Michael Specter, a journalist who’s also an excellent speaker, appeared at the last TED conference. Specter is technologically optimistic but has accepted many of the eco-catastrophe myths. He favors GMOs, worries about micro-nutrients, says nothing about perfumes or clothes or other status items, makes fun of the organic food movement (sort of) and so on. Like many modern intellectuals Specter likes technology (or, at least, the right type of technology – the Bright rather than Dark Side of the Force). And here is the problem – he fails to discuss the institutional framework most appropriate to guide technology in human- friendly directions. Should innovation be “guided” by markets or by politics? His condemnation of nutritional supplements would suggest that he’d favor laws banning or taxing the “wrong” consumer choices.
Specter does not seem to recognize that institutions-not science per se- is the key factor. He says (in this clip, at least) nothing about the critical link between R and D (he doesn’t really discuss D in any meaningful sense). No allusion to markets and profits as ways of stimulating innovation. And, of course, ignores the reality that absent property rights, markets are a grand illusion.