On Dynamism

Ross Douthat:

For many people, dynamism is contingent — on how invested you are in the world as it is, whether you stand to lose or benefit from innovations, and where your moral intuitions lie. (I am personally a dynamist about Musk’s Mars colony but not Mark Zuckerberg’s metaverse; flying cars, yes, sex robots, not so much.) Even in the tech world, your appetite for dynamism depends on where you stand: If you’re lucky enough to work for one of Silicon Valley’s near monopolies, the new powers of the age, you may not be that interested in further churn or change.

Musk himself may yet evolve into that kind of comfortable monopolist, but for now, pending the I.P.O. for MarsCorp in 2047, he remains a dynamist in full. And seen in this light, his recent transformation from Obama Democrat to progressive foil makes perfect sense in light of the transformations that liberalism itself has undergone of late.

Liberalism in the Obama era was an essentially dynamist enterprise not because liberals were absolutely committed to capital-S Science but because those years encouraged a confidence that the major technological changes of the 21st century were making the world a more liberal place. Whether it was social media shaking Middle Eastern autocrats, the Obama campaign running circles around its Republican opponents with online organizing or just the general drift leftward on social issues that seemed to accompany the internet revolution, progressives around 2010 felt a general confidence that technological and political progress were conjoined.

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