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WIRED Endorses Optimism

WIRED has never been neutral.

For nearly a quarter of a century, this organization has championed a specific way of thinking about tomorrow. If its true, as the writer William Gibson once had it, that the future is already here, just unevenly distributed, then our task has been to locate the places where various futures break through to our present and identify which one we hope for.

Our foundersLouis Rossetto, Jane Metcalfe, and Kevin Kellyall supported a strain of optimistic libertarianism native to Silicon Valley. The future they endorsed was the one they saw manifested in the early Internet: one where self-organizing networks would replace old hierarchies. Tothem, the US government was one of those kludgy, inefficient legacy systems that mainly just get in the way.

Scott Dadich


About

Scott Dadich is the editor in chief of WIRED.


Over the past couple of decades, weve gotten to watch their future play out: Weve seen the creative energies of countless previously invisible communities unleashedand, well, weve watched networks become just as good at concentrating wealth and influence in the hands of a few people as the old hierarchies were. Weve seen geeks become billionaires, autocrats become hackers, and our readers (people curious about how technology is shaping the world) become the American mainstream. Like any sane group of thinkers, weve calibrated our judgments along the way. But much of our worldview hasnt changed. We value freedom: open systems, open markets, free people, free information, free inquiry. Weve become even more dedicated to scientific rigor, good data, and evidence-driven thinking. And weve never lost our optimism.

I bring all this up because, for all of its opinions and enthusiasms, WIRED has never made a practice of endorsing candidates for president of the United States. Through five election cycles weve written about politics and politicians and held them up against our ideals. But weve avoided tellingyou, our readers, who WIRED viewed as the best choice.

Today we will. WIRED sees only one person running for president who can do the job: Hillary Clinton.

Right now we see two possible futures welling up in the present. In one, societys every decision is dominated by scarcity. Except for a few oligarchs, nobody has enough of anything. In that future, webuild literal and figurative walls to keep out those who hope to acquire our stuff, while through guile or violence we try to acquire theirs.

In the other future, the one WIRED is rooting for, new rounds of innovation allow people to do more with less workin a way that translates into abundance, broadly enjoyed. Governments and markets and entrepreneurs create the conditions that allow us to take effective collective action against climate change. The flashlight beam of science keeps turning up cool stuff in the corners of the universe. The grand social experiments of the 20th and early 21st centuriesthe mass entry of women into the workforce, civil rights, LGBTQ rightscontinue and give way to new ones that are just as necessary and unsettling and empowering to people who got left out of previous rounds. And the sustainably manufactured, genetically modified fake meat tastes really good too.

Our sights might not be perfectly aligned, but its pretty clear Hillary Clinton has her eye on a similar trajectory. She intends to uphold the Paris Agreement on climate change and reduce carbon emissions by up to 30 percent in 2025. She hopes to produce enough renewable energy to power every American home by the end of her first term. She wants to increase the budgets of the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, two major drivers of research and innovation via government funding. And she wants to do the same for Darpa, the defense research agencywithout which, lets face it, WIRED probably wouldnt exist, because no one would have invented the things we cover.

Clinton also has ideas that clear away stumbling blocks for entrepreneurs and strivers. She proposes linking entrepreneurship to forgiveness of student loans, as a way to help young people start businesses. Clinton favors net neutralitygiving every packet of data on the Internet the same priority, regardless of whether they originate from a media corporation or from you and me. She has proposed easier paths to legal immigration for people with science, technology, and engineering degrees. And she has spent my entire adult life trying to work out how to give the maximum number of Americans access to health care; she will continue to strengthen the Affordable Care Act, which among other things has helped people walk away from crappy, dead-end jobs by alleviating the fear that theyll lose their insurance.

We dont always agree with Clinton. As secretary of state, her inclination toward military solutions had disastrous consequences in the Middle East, and the US still has an alarming tendency to try to solve complex foreign policy problems with flying killer robots. Her specific position on encryption is tough to pin down, but she seems to favor encryption weak enough for law enforcement to penetrate. That violates basic privacy.

But having met Clinton and talked about all these issues with her, I can tell you that her mastery of issues and detail is unlike that of any politician Ive met. She comes to every policy conversation steeped in its history and implications, and with opinions from a diverse set of viewpoints. She is a technician, and we like technicians.

The country can go one of two ways, right now: toward a future where working together in good faith has a chance, or toward nihilism.

Now, its true: Engineers, the heroes of WIRED, often misunderstand politics. They tend to confuse political problems with technological ones (because those are the ones they know how to solve), and they get impatient with the inefficiency, ugliness, and open-endedness of governing. If you think WIREDs ideal future is an engineers future, youve misread us, and I apologize for being unclear. Making policy based on ideas, science, evidence, and compromiseas we believe Hillary Clinton will dois not an approach to building a fully optimized system. When human beings are involved, optimization is asymptotic; you aim for it but never reach it. Clintons approach is merely prudent.

