So, from babies to skele­tons.

I grew up in the 1980s, and I grew up with Fighting Fantasy nov­els, the set that were brought into being by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone. For those of you who don’t know what these are (which is prob­a­bly only a small per­cent­age of the audi­ence) these are a com­bi­na­tion of kind of adven­ture fan­ta­sy books. The main thing about them is that they present you as the hero adven­tur­er on some kind of thrilling sto­ry. You make choic­es, you save peo­ple, you get to punch quite a lot of strange ani­mals and beasts along the way. And hope­ful­ly, some­where along the line you save the day, in what ever form that takes. But there’s also quite a lot of ways to die. There’s quite a lot of ways for your adven­ture to end.

I like them a lot. I’m sure a lot of peo­ple like them a lot for the same rea­sons. They gave you a sense of agency in terms of what you were doing. They kind of made you feel like you had some choic­es on your hero’s path through the world, You weren’t just read­ing pas­sive­ly.

I got old­er. I put away semi-childish things. I start­ed learn­ing about sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy and inno­va­tion and the social and the polit­i­cal and the eco­nom­ic sides of it. I start­ed doing work with gov­ern­ments, with uni­ver­si­ties, and all sorts of bod­ies around the place and in between. And real­ized, slight­ly to my hor­ror quite recent­ly, that the Fighting Fantasy world actu­al­ly bears an awful lot of resem­blance to the way and the sto­ries sto­ries that get told through pol­i­cy­mak­ing, par­tic­u­lar­ly around sci­ence, tech­nol­o­gy, and entre­pre­neur­ship.

This isn’t, I think, I’m most­ly sure, because pol­i­cy around sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy gets made in the depart­ment for Business, Innovation & Skills, or at Number 10, or in the White House by var­i­ous min­is­ters and civ­il ser­vants sit­ting down with two dice and a note­book and fran­ti­cal­ly try­ing to read a book while get­ting their fin­gers wedged in the pages to try and fig­ure out which path­way they should be tak­ing. But I can’t be 100% sure of that one, giv­en some recent deci­sions.

But what I can say is that the worlds that get built in sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy pol­i­cy bear a kind of odd and uncan­ny resem­blance to a lot of what Jackson and Livingstone wrote about. City of Thieves was one of my favorites, and it’s actu­al­ly almost one of the less vio­lent sto­ries, although it still has this hero’s path. It’s set in this world where the mer­chants of Silverton call you as your adven­tur­er to say, We’ve got prob­lems. There’s an evil skele­ton lord who lives over in Port Blacksand who wants to come over and take over our vil­lage.”

There’s kind of a minor sub­plot about if he real­ly wants to come and steal away someone’s daugh­ter in the stan­dard saving-the-maiden way, but it’s actu­al­ly quite a cap­i­tal­ist sto­ry. The intro is set up around you being brought in to save these very rich mer­chants. You have a very nice life from this skele­ton over there. They’re going to reward you, and they’ll reward you with very nice and shiny things them­selves. Zanbar Bone, the skele­ton, is ter­ri­fy­ing, he’s men­ac­ing, he has Moon Dogs who have razor-sharp fangs, and he needs to be defeat­ed. And that’s where you come in.

So this sto­ry, again, has echoes in some of the big sto­ries that have been influ­en­tial in chang­ing the ways that tech­nolo­gies have come into being, a lot of which have been set in play by econ­o­mists and pol­i­cy­mak­ers over the past 70 years or so.

Illustration of a man in armor pointing out toward the reder

The first of these sto­ries starts around the time of the Second World War. Just after­wards, when a bunch of Austrian econ­o­mists start­ed look­ing back at the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, at the eco­nom­ic mess at the end of the two wars, at the stagfla­tion that they’d seen, at the bank col­laps­es. And they were think­ing, This has been ter­ri­ble. How can we pre­vent this hap­pen­ing again? What kind of poli­cies or futures can we point towards that would stop this from hap­pen­ing.”

The con­clu­sion that they had come to was that what had led to a lot of these prob­lems had been a par­tic­u­lar­ly heavy-handed state, this thing that had been clamp­ing down and caus­ing more prob­lems that it real­ly need­ed to. And what was need­ed instead was a way of bring­ing change and growth into an eco­nom­ic sys­tem, but with­out the heavy-handed state itself.

