Peter Rojas is the cofounder and editor-in-chief of Engadget, which is a daily weblog covering gadgets, consumer electronics and personal technology. He is also the cofounder of Joystiq, a weblog which covers video games. Rojas has worked as a contributing editor at Cargo, an editor-at-large at Sync, a technology editor of VMan, and a columnist for The Guardian, writing on emerging technology. He is a frequent contributor to a variety of publications both on- and off-line and appears on radio and television regularly as a technology commenter. Rojas was educated at Harvard University and the University of Sussex. He lives in New York City.
Question: What forces have shaped humanity most?
Peter Rojas: That is a really big question. I think there have been two . . . like maybe two or three things that have really, you know, shaped us. I think that continuing universalization of how we define who is human. And I think that’s something that we . . . that again, one of those things that . . . that doesn’t get talked about. But if you look at the past, you know, several thousand years or, you know, 2,000 years of human history, it’s really been an expansion of the idea of who is human. Who gets to be considered human? And we don’t think . . . Again, we don’t talk about this; but like 1,500 years ago, 2,000 years ago if you go back to like, you know, the Roman Empire or whatever, you know people who were slaves or like weren’t citizens were in some ways considered not to be human. And it wasn’t that, like, they weren’t sort of . . . It was just about how we abstract the idea of who is human and who is not human. And then you know we look at, you know, the enlightenment. It’s been this constant, forward progression of broadening that idea of who is human. And it used to be just men, and now women are considered human. I don’t know. Maybe that’s . . . Maybe human is not the right word, you know? It’s . . . it’s . . . This idea of expand . . . Expanding the idea of equality, and about people being, you know, worthy of . . . of . . . of being part of . . . of you know considered at . . . you know part of the human race, or equal members, or full members of the human race, I guess may be a good way to describe it. And so you know . . . with the end of slavery and . . . and . . . and the attempts to like, you know, diminish racism and abolish racism in a country, expanding that idea to like, you know, people of all different ethnic . . . ethnicities. And you know it’s something in the past like, you know, 20 or 30 years about really expanding that idea to . . . to include, you know, homosexuals. It’s like this idea of like who is . . . who is normal, and who is not normal, you know? And I think we’re . . . we’re . . . we’re broadening that . . . that . . . that view. We’re encompassing more and more people. And I think, you know, that’s a good thing. Obviously you don’t wanna go so far and say like, you know, being a pedophile is like normal and acceptable. But I mean you know you do . . . I think it’s . . . it’s very . . . There’s very progressive sense of us like embracing more and more and excluding less and less. And I think ultimately that’s a good thing. I think that one of the other, you know, big macro trends is, you know like I was saying, towards the democratization of . . .of cultural production. And I think if you look back over the course of the past 2,000 years of 1,000 years or whatever, you know there was very much about, like, the singular artist who made one art object which can be enjoyed by, you know, one person, or one group of people at a time. You know like Michelangelo making a statue of David for some rich patron. And then, you know, you shift towards mechanical, you know, reproductions so that you could make, you know, artifacts which could be distributed to masses of people. And you know but it took big, you know, media companies to, like, manufacture and, you know . . . There was . . . You had to have big media companies manufacture and distribute these things. And then we reached the digital age where anyone can produce, and consume, and recombine. And you know the very metaphors of production and distribution almost become meaningless because everything is . . . is . . . is . . . it’s become so, you know, difficult to delineate like the point of creation, and the point of recombination and all that. So I think those are like the two big macro trends, at least that I kind of see. And I’m sure there’s a bunch of others. You know and I mean obviously like the trends toward rationalization and . . . and . . . and you know science and, you know, the end of superstition. Things like that are really, really huge. _________ really did a great job of chronicling that.