The Y2K Mix, as the name implies, was a digital mixtape I made for New Years’ Eve 2000. Heavy on IDM and electronica, I find it quite a time capsule for a feeling of technological optimism — a 1999 in high spirits despite fears that the Y2K bug would launch nuclear missiles & etc. — that contrasts heavily to our current state of techno-pessimism (or techno-realism), despite a general sense thare are no immediate existential threats posed by technology (fears of AI notwithstanding).
Remember how in 1999 the Segway was going to utterly change our cities and way of life, while being a step towards Back to the Future-style hoverboards? And how the Segway turned out to be a ridiculous device used by senior tourists and mall security, ‘hoverboards’ are poorly manufactured electric skateboards, and for a car to be ‘eco’ or ‘green’ means it’s as untrustworthy as a piece of Windows ME-era warez?
Technology mirrors society, so pessimism toward tech is pessimism toward the forces that shape it and how it’s used. Perhaps the Segway would have been a great solution for personal transportation if it hadn’t be ridiculed by everyone invested in cars. Perhaps we could have had clean nuclear fusion energy if a couple of nuclear accidents hadn’t frozen nuclear power in its early technological stages — as if we all still travelled in 1930s aeroplanes because a few DC-2s crashed — while everyone seems very willing to forget oil and coal generate global warming and incredible amounts of misery and cancer and death as they go about their usual business. Perhaps this future could have been as awesome as the future of the 1990s, a nanotech utopia with Star Trek-like universal guaranteed income for all, as the fruits of automated labour were shared.
We need renewed technological optimism. I’ve been listening to the Y2K Mix again lately, struggling with my cheapo $20 headphones’ Bluetooth connection at the gym. Remembering how sixteen years ago I had first published it online as a 32kbps Real Audio stream.