The way they thought that could be done was through entre­pre­neur­ship. The hero idea of this entre­pre­neur start­ed to emerge from the 30s and 40s onwards, but real­ly kind of came into form in the 70s itself. This wasn’t just the Austrians them­selves. This was a bunch of econ­o­mists, Polanyi, Hayek, Schumpeter, lat­er Milton Friedman, who all built this idea, this hero myth of the amaz­ing entre­pre­neur who would be there to intro­duce change, save the world.

Illustration of a wizard in robes and pointy hat smoking a long pipe

And it real­ly was a hero­ic nar­ra­tive. [John] Maynard Keynes even came on board to say that entre­pre­neurs were filled with these amaz­ing ani­mal spir­its. They would take great risks under con­di­tions of extreme adver­si­ty. They would inno­vate even when con­ven­tion­al eco­nom­ic analy­sis said that the gam­bles are too wide. They would leap over that cliff. They would be there. They would be fight­ing at the front.

This is a very seduc­tive nar­ra­tive of the hero entre­pre­neur who will bring inno­va­tion and change. In the grow­ing of this myth, the words entre­pre­neur­ship” and inno­va­tion” and inno­v­a­tive” and almost cre­ative” as well start­ed col­laps­ing in on each oth­er as well. So you have the entre­pre­neur who makes new things, who’s inno­v­a­tive, who brings inno­va­tions into the world in a bit of a messy way that is kind of ill-defined.

It was a pol­i­cy and idea that picked up steam par­tic­u­lar­ly dur­ing the 80s. Again, it was this seduc­tive idea that you could have this fan­tas­tic new world sim­ply by these heroes who would come through and ride on through and bring change with them. Brilliant. And it’s some­thing that per­sists today, even in the way that busi­ness gets taught, even in the lan­guage that we see through a lot of sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy com­mu­ni­ties about the need to be entre­pre­neur­ial, the need to be inno­v­a­tive.

And there’s a prob­lem here, because some­times sto­ries them­selves don’t actu­al­ly come true. Academics at Sussex Paul Nightingale and Alex Coad, like many con­tem­po­rary econ­o­mists, have raised an eye­brow at this myth­mak­ing around the entre­pre­neur, and they decid­ed to crunch through the num­bers in the UK and see what they came up with instead.

Illustration of a man hunched over a key-cutting machine

In inno­va­tion pol­i­cy­mak­ing, you get quite a lot of draw­ing on ani­mal myths. Not just the ani­mal spir­its them­selves in the entre­pre­neur, but you get talk of small firms that grow quick­ly are gazelles; they leap. Firms that grow big and are pow­er­ful and strong are goril­las. This is the lan­guage that gets used in pol­i­cy doc­u­ments. And con­tin­u­ing with that, Nightingale and Coad when they crunched the num­bers said, Yeah, we’ve kin­da got a prob­lem here. We haven’t real­ly got gazelles, we haven’t real­ly got goril­las. If you look at what makes up most of the mar­ket in the UK, it’s mup­pets.” It’s Marginal, Undersized, Poor-Performing Enterprises.

So what we would call entre­pre­neur­ial firms or star­tups and entre­pre­neur­ial busi­ness­es in the UK, they’re small, they’re mar­gin­al, they’re under­per­form­ing. They per­form more poor­ly com­pared to oth­er types of firms them­selves. They’re less inno­v­a­tive. It’s not a hap­py sto­ry.

The peo­ple who start these firms, the British entre­pre­neurs, are hap­pi­er, and that’s good. Again, the agency of work­ing for your­self is fan­tas­tic. But that is not the sto­ry that we’ve been sold here about how they’re going to save the econ­o­my and it’s all going to be mag­ic. Happiness” is not going to do that. There’s some­thing else going on here itself.

The exam­ple that Coad and Nightingale give is a fish and chips shop. They say you want the classic—the most com­mon type of entre­pre­neur­ial busi­ness in the UK is a fish and chips shop. It’s some­thing that was set up most like­ly by some­one who is unem­ployed and with their mon­ey as a way of cre­at­ing a busi­ness for them­selves. It will like­ly set up in a town where there’s already a fish and chips shop and there isn’t real­ly enough of a mar­ket to sup­port anoth­er one. So either that shop will go out of busi­ness or it will dis­place the oth­er one and they’ll both go out of busi­ness them­selves.

So the sto­ry is not nec­es­sar­i­ly true, and this is very recent work so what influ­ence it has on pol­i­cy­mak­ing is unsure. But the lan­guage lives on, the sto­ries them­selves become real. Particularly the sto­ries them­selves are very very heav­i­ly col­ored by the sto­ries that come out of California, the Apples, the Googles, the Facebooks, the things that could be, that could be seen in that way. The Silicon Valley, the sil­i­con word that gets reflect­ed every­where like some kind of charm.

