Silicon Valley utopia ain’t gonna happen
Over the last two decades, most of my adult life, I’ve watched as the world has grown more interconnected than ever, fuelled by changes in information technology which have almost universally been treated as a force for good. This interconnection was supposed to improve scaling, transparency, productivity and bring western peace and prosperity to all......MORE
We were supposed to be living in a utopian Tomorrowland by now, with the economic problem completely solved.
None of this has happened.
Instead of scaling, we’ve seen descaling because individuals need to adopt more jobs, more skills, more crafts just to get by — meaning professionalism is being lost. As well as our day jobs, for example, we are now also being asked to be hoteliers, cab drivers, propagandists, writers, advertisers, administrators, promoters and renters of all our possessions.
Instead of transparency, we’ve seen the emergence of echo chambers, filter bubbles, encrypted comms, noise pollution, single-interest groups, propaganda, misinformation, internet brigandage and the burying of real news in the cacophony of low-base (advertising saturated) media output.
Instead of productivity, we’ve seen working factories shut down, output stall, public resources be pulled, health services be cut, inequality rise, output be redirected to luxury goods, corporate taxes be dodged and energy be burned for no real good reason at all.
Instead of peace and prosperity, we’ve seen the world become fragmented, divided, politically charged, cult-minded, intolerant, enraged, hateful, hurtful, spiteful and malevolent — now with the added advantage of all this hate being zapped directly into our consciousness 24/7 via the power of our mobile phone or computer laptop.
Instead of coming together, political systems have been fragmenting, with no consensus anywhere, because we can’t agree on anything. Self-interest dictates the news agenda entirely. Trust is being dismantled. We are becoming less cooperative not more.
Perhaps we’ve neglected the obvious. Information technology is not and never has been a panacea or a cure-all for social ails. It is simply a tool, which is as easily co-opted by the dark and malevolent of heart as it is by the good.
For every exponential “good” information technology can create, an equal and opposite “ungood” can be exponentially created too.
The ungoods include the empowerment of terrorism, propaganda and scamming, to hacking, organised crime, corrpuption and — most important of all, this being an information tool — the radicalisation of young minds.
Why have so many of us, then, been duped by the technocratic elite that an app or a digital user experience is a cure-all for the social ails we still had before this stuff exploded, or equal in value to the creation of something of real worth, like a hospital, a school (where children also learn how to socially interact with each other in a way that teaches them to respect life and differences, rather than disrespect life by being isolated in some bedroom whilst being radicalised by the internet?), infrastructure or even factories, service businesses and leisure environments?...
Despite my cheeky (childishly), irreverent choice to use that painting--rather than some of the very intimidating images that people have conjured of Boudica--as lead-in to some serious topics, this is one essay that deserves to be read to the end.