Future shock, cowpaths, and Government 2.0

In a stunning September 11 essay on accelerating change and future shock1, Adam Greenfield asserts that the future is deeply terrifying to Americans whose “eponymous century…ended seven years ago today.” He adds:

In the relatively narrow field of my interests – ambient informatics, the networked city – can be seen something profound writ small: among fully-developed nations, the US stands out as having generally rejected “futuristic” interventions in everyday urban life, to the point that what I’m bound to present as innovative to US audiences is almost laughably banal elsewhere.

I wonder if that’s because the wave of acceleration hit America first, and we’ve been living through it longer. In any case I do sense a slackening appetite for technological novelty, and a nostalgia for simple solutions that meet basic needs quietly and capably.

From that perspective, I’m enjoying the action over at PublicMarkup.org, where the Dodds and Treasury proposals are accumulating per-section comments from citizens. You’ve got to love the proposed names for the Treasury’s Act.

This isn’t a futuristic intervention, it’s just a good old-fashioned bulletin board, with a brutally simple mental model shared by everyone. Exactly the sort of cowpath that we might, or might not, need to pave as we advance toward Government 2.0.

1Via Matt McCalister’s excellent The opportunity cost of noiselessness.

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