April 20, 2024

Move with purpose

Personal Agency

Since college, I’ve often straddled the line between optimist and ideologist. I was never – and still am not – at home with the techno-optimists. Technology is but a tool, and it seemed as though Silicon Valley believed more in technology and the capital surrounding it than they did the people who were designing, building, and using said technology.

In response, I found myself going deep into anti-capitalist literature, learning about co-ops, new ownership models, alternatives to neoliberal democracy. I ran a newsletter for a bit writing about tech and social good – how we could build new types of institutions and companies that are primarily focused on the common good rather than profit.

The people I met and learned from on this journey were deeply intelligent and well-read. The giants in leftist politics and economics were poetic in their delivery of these ideas. It was hard not to get goosebumps as people described utopian visions of the future that just seemed to make sense.

Over time, though, I realized that just like the techno-optimist, these techno-ideologists weren’t rooted in anything other ideas themselves. Rather than tech for the sake of tech, we had ideas for the sake of ideas, discourse for the sake of discourse.

I found myself disillusioned by the lack of action. Tech bros were blind to the problems that their work was creating, but at least they had a bias for action. The ideologists, on the other hand, had a bias for theorizing.

Once I graduated, my own pendulum swung back toward techno-optimism. I needed action. I needed to be around people that built, that were high agency enough to believe that creating change was within reach. But until recently, I’ve felt stuck in an unsatisfying position.

Increasingly, I’m realizing that the spectrum between optimist and ideologist is a spectrum of vision. Imagine an upside-down “V”, where both optimists on one end and ideologists on the other fail to articulate any specific vision. They simply ideate, one side with a bias for action and another with a bias for critique.

At the tip of the V lays a middle ground that I’m only recently finding a home in. Not many people hang out on this part of the spectrum – it requires one to constantly remind themselves of why they’re here.

This area is for folks with vision and a bias for moving towards it. Live too much in the land of pure ideas or art for art’s sake, and you fall off the apex. Live too much in the land of techno-supremacy and you’ll fall off as well.

These are people who articulate higher visions of the future, who appreciate ideas and art and the beauty of human life, but also recognize that we have places to be. Humanity is not meant to move aimlessly, nor are we meant to sit still. We must believe in something, and then we must move towards it.

Our purpose is to move with purpose.