(...) let's divide the experience (rollercoaster ride) into three parts. The first is continuous, methodical and persistent ascent (...). This phase represents the period from the 16th century to the middle of the 19th century, when the elites of Europe promote the technological development that would ensure their domination of the world. The second plunges us into a dizzying fall, with the loss of references to space, our surroundings and even the control of conscious faculties (...). This took place around 1870, with the so-called Scientific-Technological Revolution. (...) The third is the loop, the climax of precipitous acceleration, which would represent the current period, marked by a new dramatic outbreak of transformations, the Microelectronics Revolution (...) which makes the two previous movements seem Slow motion projections. (...) The technological apparatus becomes increasingly unpredictable, irresistible and incomprehensible

Nicolau Sevcenko, The race for the 21st century, 2001, p. 14-17.

What does this metaphor mean? Why was it made? I believe the roller coaster metaphor prompts us to reflect on the modern and contemporary world and, through the Revolution Scientific-Technological and the Microelectronics Revolution, in plays in the midst of inventions, in the spectacle of society.

  • Could you explain what kind of answer you expect? The passage seems to be transparently comparing speeds over segments of a rollercoaster ride to rates of technological advancement over recent historical periods. There is not much more to it, but it may help those who better respond to visual exposition.
    – Conifold
    Nov 10 '21 at 0:16
  • This is an absolutely terrible metaphor. What is height supposed to represent? If height is level of technology (as alluded to when he calls the first phase "methodical and persistent ascent) then it should just go up, never down. If rate of advance is supposed to be the speed then the loop would be initially high speed, followed by lower speed at the top of the loop, followed again by high speed, but that's not the way he described it.
    – causative
    Nov 10 '21 at 5:49
  • It is only a metaphor: it tries to convey that idea (plausible) that historical development of technology is not a smooth increasing path but has sudden changes of rate and direction. This historical fact is well-known; see e.g. Scientific Revolutions Nov 10 '21 at 9:50
  • Maybe the issue is: can that metaphor guide us to a better understanding of what is happening? to formulate "laws" governing scientific/technological changes? to foresee future directions? NO Nov 10 '21 at 9:52

Without having read the piece you're referencing — which I don't have time for at the moment — it seems plain that Sevcenko is trying to invoke the idea that the ever-increasing pace of technological development is dizzying and disorienting, as though technology is no longer something we are doing, but rather something that is being done to us. We are just helpless passengers being spun around on the edge of disaster. It's not too dissimilar to the opening of Yeats "The Second Coming":

Turning and turning in the widening gyre 
The falcon cannot hear the falconer; 
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; 
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, 
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere 
The ceremony of innocence is drowned; 
The best lack all conviction, while the worst 
Are full of passionate intensity.

Yeats is more cynical, Sevcenko more world-weary, but they hold the image of a world spinning out of our capacity for control in common.

  • Che bravo, signore.
    – J D
    Nov 12 '21 at 15:06

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