We’re living in hard times, we’re not living in jolly boom dotcom times. And that’s why guys like Evgeny Morozov, who comes from the miserable country of Belarus, gets all jittery, and even fiercely aggressive, when he hears you talking about “technological solutionism.”

“There’s an app to make that all better.” Okay, a billion apps have been sold. Where’s the betterness?

Things do not always progress, and the successes of progress become thorny problems for the next generation. They don’t stay permanently “better.” Our value judgments about what are better are temporary. They are time-bound. When you overuse the word “better,” it’s like a head-fake, it’s a mantra.

You don’t have a better-o-meter. You can’t measure the length and breadth and duration of the “betterness.” “Better” is a metaphysical value judgement. It’s not a scientific quality like mass or velocity.

You can’t test it experimentally. We don’t know what’s “better.” We don’t even know what’s “worse.” Which is good. Every cloud has a silver lining.

Google doesn’t want to be “evil,” but they don’t have an evilometer. They don’t have an evil avoidance algorithm.

Bruce Sterling, Closing Remarks at SXSW2013
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