I’ve just read The Digital Given: 10 Web 2.0 Theses (2009) and found it to be one of those rare pieces of writing that makes me feel like I’m not alone. Here is thesis 9:
Soon the Web 2.0 business model will be obsolete. It is based on the endless growth principle, pushed by the endless growth of consumerism. The business model still echoes the silly 90s dotcom model: if growth stagnates, it means the venture has failed and needs to be closed down. Seamless growth of customised advertising is the fuel of this form of capitalism, decentralized by the user-prosumer. Mental environment pollution is parallel to natural environment pollution. But our world is finished (limited). We have to start elaborating appropriate technologies for a finite world. There is no exteriority, no other worlds (second, third, fourth worlds) where we can dump the collateral effects of insane development. We know that Progress is a bloodthirsty god that extracts a heavy human sacrifice. A good end cannot justify a bad means. On the contrary, technologies are means that have to justify the end of collective freedom. No sacrifice will be tolerated: martyrs are not welcome. Neither are heroes.
We know that the advertising-based consumerist model of the web is as fragile as the pursuit of growth but what alternatives to growth are there? Over the last year, looking at energy, the economy and its impact on the environment, it’s become clear to me that the pursuit of economic growth is deeply flawed and limited. This was the subject of a conference in Leeds in June, on Steady State or no-growth economics. Yesterday, the conference organisers produced a report, Enough is Enough, which is an attempt to outline an alternative to a growth-based economy. You might remember that the new economics foundation also produced a report in January called Growth isn’t possible. The publication that first drew my attention to this subject was the government commissioned report, Prosperity Without Growth.