As a young adult, I developed several theories about how I would move through the world. One, which I describe below, I called “Gas Pedal.” I did not realise at the time that it would align quite well with the societal plan of the Accelerationista. This is a serious and powerful school of thought that would be spawned 4 full decades later. No, these are not Effective Altruists. Rather, we speak of “Rational Accelerationism”. But like I said, this was 1990, and back then, I just called it “Gas Pedal Thinking.”
The basic concept of Gas Pedal is this: You are driving at high-speed, when very suddenly, you realise that what you took to be the horizon is actually a brick wall directly in front of you, perpendicular to the direction of your travel and extending in either direction for the length of a football field. Rapid mental calculations make it clear that there is no possible way you could bring the vehicle to a stop in time. Your only controls are the brakes, the steering wheel, and the accelerator pedal.
So… what do you do?
There are two very obvious choices: first, slam on the brakes as hard as you can, and pray. The second is merely a slight variation of the first: slam on the brakes and simultaneously crank the steering wheel, hoping to broadside the wall and possibly put some more absorptive material (the sidewall of the car) between you and the collision, as opposed to a full direct head-on.
In reality, however, your speed is just too high, the distance is just too little, and both of these “avoidance” scenarios, unfortunately, result in your death anyways. thanks for playing.
But is there a third option?
My youthful theory enthusiastically determined that, emphatically, YES, there was a third, in fact superior, option! It is mildly counter-intuitive, has a low probability of success, but also, paradoxically, offers the only possibility of survival. So… what is it?
The third and best option is… (wait for it)
GAS PEDAL. Hit the accelerator (say it with me: “Accelerationista!”), put the pedal to the metal, and slam it for all you’ve got.
Why??!? Because, quite simply: busting THROUGH that wall is your only chance, and… (here’s the kicker): the higher your impact velocity, the faster you are going, the harder you hit that brick wall… the better your chance is of smashing through it. In physics, we call this conservation of momentum.
The fact is, up until a certain velocity, your car will be smashed to smithereens against the wall, and the force of impact will be dissipated across the entirety of the wall, your car’s chassis, your body, heat and sound. But at a certain speed of impact, you have sufficient force to actually destroy the barrier itself… and instead of destruction, you actually sail on through with minor damage, the wall itself having absorbed and dissipated the vast majority of the kinetic energy in its destruction, rather than you.
…and That, in a nutshell, is what the accelerationistas hope to do with the ship that is our human civilization on earth.
Gas Pedal Articulated: The Techno-Optimist Manifesto
Think I’m making this up?
Marc Andreessen is the kid who invented the web browser (and later founded Netscape), which pretty much marked the origin of the modern internet, which we so take for granted today (and, given AI’s abilities and appetites, may not even exist 10 years from now) Marc also became perhaps the most powerful Venture Capitalist investor in all of Silicon Valley, in his role of senior partner at A16Z (a compression of Andreesen & Horowitz). He and his firm have substantial shares in just about every startup that matters in the valley these days.
And Marc just so happens to be… bullish?… no, that doesn’t even come close to capturing his sentiment. Marc is in fact quite adamant that the only way to save our entire civilization is by leaping headfirst, as any card-carrying Accelerationista would, using every possible resource, and throwing off every possible regulation or restraint, into our techno-utopian future.
To this end, the man has written a manifesto. Though it is a bit painful to read (it purports to speak on behalf of the common man, yet it is penned by one of the most powerful billionaires on earth… how can he relate?), it is worth reading, if only to understand the underpinnings of some of the decisions that are driving the Accelerationista forces that will determine the future of our species. For instance, it is this worldview that has caused a scrappy little SF startup of less than 1,000 employees to be pushing a paper valuation northwards of $100 billion. (yes, this is unprecedented, by an order of magnitude. Yes, I speak of OpenAI. No, I’m not exaggerating)
Read The Techno-Optimist Manifesto here.
additional keywords related to Accelerationista
…that you might be interesting in to aid you in this grok:
also (in conclusion):
- r/acc = Rational Accelerationists
- decel = Decelerationists = Luddites = EA = Effective Altruists = LessWrong