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Is Technology A Bigger Story Than Donald Trump? (backchannel.com) 430

Steven Levy writes at Backchannel that "Technology and science is a bigger story than Donald Trump," arguing that regardless of who's president, future generations "will primarily regard these times as the era during which tech changed everything." Remember, there have been economic crashes and horrible wars throughout history. But people carrying supercomputers in their pockets -- supercomputers that change their lives hundreds of times a day -- is new and earth shattering... we are doggedly optimistic about the future, and how technology, with all its black mirrors, will make life better.
He ultimately calls the rise of tech "the story of our time" (although in a semi-related development, American researchers are now worrying about federal funding cuts). And Motherboard warns that with Canada's new push to attract foreign tech workers, "there's a very real possibility that the U.S. could face a brain drain as some of its top science and tech talent moves to greener pastures."
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Is Technology A Bigger Story Than Donald Trump?

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  • I sure hope so.
  • Yeah, no. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pushing-robot ( 1037830 ) on Monday November 14, 2016 @12:55AM (#53278905)

    Technology is a great enabler, but what changes society is who uses it and for what purpose.

    If you had to describe the 1940s in a sentence, it probably wouldn't be "A lot of important new technologies were invented."

  • Or even biological.

    Over the next 100 years or so computers will start to really think.

    What would they think about us?

    Why would they want us about?

    Would natural selection play the same role in shaping their moral values as it has in shaping ours?

    http://www.computersthink.com/ [computersthink.com]

  • Ask yourself (Score:5, Informative)

    by Chris Katko ( 2923353 ) on Monday November 14, 2016 @01:07AM (#53278959)
    Would people be running these stories if Hillary Clinton was elected?
    • Probably, why not? Some people seem to have a chip on their shoulder, they see any action as a repudiation of how they voted. However if Clinton had one there would still be stores, and protests. It's all the same in the long run.

      • The Political Left has only themselves to blame. They were the ones Trumpeting Trump as much as anyone in the beginning ... "Yes, PLEASE RUN!" thinking all along that he couldn't actually win anything. Then he won the Republican Nomination and they all thought "Great, this is great! We'll get Hillary!" And they echo chambered their rage and hatred of the "other half" of America. I mean, how stupid can you be to vote for Trump? Right?

        But the Left ran the one candidate with probably more baggage than Trump, a

    • Re:Ask yourself (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Monday November 14, 2016 @02:54AM (#53279233)

      Very likely we wouldn't. Clinton was the "normal" choice. Trump is the much more newsworthy one. As a European, I can only say thank you. Because we're facing the same problem the US is facing: Disenfranchised, disenchanted and utterly disappointed voters that have zero faith in its politicians, and who also think that the media are basically nothing more than a mouthpiece of "the establishment", who are basically doing the same that many Trump voters did: Vote for whoever, if necessary a dishwasher, as long as it's not a politician of "the system".

      This should now show us whether it makes a difference to vote for a loudmouth populist. It doesn't get any more loudmouthed or populist, and he has pretty much all the necessary means to do whatever he wishes to do to "fight the rotten system", both domestic and foreign.

      • by K. S. Kyosuke ( 729550 ) on Monday November 14, 2016 @03:57AM (#53279387)
        I, too, like social experiments. When they're performed on other nations.
        • I keep hoping one of the European countries implements a basic income system, so everyone else can see if it works well by freeing society from fear of abject poverty or implodes upon itself with overburdensome taxes on the most productive citizens.

          Hey, we've just launched a crazy four-year right-wing experiment here, so it's up to someone else to try some crazy left-wing experiment elsewhere. Let's help each other out here!

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

          It's a shame there wasn't longer between Brexit and the US election, then you might have had time to see just how badly that experiment is working out. Having said that though, the US is seeing the same immediate effects - open bigotry and bigoted attacks taking a sharp rise, people scrambling to protect themselves before it all goes to shit...

      • Except that 4 days after the election he appointed 100% career politician Washington insiders to his advisory team, dropped his guarantee of congressional term limits and backtracked on almost all of his major campaign promises. Good stuff, glad those people voted for a "non-establishment" candidate...
    • Yes. For the same reason that the steam engine was a bigger story than Abraham Lincoln, too. Individuals matter quite little in the long run.
  • Depends (Score:3, Interesting)

    by quax ( 19371 ) on Monday November 14, 2016 @01:11AM (#53278981)

    There are times when science and technology does not trump politics. Everybody knows Einstein but also Hitler.

    If Trump works within the system this will be but yet another presidency. This is what every American should wish for.

    If he on the other hand breaks the US Republic his name would live on in infamy.

    This unlikely to happen unless the rumor in intelligence circles is true, that the FSB managed to compromise him on one of his business trips to Moscow.