Illustration of three skeletons surrounded by smoke

We’ve got prob­lems as well when we start believ­ing the myths in oth­er places. There is, cer­tain­ly more­so in the Bay Area, far more­so than in the UK, an awful lot of mon­ey swim­ming around for those who would be in star­tups, who would want to again cre­ate these inno­va­tions, who would be these entre­pre­neurs and go for it in the world them­selves. It’s an uneven process. A lot of this mon­ey is swim­ming toward the founder teams and towards the peo­ple they bring into them, who are of a par­tic­u­lar demo­graph­ic. And as we heard in the last talk, a lot of that par­tic­u­lar demo­graph­ic is young white men who are often straight out of col­lege and are tak­ing up these huge and ter­ri­fy­ing salaries, these large amounts of mon­ey to make things on this entre­pre­neur­ial dream that they will change the world in some way and every­one will get rich and every­one will be hap­py.

And weird stuff starts to hap­pen here. Weird, weird stuff. Firstly, when you’ve got these homo­ge­neous teams of peo­ple who are all quite sim­i­lar, who due to some kind of insid­i­ous idea of cul­ture fit are not par­tic­u­lar­ly hap­py or will­ing to bring in peo­ple who are not like them. And when every one of you is all the same, that’s quite a low bar to be set­ting for your­self.

So the kind of tech­nolo­gies that get made are not nec­es­sar­i­ly very excit­ing. They’re rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the kind of things that this demo­graph­ic would want, or that they can project out to some oth­er demo­graph­ic need­ing but with­out their direct expe­ri­ence and world-sense. So you get a lot of lit­tle dig­i­tal things, a lot of dat­ing apps, a lot of places where you can find a restau­rant, a lot of things where you might be able to track things or track a place to take a date to a restau­rant or some­thing like that. It’s some­thing that [Alexis] Madrigal of The Atlantic said, these tech­nolo­gies that are com­ing out of these star­tups, they’re nice, they’re cheap, they’re fun. And they’re about as world-changing as anoth­er vari­a­tion of beer pong. This is not big, rad­i­cal change.

But the belief in it can cre­ate change in oth­er ways, in the sys­tems around the Bay Area. In response to this swell of mon­ey going into this par­tic­u­lar demo­graph­ic, again, weird things start hap­pen­ing them­selves. Ellen Cushing described this change process as some­thing turn­ing into the bacon-wrapped econ­o­my, where you’ve got a lot of ser­vice pro­vi­sion that starts ris­ing up to sup­port the needs of these peo­ple, these young men who are mak­ing a lot of mon­ey very quick­ly and at low risk. Remember, not are they the hero jump­ing over some ter­ri­ble canyon, but some­one who if they lose their job tomor­row, their com­pa­ny goes down tomor­row, there’s like­ly to be more mon­ey; that’s alright.

So you’ve got things like fan­cy restau­rants, but fan­cy restau­rants serv­ing things like fried chick­en at $48 a plate. You’ve got things like high-end whiskey tast­ing. You’ve got things like being able to rent fast cars very eas­i­ly. You’ve got things like cloth­ing com­pa­nies that spun up sell­ing types of essen­tial­ly track­suit bot­toms so that you can wear them to work and not have to be too smart. But some­times the track­suit bot­toms have got reflec­tive pan­els on the bot­tom so you can roll them up and go cycling, and some of them are a lit­tle fanci­er. They’re dress pants, they’re dress track­suit bot­toms if you need to be a lit­tle bit smarter at the office one day.

So there’s this weird kind of lock-in to this space in terms of who’s there, what they’re mak­ing, the bub­ble that sur­rounds them. But this wouldn’t real­ly be hap­pen­ing if there wasn’t any mon­ey com­ing into the sys­tem, and that fund­ing stream as well starts to lay on weird prob­lems, too.

Illustration of a dragon laying in front of a mirror

If it’s not friends or fam­i­lies, a lot of the mon­ey can also come from ven­ture cap­i­tal­ists. Venture cap­i­tal­ists do not exist out of the world, they exist very much in it. Funding and financ­ing is incred­i­bly risky. Most inno­va­tions fail. You will most like­ly die on the jour­ney. You will most like­ly get eat­en by some­thing. So ven­ture cap­i­tal­ists as much as any­one else, they know that most ven­tures they fund will fail in some way. They’re try­ing again, to damp­en down the risks, to make this into some­thing as low-risk, as less dan­ger­ous, as pos­si­ble.