Its also skillful. Among those whove worked with her, Clinton is renowned for how well she listens and works in teams. And of course her inauguration would start to remedy a certain hiring bias that the nations HR departmentthe electoratehas displayed over the past 241 years.

Her campaign has been trying to incept us with these ideas for months now, of course: Her vision is bright and forward-looking; Donald Trumps is dark and atavistic. Shes qualified, she knows the material; Trump is all bluster. We happen to believe that for all the barbs aimed at Hillary Clintonthe whole calculating, tactical, Tracy Flick enchiladashe is the only candidate who can assess the data, consult with the people who need to be heard, and make decisions that she can logically defend. Sure, shes calculating. Shes tactical. There are worse things you can ask of a person with nuclear codes.

Perhaps you feel like this is a low bar: Support a candidate because she believes in science? Get behind a politician because she approaches policymaking like a professional? Maybe you were hoping to be more inspired. We think the opportunity presented to us is more than inspiring enough. The country can go one of two ways, right now: toward a future where working together in good faith has a chance, or toward nihilism.

Trumps campaign started out like something from The Onion. Now it has moved into George OrwellasinterpretedbyPaul Verhoeven territory. When he isnt insulting the parents of a dead soldier, or promising to build an impossible wall between the US and Mexico to keep out rapists, or advocating a ban on Muslims, hes saying that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are the founders of ISIS, or that Second Amendment people should do something about his opponent, or that he watched a nonexistent video of a plane delivering cash to Iran. And thats mostly stuff he said in the space of a few weeks.

When Trump beats up on Clinton for her misuse of a private email server as secretary of statean egregious mistake that the head of the FBI called extremely carelesswe hear him. But when Trump goes on to ask Russian hackers to continue their apparent assaults on an American election by finding more of Clintons emails, even as a wan joke, he takes the side of the arsonists while attacking his opponent for a fire code violation. When he says the press is corrupt and the electoral system is rigged, hes not acting like someone who wants to lead. Hes acting like someone who demands to be followed.

Ultimately, its impossible to judge Trumps claims as actual statements of belief or intention. We dont know if President Trump would totally renege on that Paris commitment or actually pursue his policy of Muslim exclusion; but we have to assume hell try. We have no way of knowing if he actually believes that vaccines cause autism, as he claimed in a debate, but they dont. Does he really think that wind power kills all your birds”? Who knows. But it doesnt; cats kill all your birds.

Heres the thing about Donald Trump: In his 14 months as a political candidate, he has demonstrated an utter indifference to the truth and to reality itself. He appears to seek only his own validation from the most revanchist, xenophobic crowds in America. He is trolling, hard.

When we say were optimistic, it isnt just because we can point you to a trove of evidence that were all very, very lucky to be alive right now: We live longer, were less violent, and theres less extreme poverty than at any time in human history. And its not just because optimism is endemic to Silicon Valley, though thats also true. Its because of the way optimism conditions how people act in the world. As Stewart Brand, one of our heroes, once described in these pages, people behave better when they think things are improving: If you truly think things are getting worse, wont you grab everything you can, while you can? Reap now, sow nothing. But if you think things are getting better, you invest in the future. Sow now, reap later.

Well keep fighting for the future instead of for the past. And part of that fight is endorsing Hillary Clinton for president.

Of course it would be glib for privileged people like us to expect everyone to just buck up about tomorrow. The future isnt the only thing thats unevenly distributed in the present: so are wealth, influence, skills, and other deep-seated advantages. So are fears. Its easy to celebrate the digital revolution when it has enriched the 40 square blocks surrounding your office; less so when youve seen your wages stagnate over the past 35 years. Its natural to welcome social justice when it vests you in American culture and not, I suppose, when it tells you that youve been the problem all along. We dont blame people for worrying about their future. But we think most Americans recognize that its important to have leaders who believe things get better from herewho want to build things other than barriers.

Besides, Donald Trumps supporters arent even the people who have been most left behind by globalism and technology. Consider that, institutionally, Trump has no better remaining friend than the National Rifle Association, whose industry leaders have profited enormously from the climate of fear and paranoia surrounding mass shootings. And according to a recent study of Trump supporters by Gallupthe most extensive one yetthe candidates rank-and-file fans are in fact wealthier than average and less likely to live in areas affected by immigration and trade. The most charitable explanation is that they are afraid their children will lose ground. But lets be clear: What these Americans stand to lose is nothing compared to the threat their political movement now poses to millions of African-Americans, Muslims, and immigrants, who experience the rise of Trumpism as an immediate menace to their families.

The person who has the least to lose is Trump, who has a long history of walking away relatively unscathed from things hes destroyed.

So no, WIRED has never been neutral. But now were declaring our alignmentone shared by an overwhelming number of tech leaders. The newsroom will continue to do critical, fair journalism about both candidates and the world around us. Well keep fighting for the future instead of for the past. And part of that fight is endorsing Hillary Clinton for president.

Read more: http://www.wired.com/2016/08/wired-endorses-hillary-clinton/

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