    • There are times when science and technology does not trump politics. Everybody knows Einstein but also Hitler.

      Everyone knows what Hitler did, do you think the average man on the street could name anything Einstein did? This audience obviously can, but I don't think Joe Sixpack could come up with anything other than 'maths' or 'physics'.

  • 100 years from now that phone in your pocket will be laughed at if some idiot stands up and makes the claims that the OP did.

  • by Ungrounded Lightning ( 62228 ) on Monday November 14, 2016 @01:26AM (#53279025) Journal

    Think about it:

      - Internet giving voters access to information outside the mainstream press filtering. Especially:
            - Wikileaks.
            - Snowden. (Driving dissatisfaction with the power structure on both sides of the asile.)
      - Social media organization/recruiting.
      - Jobs crash;
              - H1Bs replacing white-colars in tech.
              - Illegals replacing blue-collars.
              - Tech replacing more white- and blue-collars.
    And I could go on.

    • by jbn-o ( 555068 )

      A major expenditure for political campaigns is media buys—buying TV ads, for instance—but Trump was given billions of dollars in gratis TV coverage (1 [nytimes.com], 2 [marketwatch.com]). That's not "technology".

      Trump was up against a horrible Democratic Party candidate who built on a long line of screwing the poor and ignored the lessons of Brexit [theintercept.com]. As corporate media lined up to bolster her, enough of the Trump voters' interests were left out. While she got busy calling them names (like being a "basket of deplorables") poor

    • by houghi ( 78078 )

      Internet also makes it a LOT easier to spread propaganda and lies and blow things way out of proportion and give people much more attention than they should have, making them sound much more important than they actually are.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      The reason we have journalists is so that they can evaluate and filter information for us. While it sounds great to have all the information available, in practice what tends to happen is people believe false reports because they confirm their existing views.

      Wikileaks dump of unedited information lead to all kinds of conspiracy theories that turned out to be unfounded. Social media amplified rumours and outright lies. Unfortunately the media doesn't do its job properly either, having moved from largely repo

      • having moved from largely reporting news to reporting opinion.

        A particularly pernicious form of this is the insistence on reporting "both sides" under the guise of neutrality. Some times it works, but often it involves going whack-job or basically counter-factual to actually get the other side. There are not two sides in every debate and even when there are, the sides are not always evenly matched.

        Case in point, with Brexit, one "side" claimed that the 350 million a week would go to the NHS. The thing is th

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

          A criminal complaint has been submitted over that claim. I hope they proceed with it.

          This all goes back to the post-factual nature of our politics. There is no objective truth, facts are whatever you believe is true right now. Journalists are just as guilty, because they switched from factual reporting to opinion and so had to pretend those opinions were valuable and in fact more important than the facts, otherwise why pay for them when the facts are widely available for free?

          • by swb ( 14022 )

            This all goes back to the post-factual nature of our politics. There is no objective truth, facts are whatever you believe is true right now. Journalists are just as guilty, because they switched from factual reporting to opinion and so had to pretend those opinions were valuable and in fact more important than the facts, otherwise why pay for them when the facts are widely available for free?

            I would say we're post-truth, not post-fact. Everyone has facts, but even the facts themselves are often a lying-with-statistics variety, fragments of a whole selected to advance a cause. But even when verifiable facts are used, they're used selectively to manufacture a reality that isn't true but gains followers and can't easily be refuted because its assembled from facts.

            It's like two photos taken at a zoo. One photo is dominated by people with a few animals, one is photo is dominated by animals with a

            • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

              Interesting take on it, and I think I agree with a lot of what you are saying. Facts have just become tools used to create fantasy worlds, carefully selected or excluded as needs be.

              The worrying conclusion is that the only way to fight it is to do likewise and create other, more popular mythologies. Well, either that or let it get really bad like it did in the 1930s. You can't just point out how stupid any of it is, because it's more like a religion backed up by a holy book than a political philosophy.

              It's

            • by epine ( 68316 )

              So that's your photo carefully taken in one direction.

              But surely you've caught wind of the problem of false equivalency, where the second camera angle ends up being some convenient, attention-grabbing, shit-throwing monkey, who is only in it for the publicity, and consumes his dreary dinner only with relish for the opportunities it will soon create.

              if (p != NULL)
                  publish (*p + *q);

              What could possibly go wrong?

  • US or World? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by fermion ( 181285 )
    Depends if you are talking US or the world. The people who voted for Trump in the primary likely see technology as a threat. They are largely uneducated rural people who expect to be paid to mine coal even if no one wants it or assemble products even if a robot can do it better. Can you imagine what computers would be like if we were still forced to hand solder components because we were required to support semi-skilled workers? No surface mount.