Part of this is look­ing to their own expe­ri­ence in ways that do seem to make sense. So ven­ture cap­i­tal­ists who have back­ground expe­ri­ence in large firms tend to fund teams that have a per­son in them with a back­ground from a large firm. Venture cap­i­tal­ists with a back­ground in small firms tend to fund teams which have in them peo­ple with a back­ground in a small firm. Venture cap­i­tal­ists with engi­neer­ing back­grounds tend to fund teams which have in them some­one with an engi­neer­ing back­ground. So there’s this mir­ror­ing effect. But the mir­ror­ing effect also takes itself into the cul­ture. There’s a cer­tain way that entre­pre­neurs and start­up kids are meant to present them­selves when they go to meet to VCs, which shows them—it’s almost like dat­ing. You’re not com­ing across as too arro­gant and too cocky, but you’re mak­ing an effort and you’re try­ing to reflect in the ven­ture cap­i­tal­ists’ eyes some­thing that they want to see.

So if you’re meet­ing a VC who comes from a merg­ers and acqui­si­tions back­ground, the gen­er­al advice is wear a tie; they like that.” But on the oth­er hand if you’re meet­ing a VC from a European back­ground, you don’t want to be too smart because that just looks like you’re try­ing too hard. That’s like turn­ing up on the first date in a full suit and tie and it’s just real­ly off-putting.

If you’re a girl, if you’re a woman, then Forbes advise you when you go to meet VCs, if you want to, you can wear a pop of col­or like maybe an orange blouse or pink skirt.” And that will give the VCs some­thing to remem­ber when you’ve left the meet­ing. But not dur­ing the meet­ing. You don’t want to turn up as some kind of multi-colored freak, but just a lit­tle some­thing on the reti­na to go, Ooh, yeah. Okay. We like that.”

What this does is it ends up cre­at­ing this incred­i­bly weird hall of mir­rors effect in terms of what gets fund­ed where the fun­ders are look­ing into the star­tups, and the star­tups look at the fun­ders, and down they go and down they go and down they go until you get to a sit­u­a­tion where you have Paul Graham from Y Combinator say­ing, I can fooled by any­one who looks like Mark Zuckerberg. We once fund­ed a guy and he was ter­ri­ble, but I said, How can he be bad, he looks like Zuckerberg.’” Money. Money. A lot of mon­ey here, kids.

There’s also things which are very very dif­fi­cult to get fund­ing for, even out­side of this lit­tle bub­ble. Things that are untouch­able. That even if the tech­nol­o­gy or the idea is good and money-making, they will not get fund­ed.

Illustration of a muscular, shirtless man bouncing a cannonball in his right hand

Mostly, this is any­thing to do with sex. Pornography itself doesn’t real­ly get VC fund­ing; it nev­er real­ly has. And it’s odd because this is one of the indus­tries that is very hyped up as being high­ly prof­itable. It kind of isn’t, not any­more, but still you’d think giv­en the kind of dross that does get fund­ed, you’d think well maybe it’s a mon­ey game. But it’s real­ly not. It’s about the social rep­u­ta­tion as much as any­thing else of what gets fund­ed. So porn com­pa­nies don’t get fund­ed. There’s finan­cial ele­ments to it as well. They don’t tend to have good exit strate­gies, but that again comes back to who would buy them. Who would buy them? Who would put their rep­u­ta­tion on the line to do that? Even if the VC things, bril­liant idea, lots of mon­ey, they then have to go back to their boards and say, I did that, with your mon­ey. I fund­ed that. That’s what I did.” And VCs are not will­ing to take that risk at all.

The inter­est­ing mir­ror­ing even comes down to cloth­ing. There’s this kind of idea that pornog­ra­phers are those in fan­tas­tic, long leopard-skin jack­ets or are just very scruffy guys in cut­offs and t-shirts, which is not real­ly true at all if it ever was. But there’s that idea there. So much so that a financier who spoke to Gawker said, Maybe pornog­ra­phers would get fund­ing if they just dressed up a bit and wore nice blue blaz­ers. That might be good.”

So this world exists where the mar­ket skews in this way that’s shaped by so many social and polit­i­cal and cul­tur­al forces. And actu­al­ly for all of this, the state has been wait­ing behind the screen and it’s still there.

