Will Technology Save Us?

The first answer is a question – “Save us from what?” Technology certainly won’t save us from ourselves; from our fear of death, from our fear of insignificance, from our cupidity and stupidity and aggression. It may at best defer these, excuse them, mitigate them. Then again, it may amplify them.

Usually the person asking the question seems to be asking “can we use technology to escape the consequences of our rape and pillage and plunder over the last two hundred years?” While “recovery without learning” sums up our situation in the aftermath of the 2008-9 Global Financial Crisis, I think there is no learning without pain. And we are trying to avoid pain, naturally. Or rather, we are trying to continue to outsource pain so that “we” get the benefits and somebody else (people of colour, other species, future generations) keeps picking up the tab. But, thanks to dozens of factors, those people of colour are less and less likely to pick up that tab. And even if they and “the planet” were willing to do so (ascribing sentience to the planet is a dodgy thing to do!!), there comes a point – or a series of points – at which “with the best will in the world, that’s just not possible.”

And say we did invent a wonderful energy source (solar too cheap to meter? Ubiquitious wind?), what would our response be, as a species? It would be like another keg arriving at a teenagers’ party just as people were worrying about having nothing left to drink. We would intensify our exploitation of soil. We would increase our invasion and unsustainable exploitation of biodiversity. The signal sent by “technology” would be, to our political and economic elites, that the house of cards could have chewing gum stuck in key joints and joists.

People who point to technology as The Saviour are refusing to understand that there are, gasp, limits to what human ingenuity can be expected to achieve.

Is this to say all technology is “bad”? No, of course not. Not even the Luddites were Luddites, in the sense ascribed to them. They were not opposed to all technology across the board, just the ones that enabled the rich and powerful to consolidate their power.

Right about now some readers are saying to themselves “But ‘Technology’ is apolitical.” But the critics of technocracy have been pointing out for decades (Mumford, Shiva etc etc), what is seen as “a problem” to be “solved” and what is ignored is intensely political.

Here’s some technology that I do like

Open Space Technology (for meetings etc), especially the Law of Two Feet
The collaborative technologies of social media (though one has to keep ones eyes wide open. Geert Lovink is an astute thinker and communicator on this.

Concepts from the glossary
Biological taylorism
Ecological Modernisation
Murphy’s waterbed
Science Technology Studies
Parachutes from bedsheets after exiting the plane…

Song
Free World by TV Smith

Books
The Whale and the Reactor by Langdon Winner
All that is solid melts into air by Marshall Berman
The Denial of Death by Ernst Becker
Military Enterprise and Technological Change edited by Merritt Roe Smith

About dwighttowers

Below the surface...
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