    So even though the people who elected Trump is broader, t

    • It might eventually come to this, but I don't think it's there yet. I'm also not sure if it would be a bad thing to respond like that. If you can devastate civil life with something, be it technology or unfettered free trade, you're obviously going to want less of it. You'll want to tax it, regulate it, and otherwise encourage industry to do without it.

      Also, it might be time to accept that we Americans will never have an Unconditional Basic Income. It is incompatible with the American spirit to tax ourselve

    • I think you're missing the point.

      White, blue collar voters in the Rust Belt aren't blaming technology for the decimation of the American middle class, nor are these people the kind of stereotypical redneck hillbillies you seem to be implying they are. Folks in red states have cell phones too you know, and computers work just as well in rural America as they do on the coasts.

      But what's not working in rural America is rural Americans, and they're losing their jobs all over, not just in West Virginia coal min

      • White, blue collar voters in the Rust Belt aren't blaming technology for the decimation of the American middle class, nor are these people the kind of stereotypical redneck hillbillies you seem to be implying they are. Folks in red states have cell phones too you know, and computers work just as well in rural America as they do on the coasts.

        I''m not sure he meant that all people reasoned like this, but some of the more educated easily could have.

        But what's not working in rural America is rural Americans, and they're losing their jobs all over, not just in West Virginia coal mines. And these jobs aren't being replaced by technology; in most cases, jobs are getting shipped out of the country, to Mexico and elsewhere, because businesses can pay pennies on the dollar to workers in those countries versus what an American worker would make. Again, that has nothing to do with technology, but it is why white men and women in Wisconsin, Ohio and other formerly blue states voted for Trump by wide margins.

        Now you're even contradicting yourself! How could jobs be shipped out of the country if it weren't for cheap shipping (technology), computer-enabled business communication (technology) and long-distance electronic financial exchange (technology)?

        Globalization, free trade, NAFTA -- all of these bi-lateral international agreements aren't doing bupkis for the part of America where factories close and two-thirds of the town is out of work. Economists will tell you it's better to ship those jobs to Mexico and elsewhere because those places can make the same products for less money, and American consumers win with lower costs for goods on store shelves. But what the Rust Belts sees is that it doesn't matter if you can buy a pair of shoes at Walmart for $0.53 less if you don't have a job! And again, this is what's happening in all kinds of small towns all across America. When Hillary Clinton starts talking about trade agreements, all it does is piss-off people who already lost their job in the last round of trade deals. When Trump says he'll repeal NAFTA, white, rural America sees him as their champion.

        That's obviously short-term thinking on part of the Rust Belt because the living standards in "Mexico and elsewhere" are going to grow and the benefits of this

    • Can you imagine what computers would be like if we were still forced to hand solder components because we were required to support semi-skilled workers? No surface mount.

      I ordered a batch of populated circuit boards recently (they're yet to arrive---it was really recent). They're going to be hand assembled because I didn't order enough for it to be worth setting up the machines: there's the programming overhead for the machines, and the overheads of using more components since they have a minimum strip si

    • by guruevi ( 827432 )

      This is exactly why Trump won though, this "uneducated rural bumpkins" misinformation. You surely have never worked in rural areas, because they too have computers and Internet.

      Farms are no longer run by farmers, farmhands and maids nor horses and oxen. They are run by high tech, self-driving, GPS-guided farm equipment that can detect quality grades and ripeness of product. You don't touch those devices without at least an electrical or mechanical engineering degree. Planning a farm requires people with agr

  • As revolutionary, and as fondly remembered, as IBM's Hollerith computer in the 1930's.

  • Technology is a "bigger" story than, uh, Weefinger.

  • Just wait until computers drive trucks, buses and Ubers, and flip burgers.

  • ... when the drained brains are already unused because they've been replaced by H1Bs and are unemployed?

  • can we stop? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jarkus4 ( 1627895 ) on Monday November 14, 2016 @03:27AM (#53279303)

    Can we stop with all those irrelevant politics? Trump won, elections are over. When he starts doing something there may be topics for further discussion, but now its just a waste of time. While there may be some people that are still coping with the results, lets keep this stuff out of slashdo as its for tech stories not social studies.

    • by khchung ( 462899 )

      Have you forgotten /. live on clicks? Asking the editors to stop posting these is the same asking them to stop eating, unless you submit something even more clickbaity than Trump.

      Every year, just before Apple announced new iPhones, there would be articles after articles speculating what would be in the new iPhones, then after the announcement, there would articles complaining this change or that, and then in less than a month, there would be articles speculating what the *next* iPhone would have.

      These Trum

    • When he starts doing something there may be topics for further discussion, but now its just a waste of time.