Illustration of a man in robes surrounded by candles in a dark room, with a circular marking on his forehead

Despite all the rhetoric of hur­rah entre­pre­neur­ship” and throw it to the mar­ket,” actu­al­ly the state has fund­ed an awful lot of tech­nolo­gies that are cur­rent­ly in play and have made a lot of mon­ey, and have become per­va­sive, and very influ­en­tial, and in some cas­es very con­trol­ling as well. Mariana Mazzucato is an econ­o­mist, and her the­sis is basi­cal­ly the entre­pre­neur­ial state. She’s done this incred­i­ble his­toric eco­nom­ic analy­sis where she pins back var­i­ous tech­nolo­gies and their orig­i­nal fund­ing to their source and says, actu­al­ly, look at this. If you look at the iPhone, for exam­ple, the mod­ern one, look at where the orig­i­nal fund­ing from the Internet came from. Look at where the orig­i­nal fund­ing for touch screen came from. Look at where the orig­i­nal fund­ing for voice-activated tech­nol­o­gy came from. Look at all of that, and you will find that back down the line there was either basic fund­ing from the state or applied fund­ing from the state, or even some seed fund­ing from the state itself in a sort of fast cap­i­tal type way. So there has been a role where the state itself has come in to bear the risks that the mar­ket, the amaz­ing hur­rah free mar­ket actu­al­ly hasn’t been able to cope with.

There’s still a pol­i­tics at play about what will get fund­ed. Science pol­i­cy is a pol­i­tics, as the name itself sug­gests. It is not just the case that things get mon­ey thrown at them and sent out in the world. In pol­i­cy­mak­ing there’s this idea of pick­ing win­ners which has kind of fall­en out of favor because of how obvi­ous it seems. It’s lit­er­al­ly what it sounds like. The gov­ern­ments would say, Okay, so that green ener­gy we will tar­get a lot of mon­ey for that. We will fund a lot of stu­dents to go and look at it. We will fund a lot of research labs. Or maybe car man­u­fac­tur­ing; we will fund that. We will pick those win­ners.” And it has fall­en out of favor because it’s so obvi­ous, but at the same time it’s start­ed to kind of gen­tly rise back in in the past few years, this idea that actu­al­ly the mar­kets might not be able to do that. There might have to be a bit of a big­ger push there going on.

But there’s also more insid­i­ous forms of creep as well, these things where even the tech­nol­o­gy itself starts to cast a very long shad­ow in what it’s doing, and the direc­tion of that shad­ow, the shape of it itself is con­trolled by aspects of the state and also by links with the pri­vate sec­tor, too.

The most recent one in the UK was the porn fil­ter that was brought in, or was advo­cat­ed to be brought in by our Prime Minister ear­li­er this year. This idea that there would be this opt-in that came from ISPs, that if you want­ed to look at any­thing that was porno­graph­ic, you would actu­al­ly have to say, Yes. I stand here and I would like to look at dirty pic­tures, thank you very much,” and that would be bril­liant. There’s been a lot of furore around this for var­i­ous obvi­ous rea­sons in terms of work­a­bil­i­ty, but one of many inter­est­ing aspects of it was when peo­ple start­ed to dig a lit­tle more and look­ing down at what actu­al­ly was going to be on that list of things to opt into. It wasn’t just pornog­ra­phy. It was things like what was broad­ly termed as extrem­ist and ter­ror­ist sites.” There were anti— kin­da sui­cide sites. Web forums might have been on the list? And the fantastically-ambiguous eso­teric con­tent,” which could be defined as any­thing, real­ly. But that was the kind of con­trols that were being placed.

But again the way that states can build tech­nol­o­gy can not only have the same bias­es but the bias­es of his­to­ry built into it as well, and par­tic­u­lar­ly the myth­mak­ing around entre­pre­neur­ship and star­tups and what should be done and how tech­nol­o­gy should be built and what works. We’ve talked, at this con­fer­ence, a fair amount about the NSA and sur­veil­lance, and there’s been men­tion of XKeyscore, which is one of the sur­veil­lance tech­nolo­gies that was specif­i­cal­ly devel­oped by the NSA to allow ana­lysts to search meta­da­ta, to look through emails, look through browsers. They could do search­es by email address­es, by IP address­es, by names. A very sharp bit of tech­nol­o­gy, and pos­si­bly not a par­tic­u­lar­ly con­sen­su­al one.

