduce past emissions. However, as some are overestimating the potential for carbon sequestration, cynics may seem to rule out the premise prematurely. This is the cycle of the washing away of technopessimistic thinking: the oversimplified idea, the hype, a wave of denials. The brain of the galaxy quickly runs out and people move on to a new topic, at least until a strange new statement pulls them back.

A similar false dichotomy, between savior and despair, has occurred with numerous other technologies, such as the boom and fall of clean technologies in the early 2010s, hydrogen engines, and even the Covid vaccine. -19. In each case, the problem begins when the terms of the conversation are set by techno-optimists. “The techno-optimist has no vision for the future,” says Colin Koopman, head of the Department of Philosophy and director of new media and culture at the University of Oregon. “They take the present and project it into the future.” This makes technopessimists respond with the same certainty: they censor what does not work, what is not radical enough, what is a “distraction.”

These criticisms can be vital. However, in fact, technology is changing the world every day, for the worse but also for the better. With regard to climate change, the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported this spring that “we have the tools and knowledge to limit global warming”, a hopeful message, if only politicians could demonstrate their intention to ‘Act. This optimism is based, in part, on the real and rapid success of photovoltaic arrays for solar energy production, battery technology for energy storage, and related technological achievements over the past 20 years.

While certainty is comforting, both optimism and pessimism play with the nuance needed for progress. Allowing uninformed and unqualified speculation by billionaires to set the stage for such urgent discussions keeps concerned citizens on a hyper-realistic hamster wheel, away from real action.

Deliberation is important in public and private sector leadership. But action remains the goal. “For all the words, for all the goals, for all the, you know, moral entanglements” of the climate crisis, says Stuart Capstick, a senior researcher in psychology at Cardiff University, there is still an end result. To prevent deaths and mass destruction, we must decarbonize. There is a similar line for threats to democracy, human rights and other core values; complicate everything you want, we have to do something and we know at least a little how.

Unlike reflection, which helps people make the necessary compensations in the real world, the washing of thought causes a perverse paralysis of analysis. “The status quo with all its imperfections embedded and the damage,” says Capstick, somehow instructs progressives to “make the world a kind of perfect place.” But perfect is not the goal; better would be enough.

So how, exactly, should people reject the washing of thoughts, especially when it is so difficult to distinguish themselves from virtues such as healthy skepticism and due diligence? The answer lies in technopragmatism, a fusion of the philosophy of pragmatism (which states that the reason we think is not just to describe, but ultimately to predict, test, and act) with the beat of technological innovation.

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