Don’t get confused—this isn’t just about technology, though referring to makers in the usual sense often does have something to do with tech, or machinery. There is a deeper thread here that I think you’re familiar with too. The first time you realized that you could make a difference for another person’s experience, do you remember that? “Tinkering” can have a negative connotation when we’re talking about people’s heads and lives, but just think about it for a second. What you do, day after day, is building and making better. It isn’t all that different from adjusting a found piece of machinery to easily do a new task. And it’s a hell of a lot more complicated, and you have to be a hell of a lot more careful.
But it’s still a kind of making.
When I got to the part of Doctorow’s book where the main characters felt a sudden important urge to build tech that could directly improve the lives of the homeless people living in the shantytown near their workshop—not just importance, but necessity—it clicked. This is what we do. And we like the work. “Some of us like solving puzzles a bit more than we like solved puzzles,” Mann & O’ Brien sure do have it right. But we really, really like solved puzzles.
So when I’m shaking in my boots, anticipating a shift… this is what I see. The solved puzzles. The ability of a work of fiction (that in many ways isn’t a work of fiction at all) to change the lives of people all over the world, to create a society that looks for the puzzles and works to solve them, that cares about people, and expression, and the sheer joy of making things a little better for everybody… that blows my mind.
And I wonder what else happens when we have a world like that.