But that was the tech­nol­o­gy. And of all the things that I found com­plete­ly fas­ci­nat­ing about the way that it got built was the lan­guage that the NSA used to describe it. They described how they had built this in-house with a lit­tle startup-style team to do it. They had made sure that the devel­op­ers and the cus­tomer sup­port peo­ple and the sup­port staff were work­ing close to each oth­er so they would be able to work togeth­er on this. They described how they used agile tech­niques to achieve their sur­veil­lance tech­nolo­gies. They described how they worked close­ly with the cus­tomer to deliv­er (remem­ber­ing the cus­tomer is at this stage the NSA.) And most impor­tant­ly of course, they shipped code ear­ly and they shipped it often.

Close-up illustration of a fanged skeleton's skull

At the end of City of Thieves, if you’ve done it in one of many right ways, you will come face to face with Zanbar Bone, who in his own lit­tle way is a tiny bit like the NSA. As you’re climb­ing up the black tow­er at the very end, he calls to you and says, A ha, fool­ish adven­tur­er. I can see you, but you can’t see me.” Which rais­es ques­tions about the kind of sur­veil­lance tech­niques in place around Silverton and Port Blacksand. But you go in, you’re a hero, you kill him. That’s great, you’ve done your job. You go back to the very rich mer­chants who are very fat­tened and well-fed. And they give you coins and I think they give you a real­ly nice sword, and it’s bril­liant. And that’s the end of your adven­ture. You are the hero, the hero has come through.

Except when you look back, there are some ques­tions that need­ed to be asked here. Firstly, what has seemed to be an adven­tur­ous quest has actu­al­ly been very con­trolled from the out­side. There are choic­es you’ve made, gen­er­al­ly along the lines of Do I go left down Candle Street? Do I go right down East Street? Do I steal this brooch from this lizard?” There are things that you learn along the way, and not just if you’ve got your hands in the book like that, but you fig­ure out where the var­i­ous routes are that you might draw a map. And there is an ele­ment of luck and chance in the dice, but ulti­mate­ly this is a sto­ry that’s been set up by some­one else. This isn’t Zanbar Bone pulling the strings from behind the scenes going, Ha ha ha, if they go that way they will find the table with the scor­pi­on brooches.” This has been set up by a big­ger sys­tem.

Secondly, if you’ve got to this end suc­cess­ful­ly and you’ve done every­thing you need to do in order to fin­ish, you will have things like your hank of hags’ hair, you’ll have your black pearls, you’ll have your lotus flow­ers. These things destroy Zanbar Bone. You’ll have the sil­ver arrow you need to knock him down as well. You will have killed or at least maimed (it’s nev­er quite clear in Fighting Fantasy) an awful lot of peo­ple to get to that point. There’s not real­ly a path that is you skip­ping around mer­ri­ly and no one touch­es you and it’s bril­liant, the end. There is gen­er­al­ly some­where along the line, peo­ple, some­times going about their own busi­ness. And to get to Zanbar Bone, gen­er­al­ly in some iter­a­tion you will have seri­ous­ly wound­ed a lot of men and women. You will have punched prob­a­bly a cen­tipede some­where down the line. There are some giant rats you will have tak­en out and a lizar­dine. Most of the crea­tures you saw in the pre­vi­ous slides are not here any­more, because of you.

But it’s okay. You’ve won. But more than that, one of the things you need to do to get past him is to have on your fore­head a tat­too of a white uni­corn and yel­low sun. And there you are march­ing around like some kind of ter­ri­ble hip­ster with this thing on your face. And you’ve won. Brilliant. But you are trans­formed. You are trans­formed by what has hap­pened.

There’s a way to describe the way that tech­nolo­gies come into the world by Frank [?]. He calls them hope­ful mon­sters.” The tech­nol­o­gy comes into the world hope­ful­ly, because it wants to change the world, but it’s a mon­ster because actu­al­ly it’s not famil­iar and it’s not right for the world it’s in. And one of the things from pol­i­cy­mak­ing and from Fighting Fantasy is the mon­sters are not born that way. Technologies are made mon­strous by the process­es they have to go through, the ways that they get skewed, the peo­ple who are allowed to [work?] them, the paths to fund­ing, the places where gov­ern­ment approves or doesn’t approve of them, the loca­tions they’re adopt­ed into. There is a skew­ing and messy way where the larg­er polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic and cul­tur­al and social sys­tems cre­ate this mon­strous being that emerges into the world, and it’s not the mon­ster at the end of the game. It’s the game itself.

Thank you very much.


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