Chuck Klosterman: “I think that most technology is positive in the short term, and negative in the long term. I wonder, if somebody looked back at the 20th and 21st centuries a thousand years from now, what their perception of the car would be. Or of television. I wonder if over time, they’ll be seen as this thing that drove the culture, but ultimately had more downside than upside. When you think about it, cars are the most central thing in America, in a lot of ways. They’ve probably influenced the way we live more than anything else, and yet every really big problem—whether it’s the environment or who dictates the international economy because of oil—is all tied to cars. Ultimately, cars are bad for civilization. I don’t know if they’ll end us. That’s always the thing when somebody asks you if something is good or bad. You say something is bad, they’ll be like, ‘Oh, you think that’s going to end society?’ No, but something can be bad without ending society!”

Text Patterns

May 26, 2010


  1. It would be better to say that cars are bad for civilization in certain ways. The ascendancy of certain technologies produces both winners and losers, trading one set of problems for a different set. For example, with the rise of the combustion engine and the industrialization of agriculture, the risk of famine from drought has been substantially reduced worldwide. But, now some of us have too much food, along with all of the ecological costs associated with the product of combustion and the chemicals need to manage large agricultural monocultures. The key questions for using technology are: 1) is it sustainable?; 2) what are the trade-offs?

  2. I think that most technology is positive in the short term, and negative in the long term.

    I have no idea how to evaluate a statement like that, and neither does Klostermann. Have these technologies a net positive or negative in the long run?

    The printing press?
    The light bulb? Electricity?
    Steam engines?
    The stirrup? The inclined plane? The wheel?
    Zippers? Glass blowing? The transistor?

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