Wired is merging its U.S. and U.K editions and focusing coverage on core global challenges, such as climate, health care, global security, the future of democracy and more, its editor in chief, Gideon Lichfield, announced Tuesday.
Lichfield, in an extended reflection on the binary nature of how we interact with technology, said the brand will pivot to a more international range of stories. The merger of what have been two entirely separate publications will allow it to go deeper into those topics.
Wired will still publish two separate print editions, but they will share many stories, he said. The U.S. and U.K. newsrooms are already working as one, he added.
The announcement came in the second-to-last paragraph of a 1,580-word essay on technology. The world is at an inflection point in the recent history of technology, Lichfield said, and the binary, either-or nature of how we perceive technology is being called into question. Do you believe that “the world is going to be radically upended by one small but enormously powerful invention — the blockchain,” Lichfield wrote. “Or are you one of those people who think the blockchain and crypto boom is just a massive, decade-long fraud?”
Yes, social media helped enable democratic protests around the globe, but it also ushered in a deeply troubling surveillance network and has emerged in recent years as a threat to democracy itself, especially in the U.S.
Yes, the “long tail” created countless opportunities, but it also produced the exploitative “gig economy.” Yes, technology produced mRNA vaccines, but it also produced the ability to create genetically engineered babies, where doctors or scientists can “edit” the DNA in human embryos.
All this, Lichfield said, represents a “tech industry run amok.”
“Wired hasn’t shied away from covering these problems,” he said. “But they’ve forced us — and me in particular, as an incoming editor [Lichfield started at Wired last March] — to ponder the question: What does it mean to be Wired, a publication born to celebrate technology, in an age when tech is often demonized?”
And the answer, he continued, is to reject a binary conclusion — that tech is either all good or all bad.
“Both the optimist and pessimist views of tech miss the point,” Lichfield said. “The lesson of the last 30-odd years is not that we were wrong to think tech could make the world a better place. Rather, it’s that we were wrong to think tech itself was the solution — and that we’d now be equally wrong to treat tech as the problem.
It's people who create change, he said.
“It’s not only possible, but normal, for a technology to do both good and harm at the same time,” Lichfield wrote. “A hype cycle that makes quick billionaires and leaves a trail of failed companies in its wake may also lay the groundwork for a lasting structural shift (exhibit A: the first dotcom bust).”
Wired has always been about a question, Lichfield continued. What would it take to build a better future? The brand exists to inspire people who want to build that future. “We do it not by going into Pollyannaish raptures about how great the future is going to be, nor dire jeremiads about how bad things could get, but by taking an evenhanded, clear-eyed look at what it would take to tackle the severe challenges the world faces.
"Our subject matter isn’t technology, per se: It’s those challenges — like climate change, health care, global security, the future of democracy, the future of the economy, and the dizzying speed of cultural change as our offline and online worlds mingle and remix.”