WIRED MAGAZINE put out its tenth-anniversary issue last month. Its contents will appear on its website once the issue disappears from the stands.
The issue contains a big section in which the mag, now run by the Conde Nast empire, relived its heritage as the most rah-rah, corporate-hip, cheerleader of the ’90s tech boom in all its manifestations. Particularly noticable are all the excerpts from pieces in which the magazine’s original regime emphatically insisted that “the old rules” of just about everything no longer applied. (With one exception: It once insisted the only way Microsoft could become a company it could approve of was to move to Silicon Valley, because “the Evergreen State is still the sticks.”)
In the world of the old Wired, everything was either Wired (hip) or Tired (square).
What was invariably deemed “Wired:” Giant corporations built up from nothing. Hyper-luxury lifestyles. CEO celebrity cults. Stratospheric stock prices for companies that had never earned a dime. Stock markets that would rise, rise, and keep rising into infinity. Unabashed greed and individual ambition. Power tripping. The relentless thumpa-thumpa of generic techno music. Sex redefined as individual pleasure (hence the “dildonics” fantasies for futuristic elaborate masturbation machines).
What was invariably deemed “Tired:” Thrift. Quiet dignity. Long-term relationships, other than with financial advisors. Labor unions. Health-care reform. Poor people. Caring about poor people. People in rural areas who didn’t move there from a city. Cities in North America that weren’t San Francisco. The “old media.” France. Environmental laws. Minimum-wage laws. Governments in general, except when subsidizing businesses. Literary genres other than science fiction. Movies without special effects.
True to past form, the magazine follows this nudge at its old arrogance with a big bit of new arrogance, in the form of a long cover story extolling hydrogen power, for cars and just about everything else. It’s a nice idea (a clean-burning fuel-O-the-future that emits only water vapor).
But you have to use some other generation system to make hydrogen. Windmills and solar panels could be used for that; but the corporate energy czars would rather promote “more fully developed” technologies—petroleum, coal, and especially nuclear power. The Wired piece goes on to suggest environmentalists should start loving nukes, as long as they’re being used to make hydrogen, and insists there are no safety or waste-disposal problems with today’s nuke-plant designs.
But then an article in the back of the same issue, about the eternally pesky issues regarding permanent radioactive-waste disposal, reminds us we’ve heard those no-problem promises before.