EconTalk — Venkatesh Rao

On: Waldenponding.

Episode: N/A

Date: November 2019

Background: Writer and management consultant.

Key Subjects:

  • Waldenponding:
    • Various levels of retreating from technology.
    • (Thoreau: virtues of retreating from social contact, leading a quieter life at Walden Pond.)
    • Historically common response to emerging new (communication) technologies.
  • Better response: adapt.
    • Balance attention allocation – superficial up-to-date vs. more in-depth.
  • Retreat from technology driven by mistaken perspectives on:
    • Overestimating the impact of the technology and its design (they are too addictive).
    • Underestimating the agency of the consumer (we have no control).
  • Online platforms allow for emergence of a global social computing system.
    • Bottom-up platform of participatory conversations.
      • Individuals each contribute their private knowledge.
    • Contributions are largely anonymous.
      • [Is this true or necessary? Importance of weight of opinion, reputation?].
    • May cause “fear of being ordinary” (FOBO).
      • Afraid of losing credit for ideas.
      • [Not sure this is a worry or reality for many.]
    • Individuals may lose their identity or uniqueness.
      • [Also feels like a stretch.]
    • [Generally, at least at this time, there is little evidence of the emergence of intelligence through iterative online interactions.]
    • [If anything, online platforms can be productive (and often they are not) by making information available more easily, faster and more widely than before, i.e. information discovery.]
  • Unproductive technology usage.
    • Driven more by the user than the technology itself.
    • [Probably true for 90-95% of the people; to what degree do we need or want to protect the rest.]
  • Be a producer.
    • Try to create something new instead of reflexive reacting to others.

Key Takeaways:

  • Be a producer.

Worth Listening:


Leave a Reply