I consider myself, in a literal sense: a techno-optimist; while technology in of itself is an amoral force, I think it’s pretty hard to disagree with the notion that technological progress has in aggregate advanced humanity’s capacity for love, health, wonder, and joy.

Every now and then a piece will come out whose thesis is something like the following:

  1. Tech is net positive for the world.
  2. The current state of Tech Journalism is extremely biased against Tech.
  3. Negative coverage of Tech in Tech Journalism dampens Tech’s ability to make a positive impact on the world.
  4. Therefore, Tech Journalism is net negative for the world.
  5. We are going to make Tech Journalism 2, which champions Tech.

Here is one such example, which I think is fairly representative. Some quotes:

Hard-hitting journalism is critically important, but there’s often a mismatch between the work that journalists do gathering, verifying, and contextualizing facts and the simple truth that most startups operate more as dream than reality.


The Techno-Optimistic Media is explicitly biased and incentive-aligned because we want tech companies to succeed. We want cheaper energy and abundant goods and robot assistants and financial freedom and human flourishing, and our reach will grow as technologists deliver on those promises. And we have skin in the game, whether as technologists or investors.

There’s a bit of a “if you’ve never missed a flight, you’re wasting too much time in airports” inherent in this framing: the aggregate net positive effect of all technology is too good to worry about specific bad actors. [1] And I think there’s some level of directional accuracy in it — I think legacy media institutions, largely for incorrect reasons, cover Tech with a negative bias that does not extend to other similarly large and powerful industries.

But here’s the thing: whenever you ask a member of the Techno-Optimist’s Guild what should have happened with Enron or Theranos [2], the answer invariably comes back to some sort of motte-and-bailey equivocation of “well of course we do need serious tech journalists, but that can’t be the default stance”.

(I mention Enron and Theranos in particular because these are organizations share three characteristics: breathless praise and media attention; collapse through journalistic investigation; loss of life.)

When people talk about techno-optimistism, really what they’re referring to is entertainment — maybe infotainment, of the sort that Product Hunt and Uncrate deal, but infotainment nonetheless. They want more ways to tell more people about fun cool things and why they’re neat.

Entertainment is good! Entertainment serves a role in society. But journalism’s role in our society is not to entertain, nor is it to catalyze the future; it is to safeguard the public welfare, and even very recent history shows what happens when everybody’s too busy aligning incentives and pumping the same figurative shitcoin to actually look into what’s happening.

  1. And, in fairness, there are arenas in which I am extremely sympathetic to this argument, like means-based testing! ↩︎

  2. or FTX, a since-disgraced organization that has sponsored and partnered with the lion’s share of the TOG ↩︎

Lightning bolt
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