Programming Note: Darts and Letters is off and retooling to relaunch in a new format early 2024.

Tech-Bros and Techno-Utopias: A Darts and Letters Mini-Series

Today, our leading public intellectuals aren’t people like John Dewey, Emma Goldman, Bertrand Russell, Rosa Luxemburg, or Stuart Hall. They’re more like: Elon Musk, Peter Thiel, Gary Vee, Curtis Yarvin, and the like. We have techbro philosopher kings, and their millions of fans wait on bated breath for their infinite wisdom.

Their politics is kind of an anti-politics. It’s a politics of  technological solutionism, technological determinism, and technological utopia (or dystopia, depending on who you ask). On this series, we examine the thoughts of our new ‘thought leaders,’ and tell stories of technological utopias past, present, and future.

This series of episodes received funding from the Social Sciences and Research Council of Canada. The scholarly leads are Professors Tanner Mirrlees at Ontario Tech University and Imre Szeman at the University of Toronto Scarborough. They both provided research and editorial guidance to these episodes below.

Episode #1: Lost Utopias: A History of World’s Fairs (ft. Rob Rydell, Jade Doskow & Jennifer Slack)

We start our series on techno-utopians by looking at previous promises: the rising, shimmering images of a future of wonder and plenty, out towards the horizon. We find them at past World’s Fairs

Episode #2: Mutually-Assured Dysfunction (ft. Jessica Hurley & Mark Winfield)

The war in Ukraine has brought nuclear technology to the forefront. There’s the threat of nuclear weapons, and the danger of nuclear power plants melting down under military fire. Yet, the nuclear industry also promises to deliver us from our dependency on fossil fuels. It’s an interesting duality with nuclear: is it the end of the world, or is it salvation?

Episode #3: Truck Nuts (ft. Matt Christman, Shane Hamilton, Chase Barber, Justin Martin, & Gabrielle Esperdy)

The pickup truck is the symbol of rural conservative masculinity. So, it often takes centre stage in the tired culture wars between reactionary neo-populists and liberal moralists. Like today, with Canada’s right crudely embracing the truck–and tweeting furiously about those ‘Laurentian elites,‘ and ‘Toronto columnists‘ who thumb their nose at it. But, if you really want to piss off the libs: don’t just post about it. Why not hang some big veiny nuts from your truck? Today on the show, we talk about the political and technological history of trucks and trucking.

Episode #4: Socialize the Series of Tubes (ft. Ben Tarnoff)

Recently a major outage took nearly a third of Canada offline. No phone, no internet… even access to 911 got shut down in some places, all thanks to Rogers Media Inc. But why does one company get so much control over a vital service like the Internet in the first place?

Episode #5: Technocracy Now!, part 1 (ft. Noam Chomsky)

Technocracy is the idea that experts should govern. For the common good, presumably. In fact, it’s an idea as old as politics itself, and it emerges just about everywhere across the ideological spectrum. This episode launches a three-part series telling stories of technocracies past, present, and future

Episode #6: Technocracy Now!, pt. 2 (ft. Joy Rohde & Eden Medina)

Last episode, we looked at the technocrats of the industrial age: Thorstein Veblen, Howard Scott, and the “industrial tinkerers,” as Daniel Bell put it. But Daniel Bell went on to say we were entered a new age — a “post-industrial age” — where a new kind of technocrat would vie for power. We look at mid-century cybernetics.

Episode #7: Technocracy Now!, pt. 3 (ft. Sam Adler-Bell & Alessandro Delfanti)

The first two episodes of this series told stories of technocrats who tied themselves to a muscular state. They believed the state could remake society, if it had the right expertise. However, the state under neoliberalism doesn’t have the technocratic ambitions or capacities it used to. Does that mean technocracy is dead? No, technocracy is just moving into the private sphere.

Episode #8: Darts Transit Commission (ft. Paris Marx)

We speak to Paris Marx of Tech Won’t Save Us on the shifting politics of Silicon Valley. We’ll traverse the intellectual history of hippies-turned-arch-capitalists, and focus especially on their ideas for transportation policy. Do they have a radical vision for a different transportation future, or is it a vision of maintain the status quo?