Young Scottish writer Gemma Milne argues that we need urgently to refine our vision of what is to come If we are to succeed in building the future that we actually want. She believes that we need to redefine the aims we should be pursuing based on a realistic understanding of what is actually going on in science and technology right now.
We have to focus on the real innovations that we will require along the way. We need to champion critical thinking by empowering as many people as possible to be able to question what real progress is being made. We need to look beyond the blind idealism and wilful hype which blinkers us as to what is really going on and what is realistically achievable.
Each chapter focuses on a different ‘blinker’, in effect, which stops us from seeing the bigger picture, either through fear or cognitive dissonance, whether this is all-too-effective misleading advertising or simply a desperate desire to believe in some Utopian dream. At the same time, each chapter also leads the reader through a different critical-thinking method, in order not only to reveal something of the specific topic in question, but also to provide tools for thinking past the hype in future, too.
The first part of the book focuses on the ‘smoke and mirrors’ that are put up by companies, governments, marketers and so on. Later chapters focus on the smoke and mirrors we put up ourselves in order to avoid tackling uncomfortable questions, decisions and realities, such, ‘What is right and wrong?’ and, ‘We, as society, are collectively responsible.’
Milne looks at how hype and idealism both positively and negatively nudge the development of the world, and the impact of that. Milne’s central argument is that if more people feel empowered to think critically (without needing to have a PhD on every topic), more of us would be better able to spot when things are overly hyped or naively idealistic. We would be empowered to more accurately envision what the future could be like. In that way, more people will be able to have a hand in shaping the future of our planet – through working in their respective fields of expertise, voting and having effective discussions with colleagues and friends. Better and more widespread critical thinking would lead to less acceptance of misinformation and naive idealism as truth.
Milne opens our eyes to hype and idealism – where they are evident, why they appear and their impact. She does this over the course of nine chapters covering nine different areas of science and technology. Each chapter explores what the hype suggests is going on in each respective industry, then explains what is actually going on right now, and finally the potential consequences of us simply believing the hype and idealism and failing to look at the bigger picture. Each chapter focuses on a different ‘blinker’, in effect, which stops us from seeing the bigger picture, either through fear or cognitive dissonance, whether this is all-too-effective misleading advertising or simply a desperate desire to believe in some Utopian dream.