The anthropologist helped popularize both techno-optimism and the concept of existential risk
Mead was not exceptional in her views. Most interwar leftists (and even fascists) were techno-optimists gushing over giant soviet factories and dams. They became skeptical of progress only when the soviets started to mobilize their western sympathizers against America's nuclear arsenal build up.
Technocracy was just a 1920's take on 19th century socialism which proposed running society like a factory. To this day communist regimes like PRC claim that they run society according to the scientific theory of marxism.
Very much like the idea of the social history of AI. It feels like the first drafts of that history--even the best of it like the Atlantic essay and the posts in the Money Stuff newsletter by Matt Levine and in Stratechery by Ben Thompson--are very much focused on the boardroom. I hope someone is writing about the experiences of rank and file OpenAI workers, not as followers of the great leader, but as agents in their own right.
I've always been interested in the resonances of 1930s politics and ideas with the present...this piece has me more jazzed to get my hands on the book.
Thanks for the kind mention!