      He is doing things right now. He's selecting transition team members. Hint: they are all scary AF

  • The web of red tape and do-nothing government design is bigger than Donald Trump if I had to specifically pick one thing.
  • by Goldsmith ( 561202 ) on Monday November 14, 2016 @04:28AM (#53279481)

    The NSF periodically puts out reports on science funding, which you can read yourself. [nsf.gov] Or, if you want the most relevant quote:

    ...the U.S. invests twice as much as any other single nation in R&D, despite slipping to tenth in world ranking of the percentage of its GDP it devotes to R&D. In 2011, the U.S. spent $429 billion on R&D, compared to China's $208 billion and Japan's $146 billion. Among other S&T metrics, the U.S. leads in high quality research publications, patents, and income from intellectual property exports.

    To put a little perspective on that, we spend $40 billion a year on startup companies.

    There are a few scientists who will leave the US because they get poached by governments abroad. That has happened already and would continue, no matter what we do. Our pie is the biggest, but we have a lot of people to feed. There are also scientists who will have to leave because of visa issues. That has been happening (a lot) anyway too. We've had a labor surplus in science in the US for a long time.

    The world will not end if other countries are allowed to be good at science. We will not implode if the government cuts science funding. As scientists, there are plenty of structural problems we can improve during a time of change.

    We rely too much on cheap academic labor. We no longer have a working system for transitioning young, high level scientists from training to independence. The government only funds about 1/3 of scientific work, but with the slow and continuing death of real commercial research, the government funds far more than it's share of these young scientists, and this puts stress on the whole system. In general, we have become bad at commercializing scientific work. From the cost to develop new pharmaceuticals, to clean energy, to nanotechnology, we have not delivered in the fields that were supposed to have application. We are now extremely bad at understanding how our work can be applied to everyday life in a non-threatening way (think GMOs...). Our professional organizations organize these calls for increased funding, but we don't address any of our other structural issues. We have an opportunity here to work on some of these things.

  • by jgfenix ( 2584513 ) on Monday November 14, 2016 @04:52AM (#53279551)
    As an external observator it tell that if you continue to think as only a racist madman and understimate him he will win a second election. Also its disgusting your sense of moral superiority while you do things like beat Trump [youtube.com] supporters. [youtube.com] Who is acting like nazis?
  • by nospam007 ( 722110 ) * on Monday November 14, 2016 @05:59AM (#53279715)

    "the U.S. could face a brain drain as some of its top science and tech talent moves to greener pastures."

    Canada being where it is, at this time of the year, shouldn't it say: "moves to whiter pastures?"

  • by M0j0_j0j0 ( 1250800 ) on Monday November 14, 2016 @09:13AM (#53280291)

    He underestimates the power of lies, of greed and of human nature itself, the dark ages prove that "the scientific method", can be put aside as easily as any other threat.

  • Yes our technology is much more important than even our lives as it can persist. But socially we are doing next to nothing to prepare for advanced technology . As jobs continue to vanish due to advanced technology and the masses are stressed more and more, and particularly with Luddites in control of the US government, we may see laws that banish a great deal of technology or even complete social disorder such that people live more like rats who forage for scraps. And we also face the spectacle of b
  • Trump is a far more serious threat to the world than tech. The next 4 years are going to be marked by a profoundly anti-science, alt-right administration that will find new and novel ways to fuck the planet and people who live on it.
  • by holophrastic ( 221104 ) on Monday November 14, 2016 @10:50AM (#53280827)

    this is the age of incremental crappy technology that pushes everyone to spend more time at work and away from their families. that's probably a first for technology.

    If you want to talk about technology advancement, look at refridgeration liberating women from full-time canning.
    Look at cars growing cities. And roads.
    Look at the post office making written communication cost pennies -- think of everything coming by mail, like bills.
    Look at telephones allowing families to connect.
    Look at beer, bringing drinkable non-toxic water far from fresh-water sources, allowing civilization to build cities in the first place.
    Look at sewers and plumbing and running water.
    Look at flight.

    All of the above improves life with family, life with friends, and the building of cities. They make us safer, and sounder, and comfortable in our own homes. They save lives.

    Supercomputers in our pockets do absolutely none of that. They merely give us information, most of which we don't actually use once we acquire it, and they provide entertainment in the most anti-social manner possible, and they push us to spend more time working for less wealth.

    Try again.

  • by RogueWarrior65 ( 678876 ) on Monday November 14, 2016 @11:00AM (#53280913)

    People love to associate the economic successes of the 1990s with Clinton knowing full well that correlation is not causation . Meanwhile, the viral expansion of the use of PCs and the internet during that time totally changed the way business is conducted. Technology changes things regardless of who is in the White House...as long as government doesn't stand in its way e.g. the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The first iPhone came out during the Bush administration. Did he have anything to do with it? Nope. Did it change communication as we knew it? Yup.

Honesty is for the most part less profitable than dishonesty. -- Plato

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