And yet, in this unprecedented environment, incredible stories of hope and empowerment have emerged. We see people finding ways to respond to suffering and injustice with positive change. Take the stories Abby Ohlheiser brought together, including those of Carlisa Johnson, who turned a Google Doc into a power link for the Black Lives Matter movement, and Fiona Lowenstein, who nurtured an online community of thousands in a place where those who suffer from covid-19 can gain vital information. Sarah Jaffe writes that a failed vote to unionize Amazon workers in a factory in Alabama can be daunting, but in America, workers in the growing tech sector are realizing their power to organize and demand dignity.
In an essay on the Arc of Progress, Sheila Jasanoff looks back at West Bengal in India, where she was born, and tells how, under British rule, the region’s flourishing industry woven textiles were crushed by the industrial revolution. The lesson is not that technological progress is bad, it’s that we have to be careful not to assume that all of these changes are for the best, or that they are free.
As Jasanoff writes, the good news is that we are not bystanders in the process. We are the ones who create the technology, after all; we have the power to choose what is built and how it is used.
Nowhere is this agency more exposed than in the list of 35 innovators under 35. Hope you take the time to sit down with this list. I find it impossible not to be inspired by their accomplishments, from swarms of French toast-sized satellites to new fusion energy research to a pair of budding companies rushing to put optical computing on board. on the market. These innovators are literally creating the future before our eyes.
As we know, each of them builds on the accomplishments of those who came before them. And yet, the tech world is teeming with tales of determined mavericks who oppose orthodoxy to realize their vision for the future. These stories can be dangerously deceptive, if only for that, they can be interpreted to justify individualism at any cost. In the United States, this attitude has been corrosive in supporting the public funding of important high-tech industries such as chip making, which, as Jeremy Hsu writes, is one of the reasons America is rushing to catch up with manufacturers overseas. We have similar work to do in the rapidly evolving field of clean energy, where, as Gernot Wagner writes, the the price of solar panels has fallen over the past decades. With a boost from additional R&D funding and favorable policies, solar has a real chance of helping to decarbonize the planet.