Don’t dismiss the misunderstood techno-optimist voter

It’s in the best interest of our elected officials to cultivate that interest in crypto and incorporate these voters into a long-term political strategy


Becky Wright Photography/Shutterstock modified by Blockworks


American citizens, and perhaps citizens of the broader Western world, are nervous about the future. 

Voters continually express wariness and pessimism about new and emerging technologies, from fears about self-driving cars to apprehension about the impact of AI. This pessimism naturally bleeds into the political realm, leaving more than four in five voters with the impression that “the tone and nature of political debate in the United States has become more negative in recent years.” 

The chance for a change in political perspective — one that both supports technological development while also assuaging fears about said development — looks bleak. On the other hand, it may take just that — a simple change in perspective — to unlock a new era of openness and excitement focused on the benefits of new technology, rather than dwelling on its potential pitfalls. 

A good place to start is with another often maligned sector: digital assets and blockchain technology.

The steelman case for digital assets goes something like this: Sovereign global citizens should have more power over their financial lives and digital identities, bolstered by privacy-supportive tools that uncouple those individuals from the power of Big Banks and Big Tech. 

If you don’t believe that these two entities should have as much power as they do over our lives, then you should at least be curious about decentralized networks and protocols that purport to provide an antidote to that power. While there are undoubtedly many who trade and invest in digital assets only for the money, this too is simply a choice, and adding choice to people’s lives should be uncontroversial.

Unfortunately, it is often the strawman version of digital assets technology that filters into our political and cultural mainstream. 

Given the overblown assertions about the role that digital assets play in facilitating illicit finance and supporting extremist groups, the impression a casual observer might take away is that this technology has no redeeming features. 

But embracing digital asset technology does not mean a free-for-all with zero regulation and rules that leave consumers fending for themselves. Instead, it means a more open-minded acknowledgement of the technology as a starting position, rather than a definition assessed solely by digital assets’ risks and shortcomings.

The anti-technology, pessimistic perspective is evident at many critical junctures of our economy, including green technology, power production and housing construction. 

Take nuclear power as one example. The Sierra Club, one of America’s most important environmental advocacy groups, is staunchly against the technology, foreclosing on a tech-driven, ready-to-go partial solution to rising emissions. But opposition to nuclear power is driven by a misunderstanding of the risks. Indeed, the view is often backwards considering that nuclear power causes fewer deaths than even wind energy installations per unit of electricity produced, and also produces fewer carbon emissions than solar power projects. So while many politicians, (on the left at least) would be proud to have the endorsement of the Sierra Club, we’d wager that far fewer would line up for one from the Nuclear Energy Institute. 

There are signs that this knee-jerk, “all new technology is potentially harmful” perspective may be changing. In California, for example, recently passed legislation both encourages the purchase and easy use of electrical vehicles and supports the ongoing operation of nuclear power plants in the state. Similarly, Texas is one of the leading producers of renewable energy in the country and also houses the most digital asset mining operations of any state. 

Both policies put forward by these respective state legislators are pro-environment and pro-technology, and show what is possible when a politician assesses the objective benefits of the latter in service of the former. This position is also an example of what we might redefine as the “techno-optimist’s” view of society. 

Read more from our opinion section: It’s time for Congress to protect the crypto henhouse

As the blogger Noah Smith described it: A techno-optimist “voter may be more attuned to the idea that society is a technology itself [and that] society is the user experience (UX) of other technologies; it determines how individual humans experience the power that technology yields.” This view says: We have the tools, how can we best use them?

That brings us back to how digital assets fit into this “techno-optimist” view, and how politicians might view both the technology and those voters who believe in it. Polling points to the rough outline of a constituency that is attuned to the potential benefits of new technology, including the development of the digital assets ecosystem in the United States. 

A recent survey found that nearly one in four Americans under 25 are interested in digital assets; the same age cohort that is most interested in self-driving cars, smart home devices, drone delivery and electric transport. While this might not surprise many (young people are interested in cool new technology), it is in the best interest of our elected officials to cultivate that interest and incorporate those voters into a long term political strategy.

Too often we’re influenced by techno-doomers, those individuals who are convinced that new advancements will destroy our world. Or, techno libertarians who don’t want society to exert any control over those same technologies. 

We must tread the middle path, re-orienting the current consensus view of worry about technology’s ability to improve our lives, and cultivate the techno-optimists amongst us. 

If we fail to do that now, we risk two things: our ability to make the best use of the technology we have now and will invent in the future, and more ordinarily, a durable pro-future voting bloc in coming elections.

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