Techno-utopianism is an ideology that was closely associated with the dot-com culture of the 1990s, particularly in the West Coast of the United States. It was reflected in, reported on, and even actively promoted in the pages of Wired Magazine, which was founded in San Francisco in 1993 and served for a number years as the bible of its adherents. Prominent oracles of techno-utopianism included the archconservative libertarian George Gilder and Kevin Kelly, an editor of Wired who also published several books.

In the simplest of terms, techno-utopianism reflects a belief that technological change is revolutionizing human affairs, and that digital technology in particular -- of which the Internet was but a modest harbinger -- would set people free by freeing the individual from the "sclerotic" embrace of bureaucratic big government. "Self-empowered knowledge workers" would render traditional hierarchies redundant; digital communications would allow them to escape the modern city, an "obsolete remnant of the industrial age".

Techno-utopianism incorporates libertarian distaste of government regulation and belief in the sanctity of free markets. It also strives to transcend conventional "right/left" distinctions in politics by simply declaring politics obsolete.

During the 1990s dot-com boom, when the speculative bubble gave rise to claims that an era of "permanent prosperity" had arrived, techno-utopianism flourished, typically among the small percentage of the population who were employees of Internet startups and the even smaller percentage who owned high-tech stocks. With the subsequent crash, techno-utopians were forced to face economic reality, and the ideology became correspondingly less in vogue.

Critics of techno-utopianism point out that it tends to focus on government "interference" while ignoring the impact of corporate control. They also point out that it has little to say about the environmental impact of digital technology (particularly from an industrial point of view) and that its ideas have little relevance for the quarter of the planet's population who live on less than two dollars a day. Some go so far as to equate techno-utopianism with misanthropy and egocentricity.

copyright 2004